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Apple announces iPhone sideloading, third-party payments, and more for EU

Published Jan 25th, 2024 1:37PM EST
iPhone sideloading app store
Image: Apple Inc.

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Today, Apple announced one of the most drastic changes to iOS with iOS 17.4. When this operating system is available, it will add iPhone sideloading, which means Cupertino will have to accept alternative marketplaces and payments, changes to Safari, and more to the iPhone in Europe.

For Apple, “the new options for processing payments and downloading apps on iOS open new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats.” And although some of that might be true, this change will help improve competitiveness.

“The changes we’re announcing today comply with the Digital Markets Act’s requirements in the European Union while helping to protect EU users from the unavoidable increased privacy and security threats this regulation brings. Our priority remains creating the best, most secure possible experience for our users in the EU and around the world,” said Phil Schiller, Apple Fellow. “Developers can now learn about the new tools and terms available for alternative app distribution and alternative payment processing, new capabilities for alternative browser engines and contactless payments, and more. Importantly, developers can choose to remain on the same business terms in place today if they prefer.”

iPhone sideloading: Improvements and changes for alternative marketplaces

Apple announced the changes developers can agree to if they want to distribute their apps outside the App Store:

New options for distributing iOS apps from alternative app marketplaces (iPhone sideloading): Including new APIs and tools that enable developers to offer their iOS apps for download from alternative app marketplaces.

New framework and APIs for creating alternative app marketplaces: Enabling marketplace developers to install apps and manage updates on behalf of other developers from their dedicated marketplace app.

New frameworks and APIs for alternative browser engines: Enabling developers to use browser engines other than WebKit for browser apps and apps with in-app browsing experiences.

Interoperability request form: Where developers can submit additional requests for interoperability with iPhone and iOS hardware and software features.

As announced by the European Commission, Apple is also sharing DMA-compliant changes impacting contactless payments. That includes new APIs enabling developers to use NFC technology in their banking and wallet apps throughout the European Economic Area. And in the EU, Apple is introducing new controls that allow users to select a third-party contactless payment app — or an alternative app marketplace — as their default.

That said, Apple will make some changes in iOS 17.4 to “safeguard” users. which includes:

  • Notarization for iOS apps — a baseline review that applies to all apps, regardless of their distribution channel, focused on platform integrity and protecting users. Notarization involves a combination of automated checks and human review. 
  • App installation sheets — that use information from the Notarization process to provide at-a-glance descriptions of apps and their functionality before download, including the developer, screenshots, and other essential information.
  • Authorization for marketplace developers — to ensure marketplace developers commit to ongoing requirements that help protect users and developers.
  • Additional malware protections — that prevent iOS apps from launching if they’re found to contain malware after being installed on a user’s device.

Changes to Safari

Today, iOS users already have the ability to set a third-party web browser — other than Safari — as their default. Reflecting the DMA’s requirements, Apple is also introducing a new choice screen that will surface when users first open Safari in iOS 17.4 or later. That screen will prompt EU users to choose a default browser from a list of options.

Changes to the App Store for developers in the EU

On the App Store, Apple is sharing a number of changes for developers with apps in the EU, affecting apps across Apple’s operating systems — including iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS:

  • New options for using payment service providers (PSPs) — within a developer’s app to process payments for digital goods and services.
  • New options for processing payments via link-out — where users can complete a transaction for digital goods and services on the developer’s external website. Developers can also inform EU users of promotions, discounts, and other deals available outside of their apps.
  • Business planning tools — for developers to estimate fees and understand metrics associated with Apple’s new business terms for apps in the EU.
  • App Store product page labels — that inform users when an app they’re downloading uses alternative payment processing.
  • In-app disclosure sheets — that let users know when they are no longer transacting with Apple, and when a developer is directing them to transact using an alternative payment processor.
  • New App Review processes — to verify that developers accurately communicate information about transactions that use alternative payment processors.
  • Expanded data portability on Apple’s Data & Privacy site — where EU users can retrieve new data about their usage of the App Store and export it to an authorized third party.
José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.