Apple on Thursday seeded the first betas of upcoming iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4 betas to developers, and the software revealed a panoply of changes that will impact users in the European Union in order to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA).
Apple implemented several major changes to the way the App Store and apps operate in the EU in order to comply with the DMA. These changes are included in iOS 17.4, but are limited to countries that are in the European Economic Area.
Apple is working towards a March 6 deadline to make the changes live for users who update to iOS 17.4. Below, we’ve summarized what will change for affected users and the reasons that Apple has offered for said changes, along with some related news.
- Alternative App Stores: App developers in the EU can opt to offer alternative app stores or install their apps through alternative stores, and Apple has a new fee structure as part of the change. Any developer can create an app marketplace, so long as they meet Apple’s criteria for customer experience, fraud prevention, customer support, and more.
- Alternative Payment Options: Apple is allowing apps to use alternative payment options, and there is no longer a requirement to use in-app purchases. Developers can integrate these into their app, or developers can link out to their websites where users can make a purchase.
- App Store Notarization: Apple has outlined how Apps that are distributed through alternative app stores in EU countries will need to submit to a notarization process that’s similar to the notarization process for Mac apps.
- Screen Time and Refund Limitations:: Apple says apps distributed through alternative app stores won’t work with some long-standing features like Screen Time, refunds, and in-app purchases, as they do for standard App Store apps.
- NFC Third-Party Access: NFC payments will be available directly in apps without the need for Apple Pay or the Wallet app, allowing third-party payment services and banks to offer their own tap-to-pay solutions on Apple devices.
- Default Browser Options: Users in the EU will be allowed to choose a new default browser from a list of the most downloaded browsers on iOS devices. Some of the options include Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Brave, and Microsoft Edge.
- Hardware and Software Developer Access: Apple will allows developers of iOS apps distributed in the EU to request additional interoperability with iPhone hardware and software features. Apple says it will evaluate interoperability requests on a case-by-case basis.
- Expanded Analytics Availability: As part of the App Store changes in the EU, Apple is providing all developers worldwide with updated analytics information. More than 50 new reports will be available through the App Store Connect API to help developers analyze their app performance.
- Apple’s Reasons for Limiting Changes to EU: In a support document, Apple has explained why alternative app stores, alternative payment options, and other updates are being limited to the EU, highlighting risks like fraud, scams, and other privacy threats.
As a direct or indirect consequence of the announced changes coming in iOS 17.4, there have also been some other significant developments overnight.
Apple’s new EU terms include a Core Technology Fee that some developers have warned could completely bankrupt freemium apps that go viral by charging them astronomical fees. Apple does not charge for the first one million “first annual installs” per iOS account each year, but after that, developers will begin racking up charges. Apple’s Core Technology Fee could also be prohibitively expensive for apps like Spotify that have millions of users.
Epic Games says it plans to bring its Epic Games Store to the iPhone and the iPad under Apple’s new alternative app store policy in the EU. The Epic Games Store will include popular game Fortnite, which means iPhone and iPad users will be able to install and play the title without having to use a cloud gaming service. Fortnite has been banned from the iOS App Store for the last several years due to the legal dispute between Apple and Epic Games.
Apple has also announced that it will allow streaming game apps on the App Store worldwide. This will mean services like Xbox Cloud Gaming and Nvidia GeForce NOW will be available as standalone iPhone and iPad apps, whereas previously they were only accessible via the web.
Technology companies need to adhere to the EU’s DMA regulations by March 6, 2024. iOS 17.4 is currently available as a beta update, and it is set to see a public release in March. Given Apple’s concerns over user privacy and security, the company is unlikely to implement similar changes worldwide without being forced to by similar legislation from other countries.
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