So much for taking naps in the middle of the day. I’ve had three days to try and get through these changes and I’m still not fully understanding the ramifications. Apple made so many changes partly because of the EU and not everyone is happy. I’m gonna get through what I know and we’ll hopefully learn together.
What is actually going on?
To start, a lot of the shake-up that is going on with Apple is its impending deadline with the European Union (EU). More specifically, it’s the EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA is supposed to protect consumers from platform “gatekeepers”. Essentially, the governing body wants to give its citizens more choice as to what’s on their phones and not have to suffer vendor lock-in.
So, for instance, this means that Apple can’t force you to not only use Safari, but its browser engine, Webkit. In fact, you can now get rid of Safari altogether if you want.
But let’s break it down.
Full functioning browsers (EU Only)
Yes, you read that correctly. This feature (and the one after) will only pertain to EU users. Apple has decided that it only some changes are happening there. I’ll get into that a bit later.
So, as I mentioned before, with the DMA comes the removal of using the Webkit browser engine for every browser. That may not have been something you knew or even cared about. But, if you have downloaded another browser to your phone like Firefox or Chrome, you were essentially using Safari under the hood with Mozilla or Google trappings, respectively. It would allow you to sign into to those accounts, sync passwords and tabs, share between your phone and PC, but you were still technically using Safari.
Now, when users use Chrome, they’ll be using 100% Chrome on their phone running Google’s Blink browser engine. For Firefox, you’ll be using Gecko.
As an added bonus, when you load up Safari for the first time (remember, the phone will still come with Safari pre-installed), it will ask you whether to keep Safari or choose another browser as your default.
While this seems great for consumers, developers have not taken too kindly to the changes. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, both huge critics of Apple, have voiced their displeasure to the changes.
However, I want to point out Mozilla because it’s relevant here. Spokesperson Damiano DeMonte told The Verge that Mozilla is “extremely disappointed.” He points out that these rule changes for the EU only will force browser devs like Mozilla to maintain two separate browsers going forward.
We are still reviewing the technical details but are extremely disappointed with Apple’s proposed plan to restrict the newly-announced BrowserEngineKit to EU-specific apps. The effect of this would be to force an independent browser like Firefox to build and maintain two separate browser implementations — a burden Apple themselves will not have to bear.”
Mozilla spokesperson Damiano DeMonte
Alternate App Stores (EU Only)
Next up on is the ability to use alternate app stores.
A lot of people have been using the term “sideloading” to describe what’s happening here. I don’t believe that’s what’s happening. Sideloading for me is what Android does when you want to install apps via an installation package you downloaded off the web. It is an app install that bypasses an app market completely. Almost like installing a program on a PC.
What Apple seems to be doing here is allowing third-party marketplaces to exist. While the marketplace itself can be downloaded from the web (which could technically be considered sideloading), these marketplaces have to be considered “notarized” by Apple before being able to work on its devices. This also goes for the apps that are being listed on these marketplaces.
For all intents and purposes, Apple will still “technically” control what may go in those marketplaces, but only in the loosest sense. They’ll still be reviewing them to make sure it works and nothing malicious would happen to the device, but they won’t be pushing their App Store policies on these marketplaces.
Other things that came with this change are using how payments are being processed. As someone who doesn’t understand more than the 70/30 split that was initially put in place, my head hurt trying to wrap it around these changes. I recommend reading the Apple announcement for more information.
Game Streaming Services (Global)
And saving the best for last is game streaming services. This includes the likes of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate cloud streaming and GeForce Now (RIP Google Stadia).
Apple has reversed a decision made back in 2020. At that time, they had issued a ban on game streaming apps. This reversal will allow all gamers with iOS devices to be able to play on the go with a more native experience. Apple says this should held developers “be able to provide enhanced discovery opportunities for streaming games, mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins that are found within their apps.” This will also allow gamers to purchase in-game items using Apple’s In-App purchasing system.
I imagine this will probably enable companies like Amazon and Netflix to be able to start streaming games to devices, especially with Netflix making users on iOS sign into apps with their Netflix account. This should definitely make that process smoother.
And speaking of streaming apps, while DCA doesn’t deal in rumors, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the skuttlebutt is that Apple themselves is preparing to enter game streaming themselves. I kind of believe it as Apple has been moving into games recently with Resident Evil: Village, Resident Evil 4 Remake, and Death Stranding making appearances on Macs and iPhones lately. Being able to play these games on less than capable hardware would be a great boon for Apple.
What do you think? Are these changes going to impact you in any way?
Let me know!