Tech giant Apple will reportedly allow iPhone and iPad users to install non-App Store apps next year in its effort to comply with the incoming strict European Union requirements.
Software engineering and services employees are currently involved in “a major push to open up key elements of Apple’s platforms,” Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. This push involves changes related to enabling customers to download third-party software to their iPhones and iPads without using the App Store.
Per the report, Apple’s goal is to have all the planned changes ready and be made part of an update to next year’s iOS 17.
This is a major shift to its business and long-held policies. For users, it would also mean avoiding a number of Apple’s restrictions – as well as the (infamous) up-to-30% commission on payments.
This also means that, with the company’s ecosystem finally opening up its doors, a larger number of non-fungible-token (NFT)-related apps may be potentially entering.
Just earlier this month, major crypto exchange Coinbase announced that users could no longer transfer NFTs using Coinbase’s Wallet app on Apple devices due to the App Store policy. It added that Apple was forcing the exchange to remove the NFT transfer option from its iOS wallet.
The iPhone maker stated that fees for sending NFTs have to be paid through the company’s proprietary in-app purchase system, it said – the reason being that Apple aims to collect 30% of the gas fee.
Coinbase also argued that Apple “made it a lot harder” for those who hold an NFT in a wallet on an iPhone to transfer their own NFT to other wallets or even to send it as a gift to a family member or a friend.
As for the financial impact on Apple, per Reuters, Angelo Zino, a stock analyst at CFRA, said that he expects under 0.2% of Apple’s total sales to be affected by the rival app stores in Europe.
“The ultimate impact will be minimal as most consumers are creatures of habit and are very satisfied with the platform,” he said. “We expect a majority of consumers will keep the status quo by utilizing (Apple’s) existing app store.”
While the changes within the company are designed to go into effect in Europe, Bloomberg’s sources claimed that if similar laws to those in the EU are passed in other countries, “Apple’s project could lay the groundwork for other regions.”
Leveling the playing field
Apple’s move was somewhat expected, given that it was basically forced to make changes in response to EU laws. Both the regulators and software designers have for years argued that Apple and Google act as gatekeepers and that laws need to be put forth to level the playing field so others can join the game.
The Digital Markets Act entered into force on November 1, but companies have until 2024 to comply with all its rules. Among other things, tech companies will have to enable third-party apps to be installed and default settings to be changed more easily.
This applies to companies with market valuations of at least €75 billion ($80 billion) in the past financial year, as well as at least 45 million monthly users within the EU and at least 10,000 yearly business users established in the EU in each of the previous three financial years.
Bloomberg noted that Apple is discussing mandating some security requirements as protection from unsafe apps, and certain apps may also need to be verified by Apple, which could carry a fee.
Furthermore, there is still no final decision on whether or not to comply with a component of the Digital Markets Act that allows developers to install third-party payment systems within their apps, stated the report. This change would allow users to make payments without involving Apple.