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Apple announces sideloading, alternate app stores, more to iPhone app ecosystem

This decision effectively breaks the exclusive control that the Apple App Store previously held over iPhone app distribution.

Edited By: Om Gupta

Published: Jan 26, 2024, 08:35 AM IST

iPhone
iPhone

Story Highlights

  • Apple revealed plans for a significant overhaul of its iPhone app ecosystem.
  • The changes are set to roll out with iOS 17.4 in March.
  • These changes are in response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.

In a landmark announcement, Apple revealed plans for a significant overhaul of its iPhone app ecosystem. It is the biggest since the launch of the App Store in 2008. The changes, set to roll out with iOS 17.4 in March, are in response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). As per the announcement, Apple will allow third-party app stores on iOS for the first time. This move effectively ends the Apple App Store’s monopoly as the sole distributor of iPhone apps.

Apple has outlined the workings of these “alternative app marketplaces”. Users in the EU, using iOS 17.4, will be able to download a marketplace from its website. These marketplaces must pass Apple’s approval process to be used on an iPhone. Once downloaded and given explicit permission by the user, these marketplaces can distribute any apps, even those that violate App Store guidelines. Users can also set a non-App Store marketplace as the default on their device.

Developers have the option to use Apple’s payment services and in-app purchases or integrate a third-party system for payments without incurring additional fees to Apple. However, if developers opt for Apple’s existing in-app payment system, a 3 percent processing fee will be applied.

Despite these changes, Apple intends to maintain strict oversight of the app distribution process. All apps must be “notarized” by Apple, and distribution through third-party marketplaces will still be managed by Apple’s systems. Developers can only distribute a single version of their app across different app stores and must comply with basic platform requirements, such as malware scanning.

These changes are expected to be welcomed by developers who have criticized Apple’s control over iOS app distribution. The DMA, passed in 2022, is the EU’s most robust effort to curb the alleged anticompetitive practices of Big Tech companies, referred to as “gatekeepers” in the regulation. Last September, the EU designated Apple as a gatekeeper and identified its App Store, Safari browser, and iOS operating system as “core platform services” that must comply with the DMA’s rules.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp is reportedly working on a new feature that would allow users to access chats from other platforms such as Telegram and Discord. The move is seen as a response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to curb the dominance of tech giants and promote fair competition in the digital sector.

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Author Name | Om Gupta

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