Apple to Allow Outside App Stores in Overhaul Spurred by EU Laws

Just saw this [paywall warning] Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

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This could mean huge changes to how we install and pay for apps. I’m not so sure it’s good for security, though. Allowing any publisher to sideload apps could mean a lot of malware getting installed on iPhones.


Or it could be a system like we have had on the Mac for several years. App Store only, App Store and known developers, or ‘I hope you know what you are doing’.

I’ve been expecting this for a while. Apple’s walled garden may have its advantages but lately most of them have benefited (IMO) Apple more than anyone else. Maybe it’s time for some changes.


There’s nothing in the Digital Markets Act (the new EU law) that would prevent Apple from continuing to vet apps for security.

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And there are very good reasons why that should remain the case. Otherwise, you’re allowing apps to not only bypass the App Store but i(Pad)OS itself. Something I’m sure Meta in particular would love to do, given how much they detest App Tracking Transparency.


The Mac market is tiny compared to the iPhone market. Just as the number of users who install apps on their Mac from websites is relatively tiny compared to those who do so from the Mac App Store. Not everyone is up to the ‘I hope you know what you are doing’ standard. And the downside for naive users on their iPhones can be severe, which is why I oppose forcing Apple to allow side-loading on iPhones.

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Completely agreed.

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At this point we don’t know how third party app stores and/or third party payment methods will work. Given Apple’s desire to control everything I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to include standards and perhaps act as a gatekeeper (scan apps for malware, etc.).

There may have been a time in the past when Apple could have avoided this problem by being a bit more flexible and accommodating some of the things that they are now being compelled to do.

True, but I believe adults are responsible for their decisions.

Indeed. I’m surprised charging 30% for ebook and audiobook sales from third parties (when they’re not even hosting the content) has flown for so long. It’s not exactly consumer friendly (or even particularly secure giving the phishing potential) that I have to call up a website on my phone to buy a Kindle ebook.

I understand the need to be careful about payment providers on a phone, but presumably one’s own bank at least would be acceptable.

Apple can easily scan applications installed by third party app stores. Presumably they could also implement sideloading the same way as Android - by default no third party apps/app stores can be installed - it’s a deliberate user choice. I like @WayneG 's suggestion where Apple Store + known developers is a choice. I doubt many people beyond the technically literate have ever installed third party apps on an Android phone, and the same will presumably be true on Apple. Side-loading on Android is most prevalent in countries where the state exercises high degrees of control (including over App Store content).


I hope everyone remembers how personally unconcerned they were about this issue when all the stories about penetrated, compromised, and bricked iPhones start popping up. iPhones are such a tempting target and it has been hard enough for Apple to keep up with the cat and mouse security chase as it is. That chase seems about to get much harder.

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You ought to see what Amazon charges authors to sell their ebooks! It’s 65% including hosting or 30% if you pay for the bandwidth and don’t charge more than $9.99. (It seems to be $0.15 per megabyte)

I’m sure large publishers all have sweetheart deals, which is why we don’t hear squawking about those rates!

Apple needs to prevent bypassing because otherwise everyone would have free apps (Apple footing the bill for the store and bandwidth) and charge via a third party service to get a key.

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Seems there more to this too…

Mark Gurman claimed that Apple is also considering removing its requirement for iPhone and iPad web browsers to use WebKit.

I don’t have as many problems with ipadOS Safari as I do with Mac Safari. But it would be nice to have the option of another browser when problems do occur.

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Setapp is preparing to launch its own App Store for iOS.

This is good news as far as I am concerned. Competition is a good thing.

I know that there are security concerns, but to me the Mac has proven for decades that buying software without Apple being involved is possible and can be secure. And Apple has proven over and over again that scam apps are part of their store, too, in some cases for several years (

Given the ongoing frustrations some customers and developers have with software updates and upgrades and handling SKUs on the AppStore (see GoodNotes 6 - new version, new payment models), I am looking forward to this materializing. I think that options apart from Apple will also mean that Apple will have to improve (or it will lose revenue).


Good news indeed, I just hope that Europe still includes the UK!

Apple only have themselves to blame for the EU’s action, fighting against competition law that clearly applies when a company has a “dominant position” in a market was never going to come out well. To say that Apple didn’t have a dominant position in the iOS/ iPhone OS app market because you could always buy and Android device instead was no sensical; if those OS’s didn’t constitute a market in their own right then nobody would write apps for them and either there would be no iPhone/iPad apps, or everything would be cross platform (which, of course, Apple fights like heck to avoid).

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No, the MacRumors article explicitly states that the Setapp store will be available in the EU only. There’s no reason why Apple would enable alternative stores and sideloading and lose out on profit except where forced by legislation, so I suppose the UK will not be on that list. I guess this will be easy to implement depending on which regional App Store is your default; in the EU and Japan, where there is apparently similar legislation being passed, they have to enable this; in the US & UK, they don’t and therefore probably won’t.

I have no idea how all this will happen in 2024. I do not think that SetApp will be the only solution. Others will follow… When this materializes, I am confident that we eventually will see movement in this area all over the place, not only within the EU.

Jason Snell wrote about the DMA and its possible implications in other countries back in December:

I would expect that many of the changes Apple would make, specifically third-party access to software interfaces currently limited to Apple, would be available to everyone worldwide. It seems unlikely that Apple would prefer a patchwork of rules—instead, it will probably just announce that access as new developer features of iOS 17.

Some specific features—like the ability to add non-App Store software—might not be enabled outside of regions where it is required. I seriously doubt that any dedicated user in, say, the United States will be unable to enable that feature if they really try, but it’s possible that Apple will make such a feature invisible, unofficial, and unsupported outside of the EU. (…)

As we all know, iOS 17’s betas do not contain any such feature as of now (, but that very well may change later this year. Craig Federighi has hinted (

Craig Federighi said that “we want to make sure that whatever we do is the right thing for our customers” and that Apple is “working with the EU” to discuss compliance. (…) Craig hasn’t explicitly said that iOS 17 will have sideloading, but he strongly suggests that Apple will eventually offer this option as required by the European Union.

I think that this will be a point where Apple has to convince customers and developers that their store is the best solution by delivering a good experience, otherwise it may be a “jumping the shark” moment in the long run…

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Apple is now the most popular smartphone in the U S. Perhaps their success will cause them to change their App Store policies voluntarily, before they are forced to do it by the US government. I don’t consider this very likely but we can hope.

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One thing I meant to say and didn’t was that I find SetApps’ curation valuable; it’s so much better than the App Store’s. I don’t know how the SetApp business model works (and frankly, don’t really care), but presume that it must be satisfactory for both the store and the developers who sell through it. Having competition should hopefully drive Apple to improve its offering, I can only dream that Apple will say “of course you can have other app stores, but we’ve improved ours so dramatically that you’ll not want to move – we’ve removed all the silly restrictions, all the scam apps are gone, our developers are ecstatic about the quality and timeliness of App review and oh, one last thing, we recognise Apple is a hardware company and are setting our App store fees to 5% over costs incurred”.


That is a nice dream, but it probably won’t come true. :slight_smile:

Apple’s Services are responsible for 26% of Apple’s revenue, that is about equal with or even slightly more than the combined revenue from Macs, iPads and Wearables. Apple’s hardware is crucial for its revenue, but they are no hardware-only company any longer. Those services have become very important.

Yes. At some point iPhone sales will peak but Apple will need to show growth in order to maintain their stock price.