Under proposed EU law Apple would be forced to allow sideloading and third-party app stores

Under proposed legislation recently unveiled by the EU, Apple would be forced to allow users to sideload apps from outside the security of the company’s curated App Store.

Apple's App Store on iPhone
Apple’s App Store on iPhone

Jon Porter and James Vincent for The Verge:

This stipulation was included in the initial proposal for the bloc’s sweeping Digital Markets Act, or DMA, which came one step closer to being signed into law this week, and an EU spokesperson confirmed that the provision is still included.

“We believe that the owner of a smartphone should have the freedom to choose how to use it,” said European Commission spokesperson Johannes Bahrke in an emailed statement. “This freedom includes being able to opt for alternative sources of apps on your smartphone. With the DMA, a smartphone owner would still be able to enjoy safe and secure services of the default app store on their smart phones. On top of that, if a user so chooses, the DMA would allow a smartphone owner to also opt for other safe app stores.”

In addition to allowing third-party stores on its platform, Apple would also be forced to allow users to install apps from third-party sources (a practice known as sideloading) and to allow developers to use the App Store without using Apple’s payment systems.

MacDailyNews Take: If developers to use the App Store without using Apple’s payment systems, then they should be charged to use Apple’s App Store when conducting in-app commerce. Period.

Removing the requirement to use Apple’s payment system in apps removes much of the incentive for Apple to operate and maintain such an expensive operation as the App Store, which supports 1+ billion users. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Are, for example, Best Buy and Target forced by law to place signs next to each product that advertise lower prices for the same items at Walmart? No, because that would be ludicrous.

If Apple is forced by the DMA or any other legislation to allow developers to advertise lower prices in their apps which are distributed via Apple’s App Store, Apple should release the “In-App Advertising” API to track and charge an in-store advertising fee on any app that nets a sale or subscription via the advertisement of lower prices outside the App Store. We suggest Apple’s rate be 15% for developers making under $1 million per year and 30% for those making $1 million or more annually (exactly what they are now).

Regarding sideloading, as we wrote back in November 2021:

Apple allows sideloading apps on the Mac, yet the company routinely touts how much more secure the Mac is versus Windows PCs, so, logically, it follows that if the Digital Markets Act were enacted, Apple could apply the same third-party app certification to iOS and iPadOS as they do for macOS and still offer a markedly safer experience than the toxic hellstew provided by Android phones and tablets.

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19 Comments

  1. “If developers to use the App Store without using Apple’s payment systems, then they should be charged to use Apple’s App Store when conducting in-app commerce. Period.”

    No argument, that’s fair.
    If found guilty of violating anti-trust laws, punitive damages may still apply though.

  2. Not sure this is a good thing unless your phone is locked to the app store by default. I can just see people getting scam emails that will install an app without the persons knowledge which will become a huge privacy issue. Hackers are going to be in full force stealing any data they can.. Be prepared for your parents to have money easily taken from them. This will be a mess unless it is locked out by default.

    1. Is that a problem for you on a Mac? Last I checked, I could buy apps from Apple using its payment system, or I could buy directly from the actual software developer using any payment that they and I trust.

      This is called competition, and it’s the primary market force to keep prices in check. For all you that come here to complain about Apple’s increasingly high pricing, wake up. Your glorious AAPL stock valuation didn’t happen without Apple locking iOS users in.

      If you haven’t been paying attention, Apple has gotten more greedy with every notch higher in market share that iOS takes. Of course in the duopoly mobile app market, this means Android apps are priced equal to Apple’s inflated prices, regardless of what it actually costs. Software 1.0 is very expensive, but costs for 1.x and 2.0 and on depreciate. Regardless of this truth, Apple has conditioned everyone to pay in-App fees, subscriptions, or app purchase prices that don’t reflect Apple’s now negligible costs for distribution. Apple takes your money so fast it didn’t know what to do with it all, so they started shoveling it to their executives and buybacks. Prices don’t need to be so high, except there’s no app store competition.

      You have three possibilities for the future:
      1. Mega corporation Apple continues to squeeze the sheep in its corrals, via unavoidable subscription or monopoly store pricing power. Android apps will ratchet up prices to match because you have no other market options.
      2. Different nations or trade blocs finally start drafting consumer protection regulations to try to contain the pricing.
      3. Existing antitrust laws in certain nations are enforced and refreshed, enabling new entrepreneurs to offer competition and pricing pressure on the fat Big Tech companies.

      Competition doesn’t mean you have to choose the new alternatives. But you would have choices, and app developers would have choices besides what Apple unilaterally dictates. What a concept, choices! It’s like freedom to be something other than a mindless worker bee for Mother Apple.

      The Mac is a consumer friendly business. IOS never was and will never be unless consumer protection laws or competitors are implemented. When Apple was the underdog, it charged fairly good prices and usually overdelivered in quality and performance. The days of getting a great value from Apple are rapidly disappearing unless we get some proper market changes.

      1. iOS is not macOS, so your argument about alternative installation methods fails immediately. iOS was not designed to function macOS. This would be immediately evident to anyone that has ever used both platforms. What the EU is doing is like making manufacturers of refrigerators add a microwave feature now. It doesn’t make any sense like your attempt to argue that the iOS platform should function like macOS. Very ignorant.

        1. Utter hogwash. The artificial limitations Apple implemented in iOS can be fixed.

          If you want to hire Apple to do everything for you, go ahead.

          Some of us prefer real choices for the hardware we own.

      2. Yes it is a problem on a Mac or pc. People get malware that they unknowingly install so yes it is a problem. More gullible people own iPhones so it will become a huge problem when and if this gets opened up. You are very naïve.

        1. Most social apps, bank apps that run om macOS run in a sandbox called “a web browser” with alll your data in the cloud. You can do the same today on iOS if you want, Apple will not care.

          But most iOS apps are native apps. This system with politicians and their lazy consultans playing software architects is ridiculous.

          My suggestion is you can decide on purchase if you want a “secure” iphone or a “basic” iphone. As a developer I would like the same choice – to sell on “secure” iPhones.

          1. It doesn’t sound like you know what you’re talking about.

            As someone correctly stated before, the addition of choice doesn’t force the computer neophyte from selecting the locked down Apple curated rentalware offering. Some of us are ready for the iOS platform to be what it always should have been: as open and powerful as the Mac, but for touchscreen users. Period.

          2. As a developer, who would force you to submit to anyone other than the Apple App Store? Or are you using that as an excuse to not have to cover your own bugs?

  3. These kinds of laws are clearly designed to target a few small American tech companies like google and apple. With so many options available to consumers for their daily computing needs, this proposal reads likes a bitter reaction to a region’s own ineptitude in the tech world. It’s funny they consider themselves leaders with nonsense like this. Always several steps behind California.

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