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With the latest update to iOS, version 17.5 beta 2, Apple has made it possible for app providers to offer software through their own website, evading the official App Store. Consumers can download these apps directly and use them on their devices. This means side loading is now officially allowed on iOS, at least in the EU.

Apple makes it clear that within the European Union (EU), it provides APIs that allow the distribution of apps from the Internet. Apps offered in this way do have to meet requirements set by Apple to protect the integrity of its platform. For example, it is only possible to download and install apps from a website domain that the developer has registered in App Store Connect.

This change in Apple’s policy directly results from the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). The EU has designated Apple as one of the major ‘gatekeepers’ that must meet several conditions to avoid becoming a monopolist. Providing an alternative to the App Store was one of these conditions.

No longer required to pay through Apple’s channels

Developers can now choose not to offer their apps through the App Store. Even in-app purchases no longer have to go through Apple’s payment system. The company received 30 percent of the sale price for such purchases. iOS users must first approve third-party providers through their settings before they can download apps through such a party’s direct channel.

Apple has established strict rules to maintain some control over the apps that become available on the iOS platform in this way. Only developers who have participated in the Apple Developer Program for at least two consecutive years and are in good standing are eligible. Their apps must also have been downloaded over one million times in the previous year.

In return, participating developers can access security, backup and recovery options. Apple also provides the APIs that enable the sale of iOS apps through a third-party site.

Official, alternative app store opened

It is now also possible to use alternative app stores to buy and download iOS apps. Since yesterday, AltStorePAL has become available to users within the European Union as an officially approved alternative app store (the unofficial version of AltStore has existed for some time and remains available, especially for users outside the EU).

To cover the cost of the Core Technology Fee that Apple charges AltStore creator Riley Testut, he asks users to pay 1.50 euros per year.

Read more: Developers allowed to sell iPhone apps through their own websites