New EU Rule Could Compel Apple to Allow Third-Party App Stores

BY Dave Johnson

Published 1 Nov 2022

third-party app stores

A new European Union rule came into effect today that could force Apple to open up its platforms to other firms and developers. This could result in third-party app stores and app side-loading on iPhones and iPads.

Earlier in the summer, the EU passed the Digital Markets Act — legislation that intends to compel tech giants to be fair in their dealings. The rule also gives third parties or competitors a chance to compete on a level playing field. 

While talks of the DMA date as far back as April, the rule came into effect on November 1, 2022. According to the new law, tech giants that meet the EU’s “gatekeeper” criteria must open their various services and platforms to other companies and developers. 

With its massive annual turnover in the EU, Apple will undoubtedly fall under the gatekeeper category. But how does the new rule affect the Cupertino-based tech giant? 

Third-Party App Stores, App Side Loading, and Message Interoperability on Apple Devices

The DMA could force Apple to change how FaceTime, iMessage, Siri, and App Store work in Europe. 

For instance, EU users may install third-party app stores or side-load apps on iPhones and iPads. As a result, developers can promote their apps outside the App Store while using Apple’s services and data. 

According to Wired, Veteran EU official Gerard de Graaf said

“If you have an iPhone, you should be able to download apps not just from the App Store but from other app stores or from the internet.” 

Another recent DMA regulation requires tech companies to make their messaging, video, and voice calling services interoperable. 

In theory, interoperability means apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger can request to work in conjunction with the iMessage framework. Moreover, Apple would have to comply with this request within the European Union. 

Although DMA is now in effect, tech giants may not have to comply until the EU decides which companies are large enough to earn the “gatekeepers” classification. Those big tech giants will then have six months to make the necessary changes. 

De Graaf believes that about a dozen companies, including Apple and Google, will be in that group.