EU will enforce the Digital Markets Act in Spring 2023 and it could allow iOS users to install apps from third-party sources
The European Union will enforce the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in 2023, and this could have a huge impact on Big Tech companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta (Facebook). Among other things, the law is expected to allow iOS users to install apps from third-party sources.
Why is the DMA so important?
The biggest advantage that Google's Android boasts over iOS, is the freedom of choice that it offers users. You can download and install Android apps from anywhere, aka sideloading. All you have to do is download an APK file, allow installation of apps from unknown sources, and the app is ready to use. There are some security risks with this method, an app could be malicious, something which Apple's CEO, Tim Cook pointed out as why iOS shouldn't allow it. But that is only a problem if you download apps from unknown sites, and disreputable sources.
iOS users have only one place to get their apps from, the App Store. Being locked into Apple's ecosystem is kind of like living in a gilded cage. I've been using iOS for about 5 years on my iPad 2017. While I like the huge screen and the OS experience, I find iOS to be lacking when it comes to apps. Since it restricts browser apps to use the Webkit engine, all browsers on the OS are basically Safari with a different coat of paint, which makes it almost pointless to use another browser.
As someone who is used to Firefox and extensions, I find it nearly unusable. The lack of a file manager and emulators (for games) are the other buzzkills for me. The iPad could be a great emulation device, and the only way I can do that is via resources such as the AltStore. It is a third-party store where you can download emulator apps from. But it's not as simple as downloading an APK and tapping the install button.
It requires a computer with the iTunes app which you need to use for installing the AltStore app, then you have to download the IPA files (apps), jump through some more hoops, before signing the files. That's another issue, since Apple only allows users to sign 3 apps and these work for 7 days, before they have to be re-signed. There is a way to sign unlimited apps and use them for a longer time (without signing them again), but you'll need to subscribe to a Developer account, and that costs $99. The only real alternative to this problem, is to Jailbreak the iPhone or iPad. But, that has even more complications, not to mention it also voids the warranty of your device.
So, you see, iOS users are really stifled when it comes to the choice of installing apps. If an app that a user wants is not available on the App Store, that's pretty much it for most people, they have to use something else. Is it any wonder that the EU views the App Store as a monopoly? It is an anticompetitive practice, aka an antitrust violation, that's why the EU wants Apple to remove these restrictions, and allow users to install apps from other sources.
The EU lawmakers approved the DMA in March this year, but are yet to get the final approval from the European Parliament and Council. TechCrunch reports that Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission, announced that the Digital Markets Act will enter into force in Spring 2023, and will be enforced soon after. (via The Verge)
I'm looking forward to the day when the DMA is passed, and Apple allows us to use the apps we want. I'd also love to see a proper third-party repository for iOS like F-Droid with open-source alternatives for everyday apps. While the new law would force Apple to allow users in Europe to install apps from other sources, I wonder what this would mean for users in other regions. Will the rest of the world get the same treatment?Advertisement