Apple announces radical changes for applications in Europe

(CNN) — Apple on Thursday announced sweeping new changes to its app management in Europe, including a plan to allow third-party app stores on the iPhone and iPad for the first time in the company’s history and a significant cut in App Store fees. Manzana.

These unprecedented updates, which respond to new European regulations that took effect in March, represent some of the most significant changes to Apple’s app business since the introduction of its own App Store 15 years ago, a store that operates within its walls. It forms the basis of the ecosystem. ,

For consumers, the change could mean more choices when purchasing and installing apps. And for developers, other changes to Apple’s terms could give them more flexibility in marketing their products to users.

The measures highlight how EU policymakers have managed to force Apple to change its business practices despite complaints from developers who accused the iPhone maker of anti-competitive or monopolistic behavior. Is.

Under the changes, Apple will allow users to download third-party app stores to their devices from websites outside Apple’s own ecosystem. App Stores will continue to exist as standalone apps on iOS devices, Apple said, with the right to install other apps offered by third-party marketplaces.

Apple also said it would offer to dramatically reduce the fees charged for transactions of digital goods and services within apps, reducing them from 30% to 17% and, through Apple’s certain rebate programs. Will reduce it from 15% to 10% for developers who qualify. ,

Currently, according to Apple, about 3% of EU developers pay Apple’s standard 30% commission, while 9% pay the discounted rate. According to the company, the remaining 88% don’t pay anything.

According to the company, app developers will be able to offer alternative payment methods that will not depend on Apple’s own systems and Apple will not charge any fee for it. He added that Apple also will not charge any commission for apps distributed through third-party app stores.

In return, developers who choose to take advantage of the new capabilities and fee structure will have to pay a new fee of 0.50 euros for each installation of the app after the first million installations in a year. According to Apple, less than 1% of EU developers are required to pay installation-based fees. According to the company, developers who wish to continue using Apple’s proprietary systems can choose to continue under the company’s existing terms and fee structure.

EU residents will have access to expanded features in Apple’s next update to its iOS operating system, version 17.4, in March, and app creators will be able to test the changes starting Thursday, according to the company.

Difference in Apple’s approach in EU and US

Apple’s move to comply with the new EU law, known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), highlights the stark difference between how the company plans to operate in Europe compared to other parts of the world. Last week, to comply with a court order in the United States, Apple announced support for alternative payment methods. But unlike now in Europe, Apple said it would continue to charge up to 27% commission, angering some developers who accused the company of “fraudulently” complying with the court order.

On Thursday, the Coalition for App Fairness, a group that includes Epic Games, the makers of “Fortnite,” Spotify, Tile and others, criticized Apple’s announcement as a half-measure intended to give the appearance of compliance. of.

Rick VanMeter, the group’s executive director, said, “This plan does not meet DMA’s goal of increasing competition and fairness in the digital marketplace: it is fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.” “Apple’s proposal forces developers to choose (…) either stick with the terrible status quo or opt for complex new conditions that are bad for both developers and consumers.”

However, Epic Games — which spent years in an antitrust battle with Apple in the United States and banned “Fortnite” from the App Store in 2020 — said Thursday that the popular online gaming app will return to iOS in Europe this year. will come. According to a post on the company’s X, the game will be distributed through a new Epic Games App Store for iOS.

Nevertheless, Epic Games said: “We will continue to argue in the courts and with regulators that Apple is breaking the law.”

Apple representatives declined to say Thursday whether the changes they are making in response to EU regulations could be introduced elsewhere in the world.

They also argued that, to comply with EU law, Apple’s updates represent a fundamental change to its app ecosystem and, in some cases, could put users at greater security risks. The company said it will continue to conduct basic automated and human security reviews of all apps and require third-party app store owners to meet certain security criteria.

But, according to the company, apps distributed through third-party app stores will not have to undergo the same content or quality checks that Apple uses for its Store reviews.

Other changes Apple is making in Europe could open up more options for consumers in mobile payments. Apple has said that iOS 17.4 will allow developers to access the tap-to-pay chip built into iPhones, making it possible to create alternative mobile wallet apps on iOS that can be used for contactless payments at ATMs and kiosk stores. Is.

Change in browser selection

Meanwhile, according to Apple, an update to the way Apple manages browsers will present EU users with a new preferences screen when they open Safari for the first time after downloading iOS 17.4. The Choice screen will present a menu of alternative browsers, such as Chrome or Firefox, and give users the ability to select a default browser other than Safari. The change is intended to respond to long-standing criticism of the tech giant over its ability to use default settings to direct users to its own software.

In addition to being able to set new defaults for browsers, Apple said EU users will be able to set third-party app marketplaces as the device’s default app store, although Apple’s App Store will be installed initially.

CNN’s Claire Duffy contributed to this report.


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