The EU won't be able to force Apple's hand with iMessage like it did with USB-C — here's why

Apple iPhone 15 held in the hand.
(Image credit: Future)

The European Commission has announced that Apple’s iMessage will avoid having to comply with the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA) as it has not been designated as a "core platform service". 

In the statement, the EU states that iMessage should not be designated as a “gatekeeper”, alongside Microsoft’s Edge browser and the Bing Search engine. The press release reads as follows, “Following a thorough assessment of all arguments, taking into account input by relevant stakeholders, and after hearing the Digital Markets Advisory Committee, the Commission found that iMessage, Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising do not qualify as gatekeeper services.”

This decision comes after a five-month investigation into the commission's list of 22 regulated services that was published in September 2023. While iMessage managed to avoid falling under the DMA, other messaging services were not so lucky. It appears that Meta's WhatsApp and Messenger have both been designated as core platform services, so will need to be interoperable with third-party services. 

Apple Messages app on iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

Interestingly Apple announced that Rich Communication Service (or RCS)  is planned to come to iPhones in 2024 anyway. While it is not quite the same as opening up iMessage, this change should allow for better communication between Android and Apple phones. This change will not open up iMessage to other developers, but will instead allow for better interconnectivity and security while messaging Android phones. 

However, while iMessage has managed to avoid the DMA, other parts of Apple's software have not. Apple is aiming to make its devices compliant with the new EU regulation with the iOS 17.4 update. This allows for alternative app stores and the use of browser engines other than Webkit. However, Apple has drawn some comments from critics regarding its recent actions and the rules it has implemented.

The biggest point of contention has to do with the Core Technology Fee that will charge developers €0.50 per download, every year after the first million downloads. This plan was called “Hot Garbage” by Epic Game’s CEO, Tim Sweeney, who also claimed that “Apple’s plan to thwart Europe’s new Digital Markets Act law is a devious new instance of Malicious Compliance.”

The news from the EU is no doubt good for Apple, but they are still working to implement many of the changes for EU devices. The changes to the app store and the browsers will come with the iOS 17.4 update for anyone with an EU device. We will keep you updated with any changes as and when we know of them.

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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.