Apple's rules to allow third-party app stores in the EU are not beneficial for users or developers

Jan 29, 2024

Apple has announced its plans to allow side-loading and third-party app stores in the European Union in order to comply with the Digital Markets Act in March. But, the changes that the company has announced aren't good for users or developers.

Let's forget the fact that sideloading will not be available for the rest of the world. The new rules are much more important, here is how they will impact users in the European Union region.

Changes to iOS

Users in the EU region who have an iPhone that runs on iOS 17.4 or above will be able to download third-party app stores on their device. The company calls these third-party stores as App Marketplaces. A user will be able to download a marketplace from a website.

The marketplaces will need to be approved by Apple, that's not all. Apps will need to by notarized by the Cupertino company. Apps will also need to pass automatic checks and a human review. Users will be requested to grant the marketplace permission to download and install apps, after which it can download apps and provide auto updates. The main difference is that these marketplaces can host apps that vate App Store guidelines. In other words, the App Store's app quality rules do not apply to third-party marketplaces.

Apple wants marketplaces to provide a "stand-by letter of credit from an A-rated (or equivalent by S&P, Fitch, or Moody’s) financial Institution of €1,000,000 to establish adequate financial means in order to guarantee support for your developers and users. Developers will need to pay a Core Technology Fee of €0.50 for each first annual. This fee will apply after an app crosses a threshold of one million installations in a year.

That being said, a support page on the Apple developer page mentions that developers who have registered with the Apple Developer Program as a profit organization, accredited educational institution, or government entity, and distribute free apps on the App Store without in-app purchases, and do not sell digital goods and services, are exempt from the Core Technology Fee. So, essentially, open source apps could be excluded from these restrictions. But this will not apply to all free apps.

The good stuff

Apple will allow browser makers to use custom engines instead of WebKit in iOS 17.4, which means Google Chrome may soon be powered by the Blink engine, and Firefox with Gecko for iOS could soon become a reality. Third-party apps can use the iPhone's NFC for their payment systems. The App Store will allow Game Streaming Services, so we could see the likes of Xbox's Xcloud, and NVIDIA's GeForce Now on iPhones soon.  iOS apps on the App Store will be required pay a reduced commission of either 10 percent or 17% on transactions for digital goods and services.

Reactions from around the web

TechCrunch points out that Apple is using scaremongering tactics that might scare users. The press release from the company emphasizes on the fact that it had no choice but to comply with the DMA, and focuses on the risks that the DMA poses to users. It is true that sideloading apps from unknown sources has some risks, that is true for Android as well, but Apple is overstating the problems to defend its rules.

The Verge quotes Mozilla spokesperson Damiano DeMonte who said that Mozilla was extremely disappointed with Apple's new rules, and that it would force independent browser makers to build and maintain two different browsers; one for the EU, and one for the rest of the world (based on WebKit). Apple Safari itself is exempt from these rules. DeMonte said that this creates yet another barrier for true browser competition on iOS.

Epic Games CEO, Tim Sweeney, said that Apple's plan to thwart the DMA is a devious new instance of Malicious Compliance. He termed it as an anticompetitive scheme that comes with junk Fees on downloads and new Apple taxes on payments they don't process. Several app developers have criticized Apple's Core Technology Fee, claiming that they may be required to pay a hefty portion of their earnings. Sweeney ridiculed Apple's announcement, calling it hot garbage. Meanwhile, the Epic Games Store will be launching its own app marketplace.

Spotify CEO, Daniel Ek, criticized Apple's plan calling the new app installation fee an extortion, and that these rules allow Apple to maintain its monopoly under a different mask.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton told Reuters that the DMA will not hesitate to take strong action if the proposed solutions are not good enough.

9to5Mac reports that iOS 17.4 beta adds multiple ways that verify if an iPhone is eligible for sideloading. The verification system will check the Apple ID billing address, the current location (Country), region settings, and the device class. These data will be verified via an Apple server that allows the device to sideload apps and marketplaces. This system will effectively prevent users around the world from bypassing the regional restrictions to sideload apps on their iPhone.

macOS has allowed installation of third-party apps forever, so has Windows and Android. So, why is Apple trying to create these restrictions with iOS? Several Apple fans have defended the company's decision, but none of their arguments make sense. I have an iPhone and a MacBook, and I'm terribly disappointed by this anti-consumer / anti-developer stance. It is ridiculous, and why on earth did the European Commission agree to this nonsense? They might have as well let Apple continue with its walled-garden, because the new policies make little difference to users and developers.

I was expecting a marketplace like F-droid for iOS. What the users in the EU will get seem to be rubbish. Apple knows that big tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Meta, Spotify, Amazon, Netflix, Epic Games, etc., will come up with their own app marketplaces. Unlike indie developers, these companies can afford the Core Technology Fee and other fees. It is evident that Apple wants to cash in on the profits, with little respect for the freedom of indie developers, which may in turn affect users as well.

Apple's rules to allow third-party app stores in the EU are not beneficial for users or developers
Article Name
Apple's rules to allow third-party app stores in the EU are not beneficial for users or developers
App developers have criticized Apple's rules to comply with the EU's DMA, claiming that the policies are anticompetitive.
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  1. Anonymous said on February 13, 2024 at 4:01 am


  2. Archibald Haddock said on January 31, 2024 at 7:02 pm


    Nice try Apple.

    The EU authorities will never accept this. Consumer rights are not dictated by corporations here.

    1. John G. said on January 31, 2024 at 8:47 pm

      @Archibald > “The EU authorities will never accept this. Consumer rights are not dictated by corporations here.”

      LOL forever. Please, dude, come on! Well, at least you didn’t say that consumer rights are not dictatrd by France. It’s s beginning.

