TECH

Alternative app marketplaces will not work outside the EU

Apple blocks alternative app stores for the EU

A combination of device geolocation checks and Apple ID restrictions prevent alternative stores applications work outside the EU — even prevent application updates.

Apple was forced to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act by allowing alternative app stores to install apps from outside the App Store. However, Apple views this as a potential security risk and has blocked the system to a large extent, which some are calling malicious compliance.

The support document, first spotted by 9to5Mac, explains how the company controls the availability of alternative markets. This feature is only available in the EU and Apple guarantees that it will not work in other countries.

There are two systems that will preserve alternative app stores in the EU. The Apple ID must be an EU country and the user must be physically located in the EU.

Restricting alternative app stores based on Apple ID region prevents users from accidentally traveling to the EU and installing them. It won't take much effort to get around this issue, but it's enough to stop most regular iPhone users from doing it on a whim.

Apple also uses location verification on the device, which cannot be bypassed by a VPN. The user's location is not sent to Apple, but an eligibility indicator is sent.

This means curious users can't create an Apple ID, set it to Germany, and hide their location using a VPN to set up alternative marketplaces.

Travel to the EU will also not work, at least not for a long time. There is a short-term travel allowance if EU users travel outside geolocation boundaries, but this is not permanent.

After the grace period, some features will no longer work, such as installing alternative app stores. Already installed applications will work, but will not receive updates.

Earlier on Tuesday, Apple released iOS 17.4 with changes and APIs to support developers building alternative app stores in the EU. Alternative app store features are unlikely to be implemented elsewhere without regulatory pressure.

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