Apple Overhauls App Store in Europe, in Response to New Digital Law

Since Apple introduced the App Store in 2008, it has tightly controlled the apps and services allowed on iPhones and iPads, giving the company an iron grip on one of the digital economy’s most valuable storefronts.

Now Apple is weakening its hold on the store, in one of the most consequential signs to date of how new European regulations are changing consumer technology.

To comply with a European Union competition law taking effect on March 7, Apple on Thursday announced major changes to the App Store and other services for consumers in Europe. Users of iPhones and iPads in the 27-nation bloc will for the first time be able to use alternative app stores to download games, productivity tools and other apps. Banks and shopping services can offer competing payment methods inside their apps. People who buy new iPhones in the future will also see a new menu for downloading alternative browsers to Apple’s Safari, such as Chrome and Firefox.

The changes are some of the most tangible examples of how a checkerboard of laws and regulations is now fracturing people’s technology experiences, depending on where they live. In China, government rules force Apple to block apps like virtual-private networks, known as VPNs, which would give users access to the unfiltered internet. In Europe, customers will now have access to competing app stores and other services. In the United States, where there are fewer laws and regulations, Apple and other tech giants have more flexibility to operate as they please.

The shifts in the App Store stem from a 2022 law called the Digital Markets Act. The far-reaching law was aimed at loosening the power of the world’s largest tech companies in areas like e-commerce, social media and messaging. Amazon, Meta, Google and Microsoft have also announced changes to comply with the new rules.

“The changes we’re announcing today comply with the Digital Markets Act’s requirements in the European Union, while helping to protect E.U. users from the unavoidable increased privacy and security threats this regulation brings,” Phil Schiller, who leads the App Store, said in a statement.

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