Apple forced to open iPad to sideloading and third-party apps by EU

For years, Apple’s ecosystem has been closed and isolated. However, the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules, which came into effect on March 7 this year, have forced the iPhone maker to open its gates. This shift in policy, including the allowance of app sideloading on iOS, was a significant change for Apple. Furthermore, it’s not just the iPhone that’s affected. EU lawmakers are now setting their sights on the iPad, aiming to subject it to the same DMA rules.

Apple EU browser

As reported by Bloomberg, the iPad has been added to the growing list of “gateway” products that must adhere to the EU’s DMA obligations. Among other things, this means that Apple will need to introduce app sideloading capabilities to its tablet, mirroring the changes made for iPhones. On top of this, iPad users will gain the ability to uninstall additional preloaded apps, giving them more control over their devices.

Apple has been given a six-month window to adapt its tablet ecosystem to meet the requirements of the EU’s DMA. Failure to do so could result in significant financial penalties, with the EU stating that non-compliant companies could face fines of up to 10 percent of their global turnover.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said subjecting the iPad to the DMA preserves fairness and competition in the market. Given that the ripple effects of the DMA have already hit Apple’s iOS, App Store, and Safari, it’s not surprising to see iPadOS added to the bandwagon. Vestager says, “iPadOS constitutes an important gateway on which many companies rely to reach their customers.”

iPadOS 17 interactive widgets and personalized lock screen

Despite Apple’s compliance with DMA rules in the EU, the company has filed a lawsuit with the EU’s General Court in Luxembourg to challenge some law designations. For example, Apple claims some DMA requirements undermine security on its devices and put user’s data at risk.

On the heels of the EU’s decision to designate Apple’s iPadOS as another digital “gatekeeper” under its Digital Markets Act (DMA) regulation, Fortnite maker Epic Games confirmed it will bring its popular battle royale game to the iPad later this year. The company had previously announced Fortnite would return to iPhones in the EU as a result of the DMA, which forces Apple to compete with alternative app stores, like Epic’s Game Store.

The move means that Apple will likely have to adopt many of the changes it has made with iOS 17 and its best iPhones in the EU in its iPad lineup too. That could mean a move to alternative app marketplaces, as well as web distribution, and new rules for music streaming apps, game emulators, and game streaming apps, too.

Apple’s proposals have, naturally, attracted complaints. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek called the fees “extortion, plain and simple.” Spotify does not pay Apple a large percentage of its revenue, as it removed the ability to pay with a subscription through the App Store years ago.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney referred to it as “hot garbage” and a “devious new instance of malicious compliance.”

With a deadline of half a year, the modifications might arrive in iPadOS 18. To be clear, all of this is something only residents of the European Union need to be concerned about. Users outside of the EU will continue to be limited to Apple’s own App Store.

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.

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