iOS 17.4's alternative app marketplaces bound by location data — EU iPhone users will lose access to some features if they're "gone for too long"

iPhone 14 with the App Store
(Image credit: Future)

Fresh off the release of iOS 17.4 for iPhone on Tuesday, Apple has confirmed that its implementation of alternative app marketplaces is bound by on-device location data that could see users lose access to some features if they travel for too long or relocate. 

Apple’s new software has arrived just in time for the compliance deadline of the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which has mandated, amongst other things, that Apple must offer its iPhone developers and customers the opportunity to create and install alternative app marketplaces beyond its own iOS App Store. The first third-party store available will be a business-focused marketplace called Mobivention, which is ready to launch on March 7. Also coming soon, MacPaw is bringing its popular Mac service Setapp to iPhone. 

To accompany the release, Apple has provided a support document ‘About alternative app marketplaces in the European Union’ which confirms (as we suspected) that users who want to access these new features are bound by on-device location data, including what happens when you travel or leave the EU long term. 

Alternative app store marketplaces — location restrictions 

Apple states that to access alternative app marketplaces and install the apps they offer in iOS 17.4 “The country or region of your Apple ID must be set to one of the countries or regions of the European Union, and you must physically be located in the European Union.” While the former seems obvious, the latter is important because it prevents other users worldwide, such as those in the UK or the U.S., from accessing the feature simply by changing the country or region of their Apple ID. Apple says “on-device processing” will determine eligibility, meaning the company does not see your location data. 

Apple also clarified that users who “leave the European Union for short-term travel” will continue to have access to the feature “for a grace period.” However, the company warns, "If you're gone for too long, you'll lose access to some features” including installing new alternative app marketplaces. 

Apple says installed marketplaces “will continue to function, but they can't be updated by the marketplace you downloaded it from.” We’ve reached out to Apple to clarify how long this “grace period” is, but Apple has seemingly built at least some protections to stop users from buying phones in the EU and taking them abroad to get access to the feature. The company was not immediately available for comment. 

Apple has further confirmed the full list of eligible countries and regions that can access alternative app marketplaces.

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czechia
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Åland Islands
  • France
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • Mayotte
  • Reunion
  • Saint Martin
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Azores
  • Madeira
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Canary Islands
  • Sweden

iOS 17.4 is available to all iOS 17 users, so you don't even need Apple's best iPhone to run it. Compatible models include the iPhone XR and later, as well as the iPhone SE. 

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9