Apple is often criticized for adopting a walled garden approach that essentially controls what software users can use on macOS and iOS, thus restricting access to whatever apps users like. But thanks to the European Union's Digital Markets Act that came into effect on November 1, the Cupertino tech firm has to loosen its grip on the App Store.
According to a report from Bloomberg (paywall), Apple has decided to comply with the EU legislation by allowing third-party app stores and sideloading apps on iOS. However, app developers may not be able to bypass Apple's controversial 30 percent fees, as Apple still plans to charge a fee even with sideloading in iOS. For users, Apple devices and services will be much more open than they are currently.
Sideloading of apps, however, will not come at the cost of lesser security, as Apple is considering implementing security requirements such as verification. This is the same way Apple ensures safety while still giving users access to apps outside the Mac App Store.
Not only is Apple considering allowing third-party app stores on iOS but also providing deeper access to iOS. This will lead to third-party developers getting access to camera technologies. Apple will reportedly lift some restrictions on NFC too, which will allow Apple Pay alternatives to debut on the iOS App Store. Changes are also expected to come to web browsing engines and other areas of Apple's software to comply with the EU legislation.
Last year, Microsoft also made changes to its Store policies to allow third-party app stores in Windows 11. But its rationale behind that move differs from why Apple is relaxing some of its App Store rules. Also worth mentioning is that Microsoft allows developers to use third-party payment mechanisms without paying Microsoft a fee.
As for Apple, the company has until March 6, 2024, to comply with the EU's rules, but the tech firm hopes to bring a more open App Store before the deadline. The company expects to implement the changes in iOS 17 in 2023. However, these changes are reportedly designed to go into effect in the EU region initially.