  3. Karl said on January 30, 2024 at 2:32 am


    The “scroll” panel has been missing in Firefox since 5-7 days back. Only way to scroll down is to refresh the page F5 and quickly push SPACE on the keyboard several times to make the page move down. The only thing that has been updated is Firefox to 115.7.0esr plus UBOs filters, don’t know where the culprit is and what has changed that caused such big malfunction on the site. And only the scroll on Ghacks seem to be affected, no issue on any other site. :(

    1. John G. said on January 30, 2024 at 5:31 pm

      I didn’t notice such this failure you have reported, using same version here of FF ESR.

    2. Yash said on January 30, 2024 at 3:57 pm


      By scroll panel if you mean scrollbar right along the right edge of screen, it is present in Firefox 122 version for me on every site including gHacks. I can also scroll on Ghacks using spacebar without having to tap f5 and quickly push space key multiple times.

  4. Scroogled said on January 29, 2024 at 11:12 pm

    Apple is disgusting and should be sued to the ground.

  5. ilev said on January 29, 2024 at 7:34 pm

    “Meanwhile, the Epic Games Store will be launching its own app marketplace.”

    No, it won’t. Apple has canceled Epic developer account and won’t restate it.

  6. John said on January 29, 2024 at 2:53 pm

    Apple has always had a closed off ecosystem where Apple always benefits greatly from this model. Of course Apple would not want to make it easy for side loading of apps and avoiding their monopolized position with their app store. A significant part of Apple’s profits come from this exclusivity.

  7. John G. said on January 29, 2024 at 2:33 pm

    Wherever the European Union walks, grass doesn’t grow again for its own citizens.

  8. Anonymous said on January 29, 2024 at 2:16 pm

    To be fair it’s their platform and if you’re one of the few weirdos that don’t like the way they’re running things there’s always Android. If users cared that much about things like this iPhones wouldn’t be as profitable for both the developers and Apple as a whole.
    I don’t think it’s right that the EU can just barge in and boss the ones who have come up with something as mindblowing as the modern sensitive while they themselves have brought little value to the world.

    1. John G. said on January 29, 2024 at 7:36 pm

      @Anonymous > “I don’t think it’s right that the EU can just barge in and boss the ones…”,

      I think you might be very surprised at how things work in Europe as far as laws are concerned. It’s more or less like in the United States: the lobbies rule more than anyone else.

      Lobbies everywhere, injustice all the time.

    2. Tom Hawack said on January 29, 2024 at 3:34 pm

      > “I don’t think it’s right that the EU can just barge in and boss the ones who have come up with something as mindblowing as the modern sensitive while they themselves have brought little value to the world.”

      They don’t have the same role. A private company makes arguably good products with a price, be it users’ privacy, be it developers’ retribution. The EU defends users’ privacy and developers’ fair retribution.

      America is wild, not Europe. I think we have always needed both, a wildness which intends to free itself of basic ethical requirements in order to embrace innovation be it in an extremely raw way, institutional firewalls to prevent excess of the former.

      Is it indispensable to once again point out what all experts know, which is that GAFAM companies have three and only three aims : innovate, improve, profit. So here in Europe we try to calm down their “always more” hysterical approach. That’s all there is to it.

      1. John G. said on January 29, 2024 at 7:30 pm

        @Tom Hawack > “America is wild, not Europe.”

        The European Union is now wilder than the United States in many ways. This is probably not the place to discuss these ways because mostly all are political and if that were not enough, these ways are strongly biased.

        Howevere, let’s talk about the article itself: Apple is a private and foreign company, indeed this company has now more rights than more EU countries inside the own EU. First of all Apple can distribute their products at its whim, sometimes kneeling down to extremely controversial EU stupid ideas, purely biased and purely ideological near all them, that don’t favor anyone except the “ow political guarantees” that the union wants to prevail over other. In other words, the EU fights to impose its laws whatever the economic cost.

        This could seem quite acceptable considering that Apple is a foreign non EU company, however, and this is the real and the important problem, actually there are entire countries of the EU that have less rights just to do what the own EU laws tried to guarantee with no success at all (e.g. freedom of circulation of trucks and products across the borders). Yes, across the internal borders that Schengen treaty allowed a ton years later. Apple can.

        As summary, Apple products have now more rights that any farm products along all EU countries. Our own laws are written with mud. Same laws, different bull**** for everyone.
        If America is wild, the EU is savage. No offense wanted, of course.

      2. Tom Hawack said on January 29, 2024 at 10:34 pm

        @John G., indeed carrying on leads to political and societal considerations which are off-topic.
        Have you lived in Europe, in the States, do you express your ideas free of clichés?
        To make it short, and I could develop far beyond, my reply to yours is simple : exactly the opposite.
        Hope your young years will get furnished with reality as years pass by.

      3. John G. said on January 30, 2024 at 10:20 am

        @Tom Hawack, I live in EU, my parents are farmers. I also lived 1 year in London and 1 year in San Francisco. Same here, I hope too that your elder years will get refurnished with some fresh reality as years pass by. Has Paris already been blocked by the 25K farm tractors? Are the french borders safe again to other countries trucks? Apple products can pass with no restrictions one checked in the EU customs. Apple is more important here in EU that my parents products. And Apple rights are extremely protected with the EU laws. I wish that the EU laws could protect my parents after decades of hard work, just Apple is protected being a foreign company.

  9. Jeff M.S. said on January 29, 2024 at 1:42 pm

    Was expected from the greediest company in the world

    1. John G. said on January 30, 2024 at 5:23 pm

      @Jeff M.S.

      Greediest term is not too much accurate imho, mostly the expensivest one for sure.
      And the best too.

    2. Tim D.C. said on January 29, 2024 at 6:23 pm

      @Jeff M.S.: Source?

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