Apple Cracks Open the App Store Garden: Alternative Marketplaces Now Bloom in Europe 

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Apple, often criticized for its walled-garden approach to app distribution, has taken a significant step towards opening up its ecosystem in the European Union. Developers in the region can now integrate alternative app marketplaces within App Store Connect, allowing users to download apps outside the traditional App Store. This move comes in response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to promote fairer competition in digital markets.

Key Highlights:

  • EU developers can now add alternative app marketplaces to App Store Connect.
  • The move complies with the Digital Markets Act (DMA) regulations.
  • Apple’s new business terms include a Core Technology Fee per app install.
  • TestFlight now supports beta testing apps using alternative payment models and browsers.
  • iOS 17.4, launching in March, marks a major shift in the EU app ecosystem.

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Marketplaces Open Their Doors, But with a Fee

To add an alternative app marketplace to App Store Connect, developers must agree to Apple’s new business terms, which include a Core Technology Fee. This fee amounts to €0.50 per app install, applying to both the marketplace and the app itself after exceeding 1 million installs. Additionally, apps distributed through alternative marketplaces must undergo Apple’s Notarization process, ensuring they meet basic security and functionality standards.

Testing the Waters with Alternative Payments and Browsers

Apple’s TestFlight beta testing platform has also expanded its functionalities, allowing developers to distribute apps utilizing alternative payment systems and third-party web browsers. This opens up avenues for developers to explore different revenue models and potentially bypass Apple’s 15-30% commission on in-app purchases. These features are currently limited to the EU region but could potentially expand globally in the future.

Impact on Developers:

  • Opportunities:
    • Increased flexibility and control over distribution and monetization.
    • Potential for higher revenue with alternative payment models.
    • Ability to experiment with different app store features and functionalities.
  • Challenges:
    • Building and promoting new app marketplaces to compete with the established App Store.
    • Attracting users and encouraging them to switch platforms.
    • Navigating the complexities of new regulations and technical requirements.

March Marks a Turning Point with iOS 17.4

The changes implemented by Apple pave the way for a major shift in the app ecosystem within the EU, set to take effect with the rollout of iOS 17.4 in March 2024. This update will enable users to directly download and install apps from approved alternative marketplaces, offering them more choice and potentially lower prices. While Apple retains control over core functionalities like security and device access, the move marks a significant departure from its previously closed system.

The long-term impact of these changes remains to be seen. While alternative marketplaces offer developers more flexibility and potentially higher returns, building trust and attracting users might prove challenging. Additionally, the Core Technology Fee raises concerns about potential cost burdens and its impact on smaller developers. Ultimately, the success of this new app ecosystem will depend on the quality and diversity of apps offered by alternative marketplaces, user adoption, and how developers navigate the new competitive landscape.

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About the author

Jamie

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."