iOS 17.4 Brings App Store Alternatives to EU Countries Apple's iOS 17.4 marks a new era - but also one of potentially heightened risks - for app distribution in the European Union.

App Store

In a groundbreaking move in light of the European Union (EU)’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), Apple has introduced significant changes in iOS 17.4, allowing developers to offer their apps through alternative app stores and use different payment methods. However, this shift is currently confined to the EU, leaving the rest of the world to operate under the existing app distribution system.

The EU’s 27 member countries, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden, are the only regions where these new options are available.

This change signifies a significant – albeit enforced – departure from Apple’s longstanding policy, where all apps were exclusively distributed through its own App Store, with the company managing all payment processes.

Apple’s decision to limit this overhaul to the EU stems from concerns about the potential risks alternative app stores and payment methods pose to user privacy and security. The company has expressed worries about increased exposure to malware, questionable content, piracy, scams, and fraud.

This update in the iOS app ecosystem is a direct response to the DMA, which compels Apple to comply by March 6, 2024, to avoid substantial fines from the European Commission. Given Apple’s apprehensions about the user safety risks that it believes the DMA has created, similar changes are unlikely to be seen globally unless mandated by equivalent legislation in other countries.

These features, tied to the iOS 17.4 beta released are set to become widely available with the full release of iOS 17.4 in March.

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