From iOS 17.4 – Apple’s first insights into iPhone sideloading within the EU

Apple announced today that from the beginning of March 2024, the update to iOS 17.4 will introduce new options for getting apps and app purchases on the iPhone. The over 600 changes, adjustments and new APIs relate to iOS, Safari for iPhone and the App Store on the iPhone. In both the associated press release and the developer documents on the topic, Apple once again repeats its concerns about the security of its users. Apple cannot offer the protection in alternative app stores that is possible in its own app department store - but would still introduce protective measures. These can also be interpreted as hurdles for developers.

App sideloading within the EU possible from iOS 17.4: From the beginning of March 2024, apps can be downloaded and paid for outside the App Store. Further changes affect Safari and the opening of NFC for Apple Pay alternatives.
App sideloading within the EU possible from iOS 17.4: From the beginning of March 2024, apps can be downloaded and paid for outside the App Store. Further changes affect Safari and the opening of NFC for Apple Pay alternatives.

Apple repeats security concerns and preemptively shifts blame to the EU

Apple takes a direct swipe at the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA). press release one:

"Apple has changes today [...] announced [...] to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). [...] With each change, Apple introduces new safeguards that reduce — but do not eliminate — new risks that the DMA poses to EU users. With these steps, Apple will continue to provide the best possible and safest experience for users in the EU. The new options for processing payments and loading apps in iOS open up new opportunities for malware, fraud and attempted fraud, illegal and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats."

Sideloading adjustments from iOS 17.4

The changes to iOS are summarized as follows:

  • New options for distributing iOS apps via alternative app marketplaces — including new APIs and tools that enable developers to make their iOS apps available for download on alternative app marketplaces.
  • New frameworks and APIs for creating alternative app marketplaces — enable marketplace developers to install apps and manage updates on behalf of other developers from their dedicated marketplace app.
  • New frameworks and APIs for alternative browser engines — allow developers to use browser engines other than WebKit for browser apps and apps with in-app browsing.
  • Interoperability request form — through which developers can submit additional requests for interoperability with iPhone and iOS hardware and software features.

Protective measures that can complicate sideloading offers

The following points are mentioned regarding the protective measures or restrictions for these changes:

  • Notarization for iOS apps — a fundamental review that applies to all apps, regardless of their distribution channel, and is focused on platform integrity and user protection. Notarization involves a combination of automated checks and human verification.
  • App installation sheets — with information from the attestation process to provide at-a-glance descriptions of apps and their features before download, including developers, screenshots and other important information.
  • Authorization of marketplace developers — to ensure that marketplace developers adhere to ongoing requirements that help protect users and developers.
  • Additional protection against malware — so that iOS apps can no longer be started if they contain malware after being installed on the user's device.

Defiant announcement of Safari changes from iOS 17.4

If you look at the entire press release from Apple linked above, you quickly realize how much shorter it could have been if the defiant-the-EU-is-making-our-life-difficult content had been cut out. This is how you read, for example: For example, the comments on the changes to Safari from iOS 17.4 are as follows:

"iOS users already have the option to use a web browser other than Safari as their default browser. In keeping with the DMA's requirements, Apple is also introducing a new selection screen that appears when you first open Safari in iOS 17.4 or later. This screen will ask users in the EU to select a default browser from a list of options.

This change arises from the requirements of the DMA and means that users in the EU will be faced with a list of default browsers before they have a chance to understand the options available to them. The screen also breaks the user experience in the EU when first opening Safari to go to a webpage."

Changes to the App Store in the EU

The changes to the App Store should not only affect its iPhone version from iOS 17.4, but also all other app stores – on macOS, iPadOS, watchOS and tvOS. Of course, there are also several warnings that Apple includes in order to sow as many doubts as possible about the use of alternative offers.

What this means for developers:

  • New options for using payment service providers (PSPs) — within a developer's app to process payments for digital goods and services.
  • New options for processing payments via link-out — which allow users to complete a transaction for digital goods and services on the developers' external website. Developers can also inform EU users about promotions, discounts and other offers available outside of their apps.
  • Business planning tools — for developers to estimate fees and understand the metrics associated with Apple's new terms and conditions for apps in the EU.

“For protection and information” you as a user must adapt to these changes:

  • Labeling on the product pages in the App Store — Inform users if an app they download uses alternative payment processing.
  • In-app information sheets — inform users when transactions are no longer made with Apple and when a developer instructs them to use alternative payment processing.
  • New App Review Processes — that ensure that developers correctly submit information about transactions processed through alternative payment service providers.
  • Expanded data portability on the Apple data protection and privacy website — through which EU users can access new data about their use of the App Store and export it to an authorized third party.

New developer terms and conditions for sideloading and external payment options

Apple offers developers within the EU the options for alternative app distribution as well as the Payment for apps and app content outside of the App Store in connection with updated terms and conditions. Developers do not have to agree to these new terms and conditions and can stay with the old version of terms and conditions if they do not want to use sideloading offers and do not want to offer external payment options. 

The new terms and conditions for iOS apps in the EU include three elements:

  • Reduced commission — iOS apps in the App Store will pay a reduced commission of either ten percent (for the vast majority of developers and subscriptions after the first year) or 17 percent on transactions for digital goods and services.
  • Payment processing fee — iOS apps in the App Store can use App Store payment processing for an additional three percent fee. Developers can use a payment processor within their app or link users to their website to process payments without additional fees to Apple.
  • Core Technology Fee — iOS apps distributed through the App Store and/or an alternative app marketplace will pay 0,50 euros for each first annual install that exceeds a threshold of 1 million.

All information for developers

In addition to the Apple press release linked above and largely reproduced here, there is also more specialized information for developers. If you are interested, you should also visit this page: 

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2 comments on “From iOS 17.4 – Apple’s first insights into iPhone sideloading within the EU”

  1. Because comments and questions about gender come in every now and then, here is my general approach:
    – I use the slash “/” in my own statements
    – Colon “:” is used by Apple and I have not changed it in quotations
    – The asterisk “*” is already used here in the blog to identify affiliate links, which is why I use “/” as an alternative
    – I treat English terms such as “User” or “Developer” in a gender-neutral manner and therefore without adjustment

  2. And that should correspond to the DMA? I can hardly imagine it. Apple could have easily averted the whole dilemma if they had simply dispensed with the excessive requirements (alternative browser engines, VMs...) and the moral regulations in their own app store.

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