Apple announced this on Thursday in Cupertino. At the same time, the iPhone company allows competing payment methods and alternative technologies for web browsers that were previously not permitted by Apple due to security risks.
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In order to use the new options, the latest operating system version iOS 17.4 must be installed on the device. Apple is reacting to the legal requirements of the new EU law on digital markets (Digital Markets Act/DMA). Afterwards, large and dominant providers, so-called “gatekeepers”, must allow app stores from other providers. Previously, apps on iPhones could only be downloaded from the company’s in-house download platform.
Apple retains partial control
However, Apple will continue to retain partial control over the installation of applications, even if this takes place outside of its own app store. Unlike Google’s Android system, the apps cannot simply be downloaded using the browser and installed at your own risk. Rather, customers must use “certified” marketplaces for this. These are iPhone applications that, with Apple’s blessing, are allowed to install other apps.
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In an interview with the German Press Agency, Apple top manager Phil Schiller pointed out the risks associated with a direct installation. “If any website can download apps onto the device, this poses a major threat to the security and data protection of users,” Schiller told dpa. The system now introduced with a certification process also meets the requirements of the EU Digital Markets Act. Overall, however, users in Europe are exposed to a higher risk than users outside the EU due to the measures enforced by the DMA.
With the currently announced implementation, Apple will in future be able to automatically check all apps for known malware and other security threats, including on alternative marketplaces. However, the business practices associated with the apps or the content shown there are not checked.
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In parallel to the adjustments to the app stores, Apple is also introducing further changes to counteract monopoly accusations from the EU. In the future, European users will be able to freely set the default browser in the iPhone. So far, the Apple browser Safari automatically opens all web links. In the future, this task can also be performed by browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Brave, Opera or DuckDuckGo. Competitors are no longer forced to use Apple’s favored “WebKit” technology to display websites in their apps, but are allowed to use their own “web engines”.
The monopoly on contactless payments is also falling
Apple’s monopoly on contactless payment transactions with the iPhone is also falling in the EU. Until now, only the in-house payment service Apple Pay could use the iPhone’s NFC (“Near Field Communication”) function to make a payment at the supermarket checkout or other payment terminal. In the future, users will be able to determine which payment application should start by default.
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Apple showed little accommodation when it came to the controversial revenue sharing for paid apps or in-app purchases. So far, Apple has charged smaller developers and long-term subscriptions with a 15 percent share of sales. Providers with a turnover of over one million US dollars per year even have to pay 30 percent. These commissions will now be reduced to 10 percent and 17 percent. If the developers use the App Store’s payment processing, an additional three percent is due. As a concession to the EU, Apple now allows developers to use an alternative payment processor in their app or link users to a website to process payments without additional fees from Apple.
New: “Core Technology Fee”
A new “core technology fee” will be introduced for apps that have been installed very frequently. It amounts to 50 euro cents for each first annual installation that is above the one million threshold. Apple assumes that in the future only less than one percent of developers will have to pay this fee for their EU apps.