Apple could split the App Store to comply with EU regulations — here’s what you need to know

App store logo
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It appears that Apple is preparing to split the app store in two, one version for the European Union (EU) and one for the rest of the world, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.

In his Power On newsletter, Gurman explained how Apple is currently working to make its app store compliant with the EU’s impeding Digital Marketing Act. This would involve Apple splitting the App Store into two: one version for the majority of the world and the other for the EU. 

Those living in the EU would, under the regulation, need to be able to install apps from outside the default store, use payment processors other than Apple and receive better integration between first and third-party apps and features. 

There was a fair amount of disappointment that Apple did not allow the sideloading of apps with iOS 17, as had been suggested. Craig Federighi, Apple's VP of Software Engineering, and therefore the effective face of iOS, stated during WWDC 2023: "We want to make sure that whatever we do is the right thing for our customers and the safety of our customers," in regards to sideloading in iOS 17. He also mentioned that they were working with the EU at the time on what safe compliance would look like.

Gurman has speculated that this could lead to a potential profit loss for Apple, since users would be able to buy their apps through and from other sources. It is also likely that other countries could follow suit and aim to reduce the alleged monopoly that Apple holds. It's been rumored that Japan was considering a similar legal route, although there has not been any confirmation of that yet. 

iPhone 15 Pro Max gameplay

(Image credit: Future)

One major hurdle for Apple is controlling any potential security threats that could come from opening up its software ecosystem. Recent security breaches in the App Store back in early 2023 made it clear that Apple was ill-prepared to contend with this kind of security threat. As such, Apple will need to find a way to protect its customers when the order is enforced, or make it clear that venturing outside the App Store is done at their own risk.

The issue of monopolies in tech has been going on for decades, but it appears many of the big names are struggling at the moment. For example, Google recently lost its case against Epic regarding app store monopolies, although Google intends to appeal the result. Unless Apple fancies its chances against the EU, it's going to have to follow the DMA's rules and split up the App Store. But whether this will be a genuine opening-up of the App Store for EU citizens, or just a half-hearted effort that fulfils Apple's legal obligations and little else, remains to be seen.

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Staff Writer

Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.