Apple is preparing to give outside app stores access to its iPhones and iPads in the European Union to comply with a new competition law, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter.
As part of the changes, Apple users would be allowed to install third-party apps without going through the company’s App Store, bypassing the tech giant’s app restrictions and the up to 30% commission it charges on App Store purchases, according to Bloomberg’s report.
The reported moves — a reversal of longstanding Apple policy — are in response to the EU’s, sweeping new internet rules designed to create fair and open competition in the digital realm. Large tech companies that fail to comply with the new rules could face fines of up to 10% of their global revenue — potentially reaching billions of dollars.
While other phone makers such as Google and Samsung also have their own app stores, they often allow sideloading, where users can find and download apps from sources other than their device’s primary app store. However, Apple has only allowed iPhone and iPad apps to be downloaded from its App Store, arguing that sideloading could hurt phone security.
Apple’s strict control has faced opposition in the courts, with Fortnite maker Epic Games arguing that the iPhone maker exerts too much control over people’s devices. Epic largely lost its legal case against Apple, though it is appealing.
However, Apple hasn’t decided on whether to comply with a portion of the new rules that allow developers to install third-party payment systems within their apps for purchasing subscriptions or in-app content, Bloomberg reported. Such a move would cut Apple out of the purchase process.
The changes, expected to go into effect with the release of iOS 17 next year, are intended primarily for Europe but could lay the groundwork for spreading to other regions, sources told Bloomberg.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.