The EU puts pressure on Apple: will there still be a difference between an iPhone and an Android?

Each operating system has features that set them apart from the competition. However, the basic difference between Android and iOS is that Google’s operating system is open, while Apple’s is closed. On Android, users are free to install Play Store alternatives anywhere in the world. And they can also install apps directly, via .apk files. Apple’s ecosystem is closed and does not offer as much freedom as Android.

Apple maintains some control

However, things are changing, since the Digital Markets Act, a new European legislation that has applied since this year, forces Apple to make enormous concessions. It is thanks to this law that today users in the European Union can install competitors of the App Store like the Alt Store Or Aptoideor even install certain apps directly from the web. But, despite these concessions, Apple continues to exercise control over app installations outside of the App Store. For example, the firm continues to control apps installed outside the App Store, via a notarization system. “A baseline review that can be performed on all apps regardless of their distribution method and aims to ensure the integrity of the platform and protect users”according to Apple’s explanations.

And that’s not all, as the firm has also created new commercial conditions that EU developers can opt for. These new conditions, for apps distributed outside the App Store, include a basic technology fee of 0.50 euros per first installation, when the million annual installations are exceeded by a developer. Apple has still provided for some exceptions, such as for NGOs, government entities, educational institutions, or even apps that have no monetization. In addition, Apple the firm does not charge this commission from “small” developers who generate less than 10 million euros, during the first three years.

The EU wants to push Apple to be more open

In any case, the measures announced by Apple to comply with the Digital Markets Act are far from satisfying the European Commission which, on March 25, opened an investigation. And recently, it announced the transmission of its preliminary findings to Apple. In this document, Brussels is pointing out the restrictions that Apple imposes on developers who wish to communicate on the availability of offers outside the App Store for their services.

But that’s not all, since a new investigation has also been opened. And this one looks at the distribution of iOS applications outside of the App Store. The European Commission says it will examine whether Apple’s technology fees comply with the Digital Markets Act. Brussels is also looking into the process of installing apps outside the App Store. “The Commission will examine whether the steps a user must follow to complete the download and installation of other application stores or applications, as well as the various information screens displayed by Apple to the user “user, are compliant with the DMA”we read in the press release.

The European Commission will also investigate Apple’s eligibility requirements for developers who want to launch third-party app stores, or who want to distribute their apps directly via the web. For example, for a developer to be able to distribute their iOS application directly via the web, Apple requires that the developer be “a member in good standing of the Apple Developer Program for two consecutive years”.

The EU: an example

“The developer community and consumers are eager to provide alternatives to the App Store. We will investigate to ensure Apple does not undermine its efforts to do so.”said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president in charge of competition policy.

At this time, this is only an investigation. But if the European Commission concludes that there is non-compliance with the Digital Markets Act, this would force the Cupertino company to open up its operating system even more. And with fewer controls from Apple, iOS would then become a more open system, and closer to what Android offers. In any case, with the application of the Digital Markets Act, the European Union is strengthening its status as a pioneer in the regulation of tech giants and the digital space. And the DMA’s measures are already inspiring other countries.

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