Apple has today confirmed the set of changes it plans to introduce to the App Store and the app ecosystem as a whole in the European Union to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Apple also confirmed that the changes will be introduced with iOS 17.4 with its first beta set to launch today.
Apple will now support third-party app marketplaces on iOS for users residing in the EU across 27 countries. The company plans to launch iOS 17.4 in March before the DMA’s implementation deadline. Alternative marketplaces can be created by any developer, with those marketplaces acting as a dedicated iOS app that can download and install any other app on an iPhone or iPad.
Apple says that its App Store updates encompass over 600 additional APIs, enhanced app analytics, support for alternative browser engines, and features for handling app payments and distributing iOS apps.
Developers in Europe will also get the choice between submitting and distributing their apps on the App Store, alternative app marketplaces, or both simultaneously. Apple is also introducing a notarization process for apps installed outside the App Store to ensure their security in a similar process to applications installed on the Mac.
In the outlined notarization process, apps will undergo an evaluation, including an installation key assignment, automated checks, and a baseline human review. This process ensures that apps accurately represent the developer and their features, adhere to functionality standards without critical bugs or crashes, prioritize user safety by avoiding harm promotion, maintain security by preventing malware distribution or unauthorized access, and uphold privacy by refraining from collecting or transmitting sensitive data without user consent and in alignment with the software’s intended purpose as marketed.
Users will be allowed to have multiple app marketplaces on their devices, and before any app marketplace can install apps on an iPhone or iPad, users must grant permission. The Settings app will include a dedicated section to help manage the alternative app marketplaces installed on their devices. Users will also be able to revoke permissions for a certain marketplace as well as set a default one.
Contrary to earlier reports, Apple will not charge a commission on apps downloaded outside the App Store nor those using alternative payment methods. Developers will also have the option to incorporate an alternative payment method directly within their app, enabling users to complete purchases and checkouts directly within the app. Alternatively, developers can direct users to their websites to make purchases externally.
If developers opt not to go with an external payment provider on apps distributed through the App Store, they still have the option to continue using the App Store’s payment processing service for a three percent fee.
Instead of commissions, Apple is introducing what it’s calling a “Core Technology Fee.” This fee is 0.50 euros per install for any app downloaded from the App Store or other marketplaces. Apple will only begin charging the Core Technology Fee from developers after the first one million downloads for a given app, with the fee collected annually. Government agency, non-profit, and educational institution-distributed apps will not be subject to the Core Technology Fee.
Apple is also dropping commission fees for developers who will continue to offer their apps through the App Store only. The new 30 percent commission rate is now at 17 percent, whereas the 15 percent rate for most small developers and recurring subscriptions past one year will now be just 10 percent. These terms will only apply to developers who agree to the new business terms, with Apple warning that the old 30 and 15 percent fees will still apply to those who decide to stick with pre-DMA terms and conditions.
All of these changes and more will go into effect once iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4 launch to the public sometime in early March before the DMA’s deadline on March 6 is officially in place.