Many in the technology industry believe that Apple's App Store was the driving force behind the iPhone's success. Without it, the iPhone was just a stupid phone trying to be smart. But opportunities opened up when the app became accessible via the company's App Store.
Until now, Apple's own store was the only way for users to download apps to their iPhones and iPads, barring illegal sideloading. But all that is about to change in Europe. Starting with the iOS 17.4 update announced Thursday and rolling out in March, iOS users will be able to download third-party app stores.
This change is one of the biggest updates since Apple first launched the App Store in 2008. Once a user installs her iOS 17.4 on their phone, they will be able to download approved and signed off App Store alternatives. Added by Apple, users can use it to download other apps to their devices. Apple plans to allow users to set third-party marketplaces as the default app store in their phone's settings.
These new default app controls extend beyond the app store. For example, when users download iOS 17.4, they are prompted to choose a default browser to replace Safari (Apple already allows users to choose their own default browser, but this prompt is new Thing). Similarly, as Apple expands developer access to its NFC capabilities on its devices, users will be able to choose their own default payment service.
The reason this is happening in Europe and not other regions is due to a piece of EU legislation called the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that was adopted in 2022. The purpose of the DMA is to guarantee Europeans choice in a time of need. Depending on the digital service you want to use. For technology companies like Apple, this means creating a more level playing field, allowing rival companies to compete with Apple for user business and loyalty.
As it stands, Apple has not announced any intention to allow US users to download an alternative app store. The priority now is to meet his March deadline for the EU to comply with the DMA.
One change that will be applied worldwide will especially benefit gamers. For the first time, Apple is opening the App Store to allow game streaming services from Xbox, GeForce, and others to offer full-featured apps.
Know the risks
Security has always been the biggest reason Apple controls its app ecosystem so tightly. Manually evaluating all apps allowed in the App Store minimizes the risk of users accidentally downloading malware or installing something malicious on their iPhone, the company said. claims. And to the company's credit, there hasn't been a major malware attack on iOS since the iPhone was born.
While Apple is committed to being DMA compliant and doing everything we can to minimize risk to our users, opening up iOS to third-party app stores is not without risk. is made clear. For example, downloading an app that has permission to install other apps on your phone poses a security risk. However, Apple has tried to minimize the risk by giving users as much control as possible over their settings and permissions.
“The changes we are announcing today comply with the requirements of the European Union's Digital Markets Act, while also protecting EU users from the growing privacy and security threats that this regulation will inevitably pose,” Apple Fellow Phil Schiller said in a statement. “It helps protect us.” “Our priority is to create the best and safest experience possible for our users in the EU and around the world.”
It's clear that Apple isn't leaving everything to chance — it's done its best to implement strict security measures — but by loosening its grip on its ecosystem, it's ultimately is less able to protect users from harm. For iOS users, it's worth considering the higher level of risk when downloading third-party marketplaces.