EU phone buyers have a reason to massively celebrate this week, as Apple made a historical announcement. Apple will allow alternate marketplaces for the iPhone and even sideloading apps, aka apps not found in their official App Store. Even game streaming apps like Xbox Cloud Streaming and GeForce Now will be on iOS.
As with the decision to move iPhone 15 to USB-C charging, it wasn’t something Apple decided to do on their own – it was the result of pressure from the European Union and new legislation.
Still, for those who want to have more freedom on iOS, this is a huge win.
In short, here’s how Apple’s sideloading permissions will work. If you want all the details, head on over to Apple’s official announcement.
“The new options for processing payments and downloading apps on iOS open new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats. That’s why Apple is introducing protections — including Notarization for iOS apps, an authorization for marketplace developers, and disclosures on alternative payments — to reduce risks and deliver the best, most secure experience possible for users in the EU. Even with these safeguards in place, many risks remain,” says Apple.
Alternative app marketplaces, as Apple calls them, will still have to go through a rigorous approval process from Apple.
Then, once they’re approved, any marketplace can have a website where people can download it from. Once those marketplace apps, pre-approved by Apple, are installed on an iPhone, users can give them permission to download apps on their phones – even apps that couldn’t pass the standards of the official App Store. So, to recap, only the marketplace app itself has to submit to Apple’s testing for approval, the apps it hosts won’t.
Users will even be able to give up the official Apple App Store as the default on their phone, choosing an alternative marketplace.
As The Verge reports, the new freedoms also extend to app developers, who now have a way to avoid paying Apple fees.
“Developers, meanwhile, can choose whether to use Apple’s payment services and in-app purchases or integrate a third-party system for payments without paying an additional fee to Apple. If the developer wants to stick with Apple’s existing in-app payment system, there’s an additional 3 percent processing fee,” wrote the outlet.
Depending on how they choose to distribute their products, iOS app developers could even end up not paying any commissions to Apple.
The changes are due to the recently-passed Digital Markets Acts (DMA), and will apply from iOS 17.4.
The DMA was passed in September 2023 and gave companies six months to comply with the new rules, designed to foster a more competitive landscape in which huge companies don’t stifle competition. Any huge company with an almost-monopoly over their part of the web and revenue in the billions was designated a “gatekeeper” by the EU. Under the DMA rules, the gatekeepers had a set of gatekeeper obligations to follow.
Among them are the obligations to allow other business users to use their platform to reach end users, in order to promote fair competition. This is the rule under which Apple now operates by allowing sideloading.
You can see in this infographic provided by the European Commission which companies are gatekeepers under the DMA and what critical services they provide.