Apple Cracks Open Its Walled Garden: Key Changes to iOS, Safari, and App Store in the EU

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Apple, in a landmark move, has announced significant changes to its iOS, Safari, and App Store operations within the European Union (EU) to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). This act, aimed at fostering fairer competition in digital markets, has forced Apple to loosen its grip on its tightly controlled ecosystem, potentially impacting its revenue and user experience.

Key Highlights:

  • Sideloading of apps: Users can now download apps from third-party app stores alongside the App Store.
  • Alternative payment methods: Developers can offer their own in-app payment systems, bypassing Apple’s commission.
  • Enhanced browser engine choice: WebKit remains default, but users can install and switch to alternate browser engines.
  • Expanded app analytics: Developers gain access to more data to improve app performance and user experience.
  • Safeguards and user protections: Apple emphasizes new measures to maintain security and privacy amidst changes.

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Opening the App Store Gates: Sideloading and Alternative Payment Options

The most significant change is the introduction of sideloading, allowing users to download apps from third-party app stores outside the App Store. This marks a major shift from Apple’s previously closed system, where app distribution was solely controlled by the company. Additionally, developers can now offer their own in-app payment systems within their apps, bypassing Apple’s 15-30% commission fee. This move could significantly impact Apple’s App Store revenue, estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars annually.

Choice in Browsing: Alternative Browser Engines on iOS

For the first time on iOS devices, users will have the choice to install and use alternative browser engines besides Apple’s WebKit, which powers Safari. This opens up competition in the mobile browsing space, potentially allowing for more diverse and innovative browser experiences. However, concerns remain about the security and privacy implications of such a change, and Apple has emphasized the introduction of safeguards to address these risks.

More Data for Developers: Enhanced App Analytics

Developers will now have access to more comprehensive app analytics data, including information on app crashes, performance bottlenecks, and user engagement. This enhanced data access can help developers improve their apps and personalize user experiences more effectively.

Balancing Competition with User Protection: Apple’s Safeguards

While Apple is complying with the DMA, it is also implementing safeguards to mitigate potential risks associated with the changes. These safeguards include sandboxing mechanisms to isolate third-party apps, app review processes for sideloaded apps, and data privacy protections for user information.

Alternative Payments: A Commission Battleground?

Developers offering their own in-app payment systems could significantly reduce Apple’s App Store revenue. This shift might lead to lower app prices for consumers, but developers might face challenges managing their own payment infrastructure and potential fraud risks. Apple, meanwhile, is likely to refine its App Store offerings and highlight its security and user-friendly payment experience to retain users.

The Impact and Unknowns: A Changing Landscape for Apple and Users

These changes mark a significant shift for Apple and the iOS ecosystem. While they promote competition and potentially offer users more choice and flexibility, they also introduce uncertainties. The impact on Apple’s revenue, user experience, and security remains to be seen. Developers and users alike will need to adapt to the new landscape, and only time will tell how these changes will ultimately play out.

About the author


Jamie Davidson

Jamie Davidson is the Marketing Communications Manager for Vast Conference, a meeting solution providing HD-audio, video conferencing with screen sharing, and a mobile app to easily and reliably get work done."