Apple could launch biggest ever change to your iPhone ‘in weeks’ as EU deadline looms

a blue iPhone 15 is pictured on its side with a white background

iPhone owners could soon be able to download and install apps from third-party app stores not managed by Apple as part of a massive shift triggered by the EU's Digital Markets Act legislation

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 17/01/2024

- 04:30

Like their Android counterparts, iPhone owners will be able to download apps and games from third-party stores

  • Companies must comply with EU's Digital Markets Act by March 7, 2024
  • Apple could kickstart the roll-out of its seismic changes within weeks
  • iPhone owners will be able to download apps and games outside of the App Store
  • Microsoft has hinted at plans to launch an alternative games-only store for iPhone
  • Digital Markets Act removes restrictions that led to Fortnite leaving the App Store

Apple could allow iPhone owners to install software from outside of the App Store within weeks, according to reliable tipster Mark Gurman. But the change will reportedly only apply to those living in Europe – with iPhone users in other countries subject to the same restrictions as before.

iPhone owners have only ever been able to install apps and games from the App Store, which is preinstalled on all iOS devices. This allows Apple to vet all software before it's available to download on iPhones worldwide, helping it to maintain an iron grip on security and unapproved features.

However, critics of this approach argue the 30% cut that Apple makes on all digital purchases within the App Store constitutes a monopoly. To avoid paying the mandatory 30% commission, Netflix no longer allows new customers to sign up for its streaming service within its iPhone app while retailer Amazon doesn't sell Kindle ebooks inside its shopping app on iOS.

Fortnite was pulled from the App Store over developer Epic Games' attempts to introduce a third-party payment method inside the popular title to avoid paying commissions over digital goods sold in-game.

But all of these decisions could soon be reversed — for iPhone owners in Europe at least. That's because, for the first time in its 17-year history, iPhone owners can download apps from an alternative digital store, thanks to forthcoming legislation from the European Union.

the apple app store logo pictured on a blue background

Apple's App Store, which is preinstalled on all iOS and iPadOS devices, is currently the only way to download and install software on Apple hardware


The upcoming Digital Markets Act will force Apple to allow developers to distribute their iOS apps outside the App Store – a process known as side-loading. Third-party apps will also be allowed to use third-party payment platforms for in-app purchases, bypassing Apple’s system.

It could allow Google, Amazon, Epic, Microsoft, and others to launch separate digital storefronts to distribute apps and games on iPhone.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Microsoft's gaming chief Phil Spencer previously confirmed plans to launch a separate store on iOS for mobile games when the Digital Markets Act legislation comes into effect.

Apple allows users to download software from third-party stores on its Mac computers, while Android phones and tablets allow sideloading in the settings.

Vice President of Software Craig Federighi confirmed Apple would comply with EU’s Digital Markets Act last year, but didn’t reveal when the changes would roll out. The deadline set by the EU is March 7, but Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggests Apple could flip the switch “in the coming weeks.”

Whenever that monumental change does happen, Apple will split its App Store into two – one version for EU countries that allows downloads from third-party alternatives and different payment methods for in-app purchases, and the existing locked-down model for the rest of the world.

It might not be long before Apple is forced to push out the EU version of the App Store to more nations. Japan and the United States are both believed to be in the early stages of draft legislation that will force Apple to enable alternative in-app payment methods and third-party app stores.

It remains to be seen whether iPhone owners will leave the confines of the App Store to shop elsewhere. But the appeal of a new game store from the Xbox team or the return of Fortnite could help to push iPhone users to break their lifelong shopping habits.

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