Apple will permit direct downloads of iOS apps from websites within the EU

Tech News March 13, 2024
Apple will permit direct downloads

Apple intends to implement further alterations within EU nations, enabling select developers to distribute their iOS applications directly from their own websites. This forthcoming web distribution feature is set to be accessible via a software update expected "later this spring," as per Apple's announcement. This move offers developers a significant alternative route for disseminating iOS apps in EU markets, bypassing the necessity of a distinct app store. However, developers must consent to adhere strictly to Apple's regulations.

Although Apple is expanding access to third-party apps on iOS, robust security measures remain in place concerning app distribution via websites. Notably, adherence to the stringent Apple app development ecosystem is mandatory. According to Apple, "Apps offered through Web Distribution must meet Notarization requirements to protect platform integrity, like all iOS apps, and can only be installed from a website domain that the developer has registered in App Store Connect."

Furthermore, installing these apps on iPhones in the EU won't be a straightforward procedure. Apple clarifies that users must first authorize developers to install apps via settings on their iPhones. Upon installation, a system sheet will display details provided by developers for Apple's review, including the app's name, developer information, description, screenshots, and age rating.

So, this won't provide developers with an unrestricted and cost-free avenue to distribute apps across the web to iOS devices in EU markets. According to Apple, "Apple will authorize developers after meeting specific criteria and committing to ongoing requirements that help protect users." Developers must be enrolled in Apple's Developer Program and registered within the EU. Additionally, they must agree to several essential obligations outlined by Apple:

  • Enrollment in the Apple Developer Program as an organization incorporated, domiciled, and/or registered in the EU, or having a subsidiary legal entity incorporated, domiciled, and/or registered in the EU listed in App Store Connect. The location associated with the legal entity must be specified in the Apple Developer account.
  • Maintaining good standing in the Apple Developer Program for at least two consecutive years and having an app with over one million first annual installs on iOS in the EU in the previous calendar year.
  • Only offering apps from the developer's account.
  • Being responsive to Apple's communications regarding apps distributed through Web Distribution, particularly concerning any fraudulent, malicious, or illegal behavior, or anything else that Apple believes affects the safety, security, or privacy of users.
  • Providing transparent data collection policies and granting users control over how their data is collected and used.
  • Adhering to applicable laws in the jurisdictions where operations are conducted (e.g., the Digital Services Act, the General Data Protection Regulation, and consumer protection laws).
  • Taking responsibility for handling governmental and other requests to remove app listings.

Navigating through these requirements presents a significant challenge for developers, and it seems that Apple is targeting larger developers with the 1 million installs prerequisite. This criterion may exclude Epic Games from utilizing this particular distribution avenue, as maintaining a good-standing developer account for two years might be an issue for them. Nonetheless, Epic Games still holds aspirations to launch its iOS game store in the European Union in the near future.

Presently, Apple permits developers to distribute their apps on third-party marketplaces in EU countries. However, once those apps exceed 1 million annual installs, developers must pay a 50 euro cent fee for each additional installation and update, a process known as the Core Technology Fee. This fee structure also applies to web distribution of iOS apps. Exceptions to this fee are granted to nonprofit organizations, select educational institutions, and government entities in the EU.

Despite the stringent regulations, the opportunity for developers to deliver their apps directly to iPhone users in the EU without relying on the App Store or other third-party platforms could prove beneficial for those willing to comply with the strict guidelines. While there may be some friction for end-users, this approach enables iOS developers to bypass app stores entirely if they opt to host their apps independently and adhere to Apple's rules and policies.

Moreover, Apple is revising its strict regulations concerning how developers link to external webpages for completing purchases of digital goods. Developers now have the flexibility to "choose how to design promotions, discounts, and other deals," as per Apple. This signifies that Apple's predefined design templates are now optional rather than obligatory for developers.