Apple responds to the DMA with changes to the App Store

Apple is implementing significant modifications to its App Store and the general operation of applications in the European Union, all in response to the Digital Markets Act (DMA). These modifications, incorporated in the upcoming iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4 software updates, are designed to comply with regulations before the March 6 deadline. Below, we detail the most relevant changes and the reasons behind them:

Alternative app stores:

Developers in the EU will now be able to offer their apps through alternative stores, as long as they meet Apple’s standards in terms of customer experience, fraud prevention and customer support. Additionally, Apple has introduced a new fee structure for these cases.

In response to the DMA, Apple has decided to allow alternative app stores in the EU, albeit with a specific fee structure to maintain its quality standard.

Alternative payment options:

Applications will be able to integrate alternative payment options, eliminating the obligation to use Apple’s in-app purchases. This allows developers to direct users to their own websites to make purchases.

Limitations on screen time and refunds:

Apple warns that apps obtained through alternative stores will not support some features such as Screen Time, refunds, and in-app purchases.

Third Party Access to NFC:

Third-party services will be allowed to offer NFC payment solutions directly in apps, without needing to go through Apple Pay or the Wallet app.

Default browser options:

Users will be able to choose their default browser from a list of the most downloaded on iOS devices, including Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Brave and Microsoft Edge.

Developer access to hardware and software:

Apple will evaluate requests for interoperability with iPhone hardware and software features from app developers in the EU on a case-by-case basis.

Apple’s reasons for limiting changes to the EU:

Apple has highlighted in a support document the risks of fraud, scams and privacy threats as reasons for limiting these updates to the EU territory.

Indirect consequences of the changes:

Notable developments include the introduction of a "Core Technology Fee" by Apple, which could mean significant charges for freemium apps that go viral. Additionally, Epic Games plans to bring its Epic Games Store to iPhone and iPad in the EU, which would include the popular game Fortnite. Apple has also announced that it will allow streaming gaming apps on the App Store globally.

While the iOS 17.4 update is currently available as a beta, its public release is expected in March. It is important to note that, given Apple’s concern for user privacy and security, it is unlikely that it will implement similar changes globally without legislation similar to the DMA in other countries.

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