App Store changes coming to iOS 17.4 in EU won't destroy garden walls

There are three main restrictions on Apple's App Store concessions in the European Union that limit what third parties can offer to app stores: what consumers can download. That's what they are.

Before Apple announced its plans to join the European Union Digital Markets Act, there was a lot of speculation. Rumors ranged from free sideloading from any source to Apple charging a 27% commission to developers offering alternative app stores for iPhone and iPad.

None of these goals were achieved. Instead, Apple has applied some restrictions to the process.

The first major limitation for users is that they cannot download the application package — or .IPA — from anywhere and it will work. Apps must still be notarized and come from sources Apple trusts.

So, the .IPA files that iTunes used to store for users are useless for non-jailbroken devices running iOS 17.4. Small developers can't just post a download and have the app installed and running on the iPhone.

Secondly, a developer who wants to host a third-party App Store must be eligible for a large line of credit. In particular, this credit line must come from an A-rated financial institution in an amount of at least one million euros.

Apple says this “ensures your developers and users are supported.”

In addition, the download limitation is the installation fee that must be paid to Apple. For any installation of a third party App Store, regardless of whether it is considered “free” or not, the developer must pay a fee of €0.50.

It is unclear whether apps such as emulators will be allowed, as the App Store terms explicitly prohibit apps that run user-uploaded code, such as emulators. Even if this is the case, the €0.50 fee for the initial installation will likely suppress the desire of well-funded developers with such a huge credit line to allow free downloads to users, since they will not be free to developers.

We expect legal action from some of these third parties regarding the concessions made by Apple that were announced on Thursday, one of which may have been filed by Epic's Tim Sweeney, who has already been vocal about changes. Gatekeepers like Apple have until March 6, 2024 to comply with the law's obligations regarding app stores and the like.

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