EU's Digital Markets Act takes step toward forcing huge changes to iPhone

EU’s Digital Markets Act takes step toward forcing huge changes to iPhone

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The European Union takes another step toward rough regulations on tech giants like Apple.
The European Union takes another step toward tough regulations on tech giants like Apple.
Photo: Freestocks.org

The European Parliament passed the landmark Digital Markets Act on Tuesday. The legislation aims to outlaw many common practices of Big Tech companies, especially Apple, Google and Amazon.

For iPhone users, the DMA would force Apple to allow rival app stores and sideloaded applications. And these are only two of many significant changes in the act.

There are still further steps the the EU government must go through before the DMA goes into effect, but that’s expected to happen before the end of 2022.

Digital Markets Act will remake iPhone and the App Store

What happens in Europe doesn’t stay in Europe. The sweeping new law just passed by the European Union will almost certainly affect Apple devices around the world. And the changes championed by EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager really are sweeping. They are intended to increase competition between Big Tech and smaller companies, and help users too.

New DMA regulations will force Apple to allow iPhone users to download apps from the internet and third-party app marketplaces. That’ll be the end of the App Store being the only option.

Apple CEO Time Cook previously said this change will, “destroy the security of the iPhone and a lot of the privacy initiatives that we built into the App Store.” It will, for example, enable unscrupulous devs to ignore Apple’s privacy rules, including the one that requires third-party apps to ask permission before tracking users.

Messaging services must be open to third-party applications. This will apparently allow Android users to get the benefits of iMessage. And they might also be able to make FaceTime calls.

iPhone developers will be able to use whatever in-app payment systems they choose, not only Apple’s. And they’ll be able to advertise offers directly to users. Apple’s lengthy lawsuit with Epic Games was because the App Store prevented these — and the iPhone-maker lost that lawsuit.

The DMA will prevent companies from requiring developers use a specific browser engine. Apple currently requires all iOS browsers to use its WebKit platform.

The DMA also requires companies to give the option to use a third-party voice assistant. So, in the future, an iPhone could be controlled by Google Voice rather than Siri.

In addition, parts of the DMA prevent companies from preferring their own apps and services in rankings or search results. These will have big effects on Google and Amazon, but less for for Apple.

DMA has teeth

The Digital Markets Act still must be passed by the Council of the European Union before it goes into effect. But the EU Parliament and the Council worked out their differences on the legislation this spring, so it’s essentially a done deal.

Apple has been opposed to the DMA from the beginning. It’s likely to keep fighting the act’s provisions until it passes into EU law… and beyond..

But the European Commission and Vestager can impose fines of up to 10% of a company’s total worldwide annual revenue if it’s found to be in violation of the DMA. The total can jump to 20% if the company continues to break the law.

That said, some experts are concerned that the EU is not building a large enough enforcement team, according to Reuters.