Apple plans to allow alternative app stores on iPhones and iPads ahead of European legislation requiring the company to support sideloading, reports say. Bloomberg.
The change will allow users to download apps without using the App Store, meaning developers won’t need to pay Apple a 15 to 30 percent fee, but to begin with, Apple plans to only support sideloading in Europe.
If other countries introduce similar legislation, alternative app stores could expand beyond the EU. For example, the United States is considering legislation that would require Apple to allow sideloading. Apple said the sideload “undermines the privacy and security protections” iPhone users rely on, leaving people vulnerable to malware, fraud, data tracking and other issues.
The EU’s Digital Markets Act, which came into force on November 1, requires gateway companies to open up their services and platforms to other companies and developers. DMA will have a major impact on Apple’s platforms and could lead to Apple making significant changes to the App Store, Messages, FaceTime, Siri, and more. Apple has until March 6, 2024 to comply with EU rules.
According to BloombergApple’s software engineering and services staff are working to open up “core elements of Apple’s platforms,” and Apple is devoting “significant resources” to the change. Apple plans to have the functionality ready for iOS 17 in 2023, which would put it ahead of schedule. There is a risk that these drastic updates could affect the performance of the new features of iOS 17, some employees said. Bloomberg.
To protect users from the aforementioned sideloading risks, Apple is considering implementing security requirements such as verification, a process for which it could charge a fee instead of collecting money from app sales. Apple has a verification system on the Mac that allows users to stay safe while giving them access to apps outside of the Mac App Store.
Apple can open core application frameworks and APIs to third-party application developers, providing deeper access to core system features and hardware. Third-party apps can access camera technologies that aren’t currently available, and Apple is working to open up NFC in a limited way, which would allow an alternative to Apple Pay. Apple is also considering further opening up the Find My network to accessory makers like Tile. Currently, Apple allows third-party device makers to create Find My accessories, but there is a requirement that prevents them from working with non-Find My apps and services.
There is an aspect of the Digital Marketplace Act that requires Apple to allow developers to install third-party payment systems into their apps, and Apple has yet to make a “final decision” on whether it will follow the rule. Apple also hasn’t decided how the Messages app might be made available to third-party services, since DMA requires interoperability between messaging platforms.
Apple must comply with the Digital Markets Act, as the EU can fine the company up to 20 percent of its global revenue if the laws are broken. If Apple doesn’t make changes, fines could be as high as $80 billion.
In addition to significant changes to the App Store and other Apple services, European legislation will also force Apple to adopt USB-C on all devices, a change that will take place in 2023.