It’s no news that Apple has been under fire for several months in the European Union as their products (iOS, App Store, Safari, even iMessage) have been the center of several controversies related to monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior.
By iOS 17.4, the gig is up and Apple had to do something to accommodate the EU’s changing legal and regulatory landscape.
Today, Apple made important announcements regarding their new policies about third-party iOS app stores, and payment processors, in preparation for the European Union’s Digital Markets Act, which goes into effect by March 6, 2024.
If sideloading iOS apps is what interests you, and you live in the E.U., things are about to change quite a bit.
Regulated third-party app stores
In today’s announcements, Apple made it clear they will start providing API access to developers so that they can develop third-party app stores so long they meet Apple’s criteria for fraud detection, customer experience, support, and malware.
These vetted app stores would run like any other app on iOS and the user would be able to install apps from them. It’s noteworthy that compared to current sideloading methods, these apps would not expire or be revoked by Apple.
Developers in the EU will soon be able to publish their app to either the App Store or any other third-party app store directly from the normal app publishing flow on Xcode.
Notarization for iOS apps
The applications developed and distributed through third-party app stores will undergo a notarization process similar to the one Apple does with macOS apps.
This notarization process will consist of several security and safety checks and can still get a suspect or unsafe app rejected.
New commissions for App developers
While Apple will not charge a commission on the applications installed through third-party app stores, nor will Apple charge a commission for alternative payment systems, Apple does introduce a new Core Technology Fee that is 0.50 euros per install per account. This fee will be paid annually and it reflects the value of tools like Xcode, Developer tools, and the platform in general.
The first 1 million installs are free for all developers, but surpassing 1 million installs will trigger this new core charge.
Apple is also lowering the 30% commission it takes from developers who distribute apps to the App Store. These developers will now pay only 17%. The small businesses will also no longer pay a 15% commission for subscriptions, which was also reduced to 10%.
As a developer in the EU, you will have to either agree with the new terms (17% / 10%) or you can choose to maintain the current terms (30% / 15%).
Apple’s stance on third-party App Stores
It’s no secret that Apple believes third-party app stores will bring a significant security risk to the platform. They do aim to reduce parts of this major risk through their new notarization process which is aimed at spotting and blocking malware and fraud in its tracks.
Even so, Apple does believe applications installed through third-party app stores will not benefit from the advanced quality control guaranteed by the AppStore review process and advises users to be cautious.
Will these changes come to the US?
Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t seem to plan to introduce these new changes in the US.
While the EU users and developers will have access to third-party app stores, third-party payment processors, and custom default browsers, the US as well as the rest of the globe experience will largely remain unchanged.
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