EU lawmakers are giving Apple a tough time just to enable third-party app installs in its locked system the tech giant has no choice but to comply. Apple will have to allow alternative app stores to provide users with more choices.
Likely, Apple is already preparing to comply as companies have until 2024 to meet the legislative requirements. To comply with European laws, Apple is reportedly looking to allow the practice with iOS 17, which will come out this year.
iOS 17 might allow more than “sideloading” alternative app stores as Apple explores opening up its camera, NFC (Near Field Communication) chip, and API to developers, at least in a limited fashion.
Apple making room for other app stores would mean that developers won’t have to pay the 30% fee (15% in some cases) to the tech giant for in-app purchases. Several companies that criticized Apple’s fee structure would also be appeased, including Twitter, Spotify, and Tinder.
Currently, Apple allows some developers to use third-party payment systems in specific markets, such as dating app developers in the Netherlands and all developers in South Korea.
There’s a chance that after Apple allows third-party stores in the EU because of the DMA, regulators elsewhere might look to follow suit, which would extend Apple’s work to enable sideloading on iOS 17 to other jurisdictions.
Apple’s walled-garden approach has so far mandated that iPhone users must only download apps from Apple’s own App Store. Android, on the other hand, allows users to install third-party app stores on their devices.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says Apple’s software engineers and a number of other services employees are opening up “key elements of Apple’s platforms.” The company is reportedly using a “significant amount of resources” for the change, as it seeks to comply with the new legislation next year with the release of iOS 17 – well ahead of the DMA’s 2024 deadline.
This news comes as Portugal-based Aptoide, an alternative app store for Android, is launching an iOS version for jailbreakers. The company’s co-founder and CEO Paulo Trezentos told TechCrunch that he believes Apple will indeed open to third-party app stores.
Apple’s executives, including CEO Tim Cook, have previously pointed out that sideloading would be bad for users’ security. The company even introduced a developer mode in iOS 16 to prevent users from “installing potentially harmful software on their devices.”
Currently, all browsers on iPhone, including Chrome and Firefox, have to use Apple’s WebKit engine. But Apple is considering removing that construct.
We might have to wait for Apple’s official announcement to see how other engines could work on iOS and what features that could enable in other browsers.