Alternative iOS App Stores Only Work for ‘Grace Period’ When Traveling Outside of EU

With the release of iOS 17.4, iPhone users in the European Union can access third-party app stores, but Apple warns that EU users traveling outside of the bloc will only have a “grace period” before some features stop working altogether when they’re away.

From Apple’s support document detailing alternative app marketplaces:

If you leave the European Union for short-term travel, you’ll continue to have access to alternative app marketplaces for a grace period. If you’re gone for too long, you’ll lose access to some features, including installing new alternative app marketplaces. Apps you installed from alternative app marketplaces will continue to function, but they can’t be updated by the marketplace you downloaded them from. We’ve contacted Apple for clarification on the duration of this “grace period” and are waiting to hear back.

Apple is allowing iPhone users in the EU access to alternative app stores in order to comply with the regulatory framework of the Digital Markets Act, which comes into effect for all 27 countries included in the bloc on March 7. The change means users can download apps from marketplaces outside of Apple’s own App Store for the first time.

In iOS 17.4, EU users concerned with the potential privacy, safety, and security risks of alternative app marketplaces can set their preferred alternative app store as the default App Store on their device via Settings. A Screen Time setting also allows parents to decide whether their children’s devices are able to install apps from alternative app marketplaces.

Apple says device eligibility for access to alternative app marketplaces is determined by using on-device processing, with only an indicator of eligibility sent to Apple. To preserve user privacy, Apple does not collect a device’s location.

The first alternative app marketplace will launch in the EU this week. German IT service provider Mobivention will launch its corporate-focused Mobivention App Marketplace on Thursday. MacPaw has also announced it will offer an alternative app marketplace sometime in April, while Epic Games also has plans to launch one.

For additional details about changes to the App Store and more in the EU, read our previous coverage. The changes do not apply outside of the EU, nor do they apply to iPadOS in any country.

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