Apple finally outlines its plans to allow sideloading for iOS users in the EU

Apple announced on Thursday its plans to enable developers to distribute their apps to users within the EU without the constraints of Apple’s exclusive App Store. This strategic decision aligns with the requirements set forth by the EU law known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA). 

The installation of apps through alternative app stores is limited to the 27 EU countries, while the process of app installation and distribution remains unchanged in other parts of the world. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

One of the most important changes is allowing users to access a broader array of payment methods for in-app purchases, extending even to “digital goods and services on the developer’s external website.” Beginning with iOS 17.4, Apple is introducing the iPhone to what it refers to as “alternative app marketplaces” for the first time.

The primary modification in iOS 17.4 for individuals within the European Union involves a fresh array of choices for disseminating iOS apps through alternative app marketplaces, encompassing “new APIs and tools that enable developers to offer their iOS apps for download from alternative app marketplaces.”

For developers to make their app accessible on an alternative app marketplace, they must get in touch with the marketplace developer and acquire a security token necessary for alternative distribution. Subsequently, utilizing App Store Connect, developers can manage marketplaces by adding or removing them and specifying the apps they wish to distribute on each marketplace. For instance, a developer can decide to offer their app through one or several third-party app marketplaces in addition to the App Store. Alternatively, they may choose to forgo the App Store entirely and exclusively distribute their app through third-party marketplaces.

Developers operating alternative app marketplaces are now required to pay a Core Technology Fee of €0.50 per annual install for the download of the alternative app store. This fee applies to app marketplaces right from the start, with no provision for one million free installations.

To enhance user decision-making, the App Store will introduce additional labels indicating whether an app supports third-party payment processes. Users engaging in transactions through these apps will receive notifications from Apple, highlighting that the transaction occurs outside the company’s ecosystem.

Beyond payment methods, substantial changes are introduced to app details. Apps will now be equipped with an “installation sheet” providing users with comprehensive insights before download. This sheet will furnish information on the app’s creator, crucial details users should be aware of before installing, and visual representations through screenshots. 

Moreover, Apple is refining its app review process to include an additional step, scrutinizing alternative payment methods to ensure accurate advertising and handling. This multifaceted approach signifies Apple’s commitment to transparency, user empowerment, and fostering an environment that accommodates diverse payment options and advertising practices.

Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, the creator of “Fortnite,” who initiated an antitrust case against Apple in the U.S., condemned Apple’s proposed changes as “hot garbage” and expressed doubts about their legality under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Sweeney voiced concerns that Apple could selectively allow or block competition, citing scenarios where they might prevent Epic from launching the Epic Games Store or block other entities like Microsoft, Valve, Good Old Games, or potential new entrants.

Written by Jordan Bevan


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