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iOS 17.4 now treats Apple’s App Store like a third-party store in EU, but it’s not the same

Published Feb 23rd, 2024 12:33PM EST
iPhone App Store in iOS 17.4
Image: José Adorno for BGR

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Update: Apple told MacRumors that “App Store showing an app verification screen in the EU is a bug and will be fixed before iOS 17.4 is released to users.” The original story is below.

With the latest iOS 17.4 beta 4, Apple now treats the iPhone App Store the same way it will treat third-party app stores in Europe. This was first spotted by X user iSoftware Updates and confirmed by BGR‘s European editor Chris Smith; Apple wants its users – or at least the European Commission – to know that it’s treating the iPhone App Store the same as it would treat any other third-place marketplace. Except that doesn’t make sense.

When you try to download an app with your iPhone running iOS 17.4 in Europe, the App Store will give you a new prompt to verify the app’s information before it’s installed. At this moment, the “Learn More” link goes to Apple’s website, but it will likely go to a support document once iOS 17.4 is released.

Image source: José Adorno for BGR

In addition, you can see a brief description of the app and its screenshots, and then you can install the app or cancel it. This is part of a broader change Apple needs to make to allow third-party app stores for iPhone users as part of Europe’s Digital Markets Act. Still, Cupertino created new rules for third-party developers to add their own options, which include:

  • 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 — prevent iOS apps from launching if they’re found to contain malware after being installed on a user’s device.

Apple can’t treat its own App Store like a third-party marketplace

iPhone 15 Pro showing the App Store ahead of iOS 17.4 beta releaseImage source: José Adorno for BGR

The main reason Apple is adding another layer of interaction in its store is to give a sense that the App Store plays by the same rules as upcoming third-party marketplaces. But who will charge Apple a fee for using the App Store, or who will penalize the company if malware is found on its marketplace?

Over the past few weeks, BGR has reported some copycat apps or malware software bypassing legitimate applications. While third-party marketplace will surely suffer from poor reviews, who will do the same with Apple?

While I understand the company’s urge to make itself look like another competitor, Apple is still the owner of the platform, and everything still needs to work around it thanks to its own APIs, rules, and practices.

With iOS 17.4 expected to be available in the coming weeks, we’ll finally understand the true impact of Europe’s Digital Markets Act on the iPhone ecosystem. Until then, we can only catch glimpses of what the future holds. Still, I don’t think Apple should try to bypass its own store as an equal to other competitors. They’re not the same.

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.