After having to comply with the EU USB-C charger directive, Apple faces another Digital Market Act (DMA) from Europe. Under the new DMA, Tech Giants 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.
Android has already opened its market for third-party app stores, something Apple fiercely fought against by forcing its users to download apps from the company’s App Store exclusively.
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.
These Changes Could Be a Win for Developers
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.
Aside from sideloading app stores, Apple might open up more parts of its ecosystem, including the camera, browser engine, and NFC stack. All browsers on iPhone have to use Apple’s WebKit engine currently, including Chrome and Firefox.
Apple aims to remove that construct, but the users will have to wait for an official announcement to see how other engines could work on iOS and what features they could enable in different browsers.
The European Commission has already criticized Apple regarding NFC stacks, saying that standard technology used for contactless payment, like NFC, should be open to all providers.
By opening the NFC stack, Apple could allow its competitors like Square and Stripe to build their own integrated solutions for iPhone.
Will Apple Allow Complete Freedom?
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.”
App Store fees and sideloading have been the center of focus when Apple faced peril in Epic’s antitrust suit. Apple made it hard for developers to adopt third-party payment systems in South Korea and the Netherlands, where the company was forced to loosen its grip on the platform.
Apple instructed the app makers to show elaborate warnings to users who are about to make a purchase using alternative payment methods. In some cases, the company asked for them to submit an entitlement request form.
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Apple could similarly strong-arm European developers once it complies with the DMA, making the use of third-party stores difficult for both consumers and developers — allowing only the most technologically savvy developers to thrive.
A statement by The Coalition for App Fairness — a group fighting against Tech Giants like Google and Apple for fairer distribution, including Spotify, Basecamp, and Match Group — says that the reports about Apple allowing sideloading is:
It further went on to say,
The organization implored lawmakers in the U.S. to take note and pass the Open App Markets Act (OAMA) as quickly as possible. This act could force Google and Apple to allow third-party app stores, alternative payment options, and sideloading.