Apple has made a groundbreaking announcement regarding iOS apps, signaling a significant departure from its traditional App Store exclusivity. The tech giant has revealed that developers meeting specific criteria will now have the option to offer their iPhone applications for direct download from third-party websites, specifically targeting users in the European Union.

This move marks a pivotal shift in Apple’s ecosystem, which has long maintained strict control over app distribution through its App Store, often subjecting developers to hefty fees. The decision to permit third-party downloads comes in response to the new Digital Markets Act (DMA), aimed at fostering a more equitable landscape for businesses operating within the EU.

According to a report by TechCrunch, developers opting for this alternative distribution method must adhere to Apple’s stringent conditions. These include notarization of apps, maintaining a good reputation, agreeing to handle intellectual property disputes and government takedown requests, and providing customer service directly to iOS users.

Furthermore, developers will be subject to a new “core technology fee” of €0.50 for each first annual installation after surpassing a threshold of 1 million downloads per year. Despite the newfound freedom, Apple emphasizes that it will not provide support for externally downloaded apps, placing the responsibility squarely on developers.

For iOS users, the process of downloading apps from third-party sources will entail explicit authorization, with subsequent updates and purchases managed directly by the developer. Apple defends these steps as essential security measures, although critics argue that such “fear screens” may deter users from exploring alternatives outside the App Store.

The European Commission is closely monitoring Apple’s compliance with DMA regulations, particularly concerning issues like in-app payments and anti-steering measures. While the introduction of web distribution for iOS apps represents a significant shift, its long-term implications and developer uptake remain uncertain.

Apple acknowledges that while some developers have expressed interest in the new option, it remains to be seen how widespread its adoption will be. Nonetheless, this development opens up new avenues for app distribution within the EU, offering developers additional flexibility alongside the established App Store model.