Apple is implementing major changes to its App Store guidelines in response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act. New EU regulations that seek to increase competition and lessen the hegemony of big digital giants are the driving force behind the change. Both users and developers will be impacted by Apple’s changes.
Starting in March, Apple will allow developers to distribute their apps to EU users outside the confines of the App Store. This change is a direct response to the DMA, which mandates companies to make their apps compatible with rivals and permits users to decide which apps come pre-installed on their devices. Developers can now offer alternative app stores on iPhones and opt out of using Apple’s in-app payment system, which charges commissions of up to 30%. However, developers must still submit apps to Apple for cybersecurity review, and Apple will introduce a “core technology fee” for major app developers, even if they don’t use Apple’s payment services.
User Choice Enhanced
EU users will experience enhanced control over their app and payment choices. Apple will introduce a choice screen when users first open Safari, prompting them to select a default browser from a list of options. Additionally, users can now choose third-party contactless payment apps as their default, reducing dependence on Apple Pay.
Challenges and Criticisms
Despite these changes, challenges and criticisms arise. Developers like Tim Sweeney of Epic Games criticise Apple’s adjustments, labeling them as “hot garbage” and potentially illegal under the DMA. Concerns include Apple’s ability to choose which stores are allowed to compete with the App Store, potentially blocking competitors like Epic Games, Microsoft, or others. Apple acknowledges the risks and introduces safeguards to address cybersecurity threats, but challenges related to scams, fraud, and illicit content remain.
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New Business Terms for Developers
Apple is also introducing new business terms for developers in the EU, aligning with the DMA’s requirements. Developers can choose between the new terms or continue with existing ones. The new terms include a reduced commission of either 10% or 17% for transactions involving digital goods and services. Developers can also use alternative payment processors within their apps for an additional 3% fee. However, a “core technology fee” of €0.50 for each first annual install per year, beyond 1 million installs, will be applicable.
Impact on App Store Features
The changes will impact several App Store features. For EU apps using alternative payment processing, Apple won’t issue refunds, and support for features like Report a Problem, Family Sharing, and Ask to Buy will be limited. Users may need to share payment information with additional parties, potentially increasing the risk of sensitive data exposure.
Continued Efforts to Comply
Apple emphasises its commitment to complying with the DMA’s requirements while safeguarding user privacy and security. Despite challenges and criticisms, Apple aims to offer the best and most secure experience for EU users. As these changes come into effect, Apple plans to share detailed resources to help users navigate the evolving landscape, emphasizing best practices for privacy and security.