Apple is making significant changes to the App Store and parts of iOS in Europe in response to new European Union laws. Starting in March, Apple will allow users in the EU to download and shop for apps from outside the App Store and third-party app marketplaces. The company is testing many of these changes in the iOS 17.4 beta currently available to developers.
Apple has long resisted many of these changes, arguing that they would expose users to fraud, malware and other privacy and security issues. But under the EU's Digital Markets Act, which comes into force on March 7, big tech companies like Apple are required to make significant changes to their businesses.
And how will Apple do this? What will change with this decision? Phil Schiller, one of Apple's top executives, made it clear in a statement that the company believes some of the changes, such as opening up the App Store, will pose risks to users. The most important changes will be for developers, who for the first time will be able to receive payments and distribute apps outside the App Store. Under the new rules, Apple will implement a review process for apps that are not available through its own store. Called "noterization," the review will focus on platform integrity and protecting users from things like malware, using automation and human reviewers.
Apple is also changing its oft-criticized commission structure, so developers will pay a 17 percent commission on subscriptions and in-app purchases, which will drop to 10 percent for most developers after the first year.
The updates could bring other important changes for iPhone users in Europe. Apple will introduce new APIs that allow app makers to access the iPhone's NFC chip for contactless payments, allowing payment transactions that are not tied to Apple Pay.
Apple will also make a change to the Safari web browser, immediately asking iOS users in Europe if they want to change their default browser the first time they launch an app after the iOS 17.4 update. In addition, browser developers will be able to use an engine other than Apple's own WebKit, which means browsers like Chrome and Firefox will be able to release new versions that use their own technology to display sites.