Apple Isn’t Ready to Release Its Grip on the App Store

“Especially for the big app developers with loads of downloads, who are the ones that really Apple make all their money from, that will rack up to a very high cost very quickly,” says Max von Thun, Europe director at Open Markets, a group dedicated to campaigning against monopolies. “This new cost structure, including the core tech fee, will disincentivize lots of developers from moving to the new system.” Less than 1 percent of developers would qualify for this fee, Apple said in its announcement. Government agencies or nonprofits are exempt.

The caveats sparked outrage from developers that had been hoping to benefit from DMA-inspired changes. “Allowing alternative payments and marketplaces seems positive on the surface, but the strings attached to Apple’s new policies mean that in practice it will be impossible for developers to benefit from them,” Proton’s Yen said in a statement. “Apple will continue stifling competition and innovation, and taking a cut even when developers opt out of its walled garden.”

Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, went further, accusing Apple on X of “twisting this process to undermine competition and continue imposing Apple taxes on transactions they’re not involved in.”

Sweeney has been battling Apple over its App Store rules in the courts and on social media rules for years. “Truly, Apple has no right to take any percent of any company’s revenue just because they made the phone people use to access the stuff,” he said back in 2020. But Epic suffered a setback in that fight earlier in January, when the US Supreme Court declined to hear Epic’s appeal in its legal dispute with Apple—essentially allowing Apple to put in place a system in the US that lets apps link out to purchase pages but still charges a 27 percent commission for payments made when users get there.

There’s uncertainty about whether Apple’s concessions count as complying with the DMA. “The App Store is very, very lucrative for them,” says von Thun, who believes there are question marks over whether these changes go far enough. “I would say this is basically their attempt to do as little as possible while, potentially, being compliant with the law.” A spokesperson for the European Commission, which enforces the new rules, said it did not comment on such announcements, adding the deadline for compliance was March 7.

“These changes comply with the DMA, and in the weeks and months ahead, we’ll continue to engage with the European Commission, the developer community, and our EU users about their impacts,” said Apple spokesperson Fred Sainz in a statement, adding the changes the DMA introduced in the EU resulted in a less secure system.

“We’re limiting these changes to the European Union because we’re concerned about their impacts on the privacy and security of our users’ experience—which remains our North Star.”

With just a matter of weeks until the EU’s March deadline, Apple and developers alike will soon find out whether the EU thinks those changes have gone far enough.