iOS 17.5: Direct App Downloads from Websites Now Available in EU

Apple rolled out iOS 17.5 beta 2 for developers today. It might not typically make headlines. However, this update is significant. It introduces a new feature that Apple had to implement due to regulations from the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). With the launch of iOS 17.5, iPhone users in the EU will gain the ability to download apps directly from websites. This practice is known as sideloading. This means they won’t have to rely solely on Apple’s App Store or any other specific app store. Apple’s compliance with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) has also led to support for alternative app stores, a feature introduced in iOS 17.4.

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The expansion of app accessibility through website downloads represents a significant advancement in flexibility for iOS users. However, Apple’s stringent regulations remain in place. Developers seeking to provide downloadable apps via their websites must adhere to Apple’s Notarization process, be longstanding members of the Apple Developer Program, and either be based in the EU or have a subsidiary located there. These criteria ensure that app distribution remains regulated and secure, even with the introduction of sideloading capabilities.

The criteria for eligibility add another layer of restriction to the sideloading process. Only apps with a substantial user base in the EU, demonstrated by one million or more annual first installs on iOS, qualify for distribution through website downloads. This ensures that only well-established apps with a proven track record of popularity can utilize this method. Despite the continued presence of walls, the ability to back up, restore, and update sideloaded apps offers users a more comprehensive experience akin to traditional app distribution methods.

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When attempting to install such an app, users will encounter a system sheet presenting essential details such as the app name, developer name, app description, and screenshots. To proceed with the installation, users must explicitly grant permission for the respective developer to install apps on their device. It’s important to note that this feature is exclusive to users within the EU and is limited to iPhones.

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Developers stand to benefit from this arrangement. They are no longer required to pay Apple a share of their app sales for apps distributed via websites. However, this doesn’t imply that there are no costs involved. Apple imposes a “Core Technology Fee” of €0.5 for each annual installation exceeding one million in the previous year. Fortunately, nonprofits, educational institutions, and government entities are exempt from this fee.

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