Why the iPhone App Store is about to change after 17 years

By March 7, Apple must comply with the Digital Markets Act with the iPhone App Store and allow sideloading., i.e. downloads from other stores, on its devices.

In 2007, Apple officially introduced the iPhone to the world. One of its most revolutionary features was the presence of a virtual “Store” from which it was possible to download those applications that would make the smartphone a platform on which to transfer almost all of our daily activities. 

Seventeen years later the App Store generates revenues of 1.1 trillion dollars for Apple and the developers who choose it, has created 4.8 million jobs, and contains 1.8 million apps. And it’s about to change for the first time.

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Closed System and Open System

The focal point of this next “revolution” is that Apple has created – and firmly believes in this choice – a “closed” system. It means that what can be downloaded on your devices – iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch – must only come from a trusted source. That is the App Store that she created herself. 

On the contrary, for example, Android is an “open” system, and therefore the so-called practice of sideloading is permitted. The apps can be downloaded from the Google Play Store but also from a third-party source, other than the one provided by the platform owner, like a site or another store. 

According to Apple, accepting sideloading means  “destroying the security of the iPhone and many privacy protection initiatives that they have created within the App Store“, as Tim Cook himself had declared. But now, and more precisely by March 7, it will be forced to do so to comply with European Union regulations.

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The Digital Markets Act

The Digital Markets Act came into force in September, when European authorities published the list of gatekeepers, i.e. companies that have at least 45 million active users. 

These are the special supervisees who will have to make changes to their platforms to create a fairer innovative environment, to guarantee the same working and development conditions for everyone. 

The affected companies have until March 7 to comply, among these, there is Apple. In particular, it concerns it, and it concerns its App Store, it must be open to sideloading.

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Two App Store versions of the iPhone App Store?

From the rumors, it seems that Apple intends to divide its App Store into two different experiences. One for the European Union, where it is forced to change it, and one for the rest of the world. 

In the next few weeks, we expect an update to the iOS 17 operating system which will allow, our continent, to download applications also from other stores or directly from the developer’s website. One fundamental point remains – the commission on payments.

External payments

In addition to providing security and privacy, the App Store also provides Apple with revenue. Developers must pay a commission for each in-app purchase of 30 percent, which drops to 15 percent for small developers – most of them, in fact – after Apple introduced the Small Business Program in 2020. 

By opening up to third-party stores, developers will be able to bypass the commission, but they will still have to face new costs to create proprietary transaction systems.

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