EU passes new Digital Markets Act will force Apple to allow third-party stores and sideloading apps on iOS

Nov 2, 2022

In May 2022, we reported that the European Union will introduce a Digital Markets Act (DMA) that will force Apple to allow installation of iOS apps from third-party sources. The new law has now been passed by the EU.

EU passes new Digital Markets Act to force Apple to allow third-party stores and sideloading apps on iOS

New EU law allows installation of apps from third-party stores on iOS

The new antitrust law states that gatekeepers, i.e., controllers of large online platforms, (such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc) should allow the installation of software applications from third-parties. That means users can sideload iOS apps on their iPhone and iPad.

Image courtesy: European Commission

The DMA's new Act also mentions that users should be able to access these apps (read download) from other services than that of the gatekeeper, i.e., the App Store.  So, we could see the rise of new app stores on iOS just like we have on Android and Windows such as Amazon's App Store, Google Play Store, Microsoft Store, F-Droid.

It doesn't end there, the law also requires gatekeepers to allow users to choose whether they want to set the downloaded app or the app store as their default choice. The gatekeeper will need to ensure that users can change the default app easily. Maybe the EU should take a look at Windows 11 too?

The law gives some leeway for gatekeepers for security reasons. If a gatekeeper finds that a third-party app or store endangers the integrity of the hardware or operating system, they will be allowed to take measures against such apps. This means Apple could block malicious apps and/or remove them automatically.

EU DMA Article 6 Section 4

You can find the documentation about the new law on the EU's website. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click on the download button next to "Regulation on Digital markets act".  It's a bit of a long read, the part about allowing installation of apps from third-party stores can be found under Article 6, section 4. The press release for the DMA is available here.

The DMA will move into the implementation phase from May 2, 2023. It requires potential gatekeepers to notify their core platform services to the European Commission by 3 July 2023. Once a gatekeeper has been designated, they will have to comply with the DMA's requirements by March 6, 2024.

(via MacRumors)

iMessage interoperability

Article 7 of the new Digital Markets Act (linked above), states that a gatekeeper shall allow the basic functionalities of its number-independent interpersonal communications to be interoperable with that of third-party services.

EU DMA Article 7

So, this means iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, etc., will have to allow users to communicate across apps to send messages, and make voice calls and video calls. That should be interesting.

The EU has been on a roll lately, it passed a law in October to make USB Type-C the standard charging port on mobile phones. This brought an end to the lightning port on Apple's iPhones. The law will come into effect in 2024.

This new EU law could be a real game changer, Apple has always played the security card to defend its policy about the App Store, claiming that allowing apps from third-party sources could make iPhones vulnerable to security risks. This argument never really made sense, since Apple has always allowed users to sideload apps on macOS, somehow that's secure, but iOS isn't?  The real reason why the Cupertino company didn't want to allow iOS apps from third-party sources is quite simple, it earns a sweet 30% commission from every single transaction that is made through the App Store.

This is something that has been criticized by many developers and companies, Epic Games lost a legal battle in a bid to find a solution for this problem. Pavel Durov, the founder of Telegram, has also been particularly vocal about App Store fees since it affected the revenue of the instant messenger's premium subscription. And, Apple also charges app developers an annual fee just to host their software on the App Store, even if an app is completely free. So, this is a big win for users and developers.

Will you buy an iPhone if you could install apps from other stores?

EU passes new Digital Markets Act will force Apple to allow third-party stores and sideloading apps on iOS
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EU passes new Digital Markets Act will force Apple to allow third-party stores and sideloading apps on iOS
The European Union has passed a new Digital Markets Act, which will force Apple to allow third-party stores and sideloading apps on iOS. It will also allow iMessage interoperability with other messaging apps.
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  1. Laina Betts-Dunn said on September 1, 2023 at 6:36 pm

    Most people are finding it is related to the newest Pokémon Go! update. If you check control center, Pokémon Go! has accessed location just prior to the vibrations.

    1. Lillian said on September 4, 2023 at 9:17 am

      You are the best I didn’t even think about that being the problem even tho I said to my friend it’s vibrating randomly like Pokémon go does when new Pokémon pop up

  2. John said on September 3, 2023 at 6:33 pm

    It’s happening on beta release isn’t this to be expected? Any beta release is going to have bugs.

  3. Anonymous said on September 17, 2023 at 7:11 pm

    “You can browse the internet privately on your iPhone too”

    No, you can’t. See below.

    “This means that no one will be able to see what you’ve been browsing unless you tell them.”

    No-one you would allow to use your devices. It’s important to remind that online trackers still get almost as much as before in this mode, tracking you for the duration of the session at least. In fact a quick search on whether cookies (and local storage, indexedDB, and so on) are even cleared at exit or not in Apple’s private browsing gives contradictory answers (maybe this has to do with Apple’s habit of conveniently avoiding to get technical with users, even when that means more opportunities to fool them) and your article doesn’t say more, so it’s not even clear to me that there is any protection against online trackers.

    About the other Apple privacy tools you mention, I wouldn’t trust them. They killed the actual privacy tools like ublock origin on Safari that hide the IP address from trackers, to then provide their own fake replacement, like Google and their Mozilla pet company are slowly doing too with their own browsers. From the mouth of such companies, even “blocking cookies” may actually mean something weaker, like having an undisclosed tracker whitelist for bullshit reasons that ublock origin doesn’t seem to need (Mozilla does that for instance), not actually blocking them but just isolating them while still writing they’re blocked (Mozilla did that through inaccurate UI wording for third-party cookies), or keeping in place for years privacy bugs that they are aware of and that don’t remove storage when it’s supposed to be (Mozilla again, and they’re not worse than the others). And it’s only a few examples.

    Is there also need to remind that Safari like all the other big browsers is infested with Apple’s own spyware antifeatures (including for advertisers, unlike what they pretend in their ads) ?

  4. You're welcome said on September 18, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    Sneak PEEK.

  5. Seeprime said on September 20, 2023 at 12:29 am

    It has been weeks where the comments sections are littered with old unrelated comments. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to ghacks.

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