The walled garden is crumbing — third-party iPhone app stores may be coming to EU and Japan

App store logo
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Mobile app stores have been an impenetrable fortress controlled only by the companies that make the phones we all know and love. But those barriers could be coming down, paving the way for third-party app stores.

The latest battleground could be in japan, where the likes of Apple and Google could face changes to the way phone owners can get their apps. 

In a government report released last Friday (June 16), Japan could be getting ready to make third-party app stores a reality. This would give mobile users in that country an alternative option to download apps in a secure manner apart from the app stores that Google and Apple have fostered for their respective mobile platforms.

This is an interesting move and adds more substance to the possibility of being able to sideload apps onto the iPhone with the release of iOS 17 later this year. Earlier this month, Apple’s Craig Federighi commented on the topic of sideloading. The feature doesn't appear in the iOS 17 beta currently in the hands of developers, but Federighi said "we want to make sure that whatever we do is the right thing for our customers and the safety of our customers" when asked about the topic.

"We are working with the EU on what safe compliance looks like," added Federighi, referring to coming regulations in Europe that will require companies like Apple to give users the choice of where they can download their apps.

Japan's government panel, which included industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and economy minister Shigeyuki Goto, is also aiming to help software developers out by banning major app store operators from forcing developers to use their own payment systems — which can charge commissions up to 30%.

Historically, software developers were at the mercy of these phone makers, with many apps banned for not meeting strict standards or adhering to the costly fees put on them.

There’s still a lot to iron out before we officially get third party app stores in Japan or the EU. One thing’s for sure: the walled garden that has long withstood with the birth of today’s smartphone platforms may not be around much longer — at least in some parts of the world.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.