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  • ton = $6.29 -0.09 (-1.40 %)

29 Jan, 2024
4 min time to read

At the end of January, Apple announced global changes to iOS, Safari, and the App Store for users in Europe. We'll explain what is behind these changes in the article.

The company detailed the upcoming changes in the developer documentation. There are several key points, for example:

  • Distribution of applications and games on iOS through alternative app stores – currently, users worldwide can only download from the App Store.
  • Choosing the default browser upon the first launch of Safari and alternative browser engines – currently, all browsers on iOS are limited to the Apple WebKit engine, and the default browser choice is made in the system settings.
  • Contactless payment via NFC in banking apps or wallets – currently, such transactions can only be made on iPhone and Apple Watch through Apple Pay.
  • Alternative payment systems in apps and payments through external links – currently, service payments can only be conducted through the Apple system.

Third-Party App Stores

In the near future, users of iOS devices will have the ability to install applications from alternative app stores. However, a specific application can only be installed from one store – it will not be possible to download the same app from another store.

For instance, if a hypothetical app like Telegram becomes available more quickly on an alternative store, users would need to uninstall the app originally installed via the App Store before downloading the messenger from the third-party store.

In the initial stages, these innovations will only be available in the EU. It seems that attempting to bypass the system won't be possible, as iOS will determine the user's geolocation. The verification process will involve multiple factors, including the payment address for Apple ID invoicing, the region of the account, the current location (country), the current region specified in the device settings, the device class (iPhone, iPad, etc.), and whether the smartphone is manufactured in China.

Apple immediately made it clear that they are not fond of the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA) legislation, as it poses potential threats that could harm the system's security. These threats include malicious software, fraud, illegal and unwanted content, and a potential weakening of Apple's control.

As anticipated, developers of alternative app stores will be subject to commissions and stringent requirements. For example:

  • Registration in the EU is required, agreeing to publish transparent data collection rules, and providing users with control over how their data is collected and used.
  • Adherence to the laws of the jurisdictions in which they operate, taking responsibility for addressing government and other requests for app removal.
  • Participation in continuous monitoring and detection of fraudulent, malicious, or illegal applications, implementing a mechanism to check applications for intellectual property violations before publication.

An important point is that these developers must provide Apple with a standby letter of credit from a financial institution with a rating of A (or an equivalent rating from S&P, Fitch, or Moody's) for an amount of 1 million euros (almost 97 million rubles) to guarantee support for developers and users.

Developers of applications and their products will also face specific requirements if they are to be published on alternative app stores. Here is a list of three available distribution options:

  • Operating under current norms:

App Store commissions range from 15 to 30%. For revenue less than $1 million, the commission is 15% through the App Store Small Business Program. For revenue exceeding $1 million, the commission is 30%. Subscriptions are subject to a 30% commission for the first year and 15% for subsequent years.

  • Operating under new conditions:

The commission will be reduced to 10% for revenue less than $1 million and 17% for revenue exceeding $1 million. However, there will be an additional 3% fee for using the Apple payment system, resulting in an overall commission ranging from 13% to 20%.

This 3% fee does not apply to developers using alternative payment systems. Additionally, developers will need to pay a Core Technology Fee of 0.50 euros for each app installation per user annually after reaching 1 million installations.

  • Working with alternative applications:

For distributing apps in alternative stores, developers will also be required to pay Apple a Core Technology Fee of 0.50 euros for each app installation per user annually after reaching 1,000,000 installations. There is a special calculator for calculating the Core Technology Fee.

Developers who accept the new conditions cannot revert to the existing ones. There is also another significant nuance: Apple will still moderate programs in alternative app stores. This moderation, according to Apple, is necessary to protect users and certify apps uploaded to alternative stores. Apple refers to this as a notarization process.

While the moderation may not be as strict as in the App Store, it will still exist. Apple states that this is necessary for user protection and certification of apps uploaded to alternative stores. The moderation will primarily involve basic detection of serious threats like malware. Interestingly, the moderation process will be a combination of automation and human involvement.

NFC Payments Through Third-Party Apps

Developers will have access to APIs that enable the use of NFC in banking apps, online wallets, or for other purposes, such as transit tickets and passes. The functionality will be similar to Android but will incorporate Apple Pay's traditional mechanics within the Apple ecosystem.

Users will have the option to choose alternatives to Apple Pay as their default contactless payment system. The payment process will be as familiar as using Apple Pay. A double-click of the power button will invoke the selected payment method: authenticate with a passcode or Face ID/Touch ID, bring the device near the terminal, and complete the payment.

Attempts to bypass restrictions for certain regions seem likely to be unsuccessful. Cupertino will automatically verify users with the new APIs—if you are not in a country where the feature is officially supported, you won't be able to use it.

Alternative Browser Engines

Currently, all browsers on iOS operate on the WebKit engine, determined by Apple. Here, Apple has the final say. While openness to alternative browser engines exists, caution is advised. Browsers on proprietary engines will need to pass at least 90% of tests for compliance with modern web standards.

Only major players will likely be able to propose alternatives initially. Once again, this is currently limited to the European region. Examples include Chrome, whose developers already have the foundations of a Blink platform version, and Firefox, which plans to release a version on its proprietary Gecko engine soon.

What Else?

Users will now be able to choose their default browser during the initial launch of Safari. This feature is also currently limited to Europe. Additionally, the list of offered browsers will vary in different EEA countries based on the popularity of different projects in each region.