Apple is gearing up to “split the App Store in two” so that users in the European Union can sideload apps — something which the company is being forced to comply with.
According to Mark Gurman’s ‘Power On’ newsletter at Bloomberg, Apple is “almost ready” to roll out these changes in the EU, which could happen in weeks. This may launch with the upcoming iOS 17.3 update for iPhones, currently in beta.
The DMA (Digital Markets Act) requires Apple, from March 7, to open up its storefront to users in the EU. This will mean that users can install an app that’s not from the App Store — a process formally known as ‘sideloading’.
A good example of this is Epic Games. It’s a game developer and publisher that has its own storefront on Windows and Mac which lets players buy and download games. In essence, the company could roll out a version of its store in the EU, which would bring back games such as Fortnite, to iPhones and iPads. Way back in 2020, Epic was banned from the App Store for trying to add a new payment system that circumvented Apple’s in-app purchasing.
With this ‘second’ App Store, Epic would have no issue in setting its store up in the EU. As the March 7 deadline edges closer, Apple’s reason for doing this now, instead of closer to March, could involve its upcoming launch of Vision Pro.
What about Vision Pro? — iMore’s take
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Apple is preparing to launch its Vision Pro headset on February 2, which will also come with its own App Store. Developers are already making sure that their own apps will be made available on this date, such as Seasons, a great-looking weather app.
The timing of Apple allegedly preparing this App Store change in the EU is something to note. The EU has been challenging Apple for a few years now to open up the App Store, and the DMA may be extended to require that Vision Pro’s App Store also allows sideloaded apps, if and when the headset is made available in the region.
This could generate a boon of Vision Pro apps that wouldn’t have previously been allowed on the App Store. For example, as shown above, one developer has created a Nintendo 3DS emulator for Meta’s Quest headset — something that is firmly against Apple’s rules. If the EU demands that Apple extend its sideloading option to Vision Pro, there’s nothing to stop that developer from bringing this emulator to the headset’s App Store.
We’re about to reach an interesting time, when the App Store will be opened up in the EU, and a new product from Apple is about to launch with its own App Store. Time will tell if the DMA will apply to Vision Pro — but if it does, expect some great apps that take advantage of visionOS, and maybe even a 3DS emulator.
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Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.
Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.