Apple may allow rival app stores on iPhones

14 Dec 2022

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Apple is reportedly taking steps to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which aims to boost competition and is set to come into force in 2024.

Apple is preparing to let alternative app stores on iPhones and iPads in order to adhere to new EU regulations, according to Bloomberg.

The changes would mean that users would be able to download third-party software to their Apple devices without using the company’s own App Store, which could be a major boost for Apple competitors.

To achieve this, the company’s staff are currently working to open up key elements of Apple’s platforms, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

The new push is reportedly being made to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a landmark batch of EU rules that aim to crack down on anti-competitive behaviour by Big Tech and level the playing field in digital markets.

The DMA pushes for greater competition within the EU to improve choices for consumers. It was approved earlier this year and is expected to come into force in 2024, with Apple reportedly working to meet this deadline.

Big Tech companies – or ‘gatekeepers’ as the DMA describes them – could face fines of up to 10pc of their annual global revenue if they fail to comply with the new rules.

Apple has been critical of the DMA in the past. In 2021, CEO Tim Cook said allowing alternate methods of putting apps onto iPhones would “destroy the security of the iPhone” and would not be in the “best interest of the user”.

“Look at malware as an example, and Android has 47 times more malware than iOS,” Cook said in 2021. “Why is that? It’s because we’ve designed iOS in such a way that there’s one App Store and all of the apps are reviewed prior to going on the store.”

The new rules could also cause a hit to the company’s income, as Apple takes a 30pc revenue cut from iOS apps on its App Store.

Meanwhile, Apple is also facing pressure to change its chargers to comply with an EU push for a universal charger across mobile devices.

In October, the European Parliament voted that all mobile phones, tablets and cameras sold in the EU will have to be equipped with a USB-C charging port by the end of 2024.

In 2020, Apple said that any move to standardise charging ports in the EU would force it to stop producing its own Lightning charging cable. The tech giant also claimed that making its Lightning cables redundant in the EU would result in an “unprecedented volume of electronic waste”.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic