In order to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, Apple has announced a set of sweeping changes to iOS and the App Store in the European Union. First and foremost, starting with iOS 17.4, users in the European Union will be able to download and install applications from outside of the App Store. On top of that, alternative application stores will become possible as well.
When a developer submits an application to Apple, the developer can choose to distribute the application through the App Store, alternative application stores, or both. Apple will not charge a commission on installations from outside the App Store, and it will also allow alternative payment processors, over which Apple will also not charge any additional fees. Apple will, however, charge something called a “Core Technology Fee”.
Under the new terms, apps distributed through the App Store which choose to use an alternative payment system will pay a 17 percent commission (rather than 30 percent) on digital goods and services. This commission rate falls to 10 percent for any apps that currently qualify for Apple’s reduced “small business” rate. The additional 3 percent fee then applies for developers who choose to use Apple’s payment processing system.
The company is also introducing a new type of fee for particularly popular apps. The new Core Technology Fee will charge developers €0.50 (around 54 cents) per annual app install; however, this fee only kicks in after a million annual installs in the EU. Apple estimates that over 99 percent of developers will either “reduce or maintain the fees they owe to Apple” under the new business terms and that “less that 1 percent” of developers would pay a core technology fee.↫ Jon Porter at The Verge
Overall, developers in the EU will be paying a lot less to Apple than developers in the US and elsewhere, while also gaining more options of distributing their applications outside of the App Store. I’m already seeing some serious rumblings in Apple developer circles over on Mastodon, where US-based developers are not happy these serious cost reductions will only apply to EU developers. The only kink in the cable is this “Core Technology Fee”, though, as the total bill for that nebulous cost can balloon quickly.
Apple will still check applications outside of the App Store for safety, security, and privacy, though, with a system very similar to how macOS handles applications outside of the Mac App Store right now through a new – to iOS – notarisation system. This notarisation will not check applications for quality (because as we all know, the App Store is a beacon of quality) or content (hello emulators!).
Another major change coming to iOS is the availability of browsers other than Safari. Right now, even if you think you’re using an alternative, non-Safari browser on iOS, you’re really just using a skin on top of a hobbled version of Safari. In the EU, starting with iOS 17.4, non-WebKit browser engines like Firefox’ Gecko or Chrome’s Blink can come to iOS, and live as equal citizens on your iOS device.
Furthermore, NFS on iOS will be opening up in Europe, giving European users the ability to use services other than Apple Pay and Wallet with NFC, and even set them as default. Apple is also allowing game streaming services to come to iOS, and this change happens to be available worldwide instead of being restricted to just the EU.
These are sweeping changes to how iOS and the App Store works, but much to the chagrin of US-based users and developers in my Mastodon timeline and elsewhere, they’re exclusive to the European Union. It’s unclear if Americans can import EU devices to gain access to these new features, or if they need EU-based Apple IDs. Let the grey market provide.