Apple will allow iPhone app downloads from websites. Read how?

Written by on March 14, 2024

iPhone users in the European Union will be able to download apps from websites, instead of through the App Store or a competing app store app, Apple said, in the the latest change forced by the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act.

It’s a major reversal for Apple. The company has for years fought against web downloads of iPhone software — often called sideloading — citing security issues and Apple’s right to dictate its user experience.

Tuesday’s announcement is the latest example of the Digital Markets Act forcing Apple to make long-resisted changes to its App Store business processes. The DMA is designed to compel “gatekeepers” — big tech companies including Apple — to open their platforms to smaller rivals.

The web download program will start later this spring and requires developers to meet “specific criteria,” such as having an app with over 1 million downloads in Europe. Apple will still collect a fee, it said.

Apple said companies can also offer an app store for iPhones in Europe, so long as it only offers access to one company’s apps.

“Distributing apps directly from a website requires responsibility and oversight of the user experience, including the ability to manage apps and provide customer support and refunds,” Apple said on a support page posted Tuesday. “Apple will authorize developers after meeting specific criteria and committing to ongoing requirements that help protect users.”

Under the DMA, Apple has been forced to allow third-party app stores in Europe, has reinstated antitrust adversary Epic Games’ developer account amid a legal dispute, and has backtracked on banning web app shortcuts on the main iPhone screen. Apple’s moves suggest the European Commission will be able to successfully regulate Apple in the region by threatening fines and other action for non-compliance.

European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said the European Commission was checking with Apple’s rivals such as Spotify — which supported Apple being hit with a recent $1.95 billion EU fine over a related app store practice called steering — to make sure that Apple’s new policies comply with the spirit of the law.

“We will want to hear from third parties,” Vestager told CNBC on Monday. “Do they get what the DMA is supposed to give them, which is an open market?”

Apple still plans to charge a fee of fifty Euro cents for app downloads outside of its App Store, including web app downloads. Apple’s App Store fees are a profit center for the company, reported in the company’s services business, which delivered $78 billion in sales in the company’s fiscal 2023, including subscriptions and other items.

The company has said Europe represents about 7% of Apple’s App Store revenue.

Article Source: CNBC

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