App Store changes coming in iOS 17.4 to the EU don’t blow the walls off of the garden

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There are three major limitations on Apple’s App Store concessions in the European Union that limit what third parties can offer for App Stores, and what consumers can load. Here’s what they are.

There was a lot of speculation before Apple announced what its plans were to adhere to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act. The rumors ranged from free side loading from any source, to Apple charging a 27% fee to developers offering alternative App Stores for the iPhone and iPad.

The first main limitations to users is that they can’t download an App Package, or .IPA, from anywhere, and it will run. Apps still need to be notarized, and come from sources that Apple trusts.

So, the .IPA files that iTunes used to store for users are of no use to non-jailbroken devices under iOS 17.4. Small developers aren’t able to simply host a download, and the app will install and run on an iPhone.

Secondly, a developer that wants to host a third-party App Store must qualify for a massive line of credit. Specifically, that line of credit must come from an A-rated financial institution, and be valued at one million euros or more.

Apple says this is “to guarantee support for your developers and users.”

Also limiting what can be loaded is a fee per install, that must be paid to Apple. Any third-party App Store install, considered “free” or not, will induce a 0.50 Euro fee that must be paid by the developer.

It’s not clear if apps like emulators will be allowed, as apps that execute user-loadable code like emulators are explicitly disallowed by the terms of the App Store. Even if they are, the 0.50 Euro fee per initial install will likely stifle the desire of well-funded developer that has that enormous line of credit to allow free downloads to users, since they won’t be free to developers.

We’re expecting legal challenges from some of these third parties to the concessions made by Apple announced on Thursday, perhaps with one filed by Epic’s Tim Sweeney who is already vocal about the modifications. “Gatekeepers” like Apple have until March 6, 2024 to comply with the law’s obligations as it pertains to App Stores and the like.

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