It’s no secret that many users and creators are frustrated by Apple’s strict policies, as the company takes an in-app purchase fee of 30% for all iOS apps and services. However, according to a new report, Apple intends to open its ecosystem, which may greatly benefit NFT-based apps and expand crypto payments on mobile devices.
According to Bloomberg, which mentions several sources familiar with Apple’s plans, the company will make it possible for iPhone and iPad users to download apps from external sources other than the AppStore. The changes are required by the EU’s Digital Markets Act, under which tech companies must adhere to certain restrictions by 2024.
Initially, only Europe will get the support for external apps from marketplaces and third parties, the report states. However, the functionality could be extended to other territories if the regulations in those regions adopt similar rules.
The new feature will reportedly launch as part of Apple’s iOS 17 software update, which is set for release next autumn in accordance with Apple’s normal schedule.
Bloomberg reports that Apple is still debating whether to allow third-party apps to handle payments themselves instead of forcing them to rely on Apple’s payment infrastructure. A move like that, if implemented, would facilitate the spending of cryptocurrencies through iOS apps.
This change comes in the midst of growing criticism of Apple’s closed ecosystem, which is not only in conflict with Web3’s decentralized approach but has also brought limitations for apps wishing to provide NFT services. Earlier this year, Apple updated developer guidelines to specify that NFTs are allowed within AppStore apps — however, they cannot be used to unlock additional content or features.
Furthermore, Apple charges a 30% fee on every NFT purchase, something that is virtually impossible to enforce on secondary market sales. As a result, platforms like OpenSea and Magic Eden do not allow users to purchase or sell NFTs through their iOS apps.
Policy changes by Apple have also affected existing applications. In recent weeks, Coinbase announced that it would no longer support NFT purchases in its mobile wallet application, following Apple’s announcement that users would be charged 30% of any network gas fee (like on Ethereum). According to Coinbase, the demand was “impossible.”
A former Apple employee and co-founder of MetaMask, Dan Finlay, spoke out against Apple’s “abuse of monopoly” in a tweet supporting Coinbase. “I’ll stand in solidarity here,” he said, suggesting MetaMask may be next to be affected by Apple’s policies.
Apple’s plan to open its ecosystem could be a boon for NFTs and crypto apps, which have been restricted or hindered by the AppStore limitations. According to the plans, outside apps could be installed via third-party sources and will not rely on Apple’s restrictive policy. Bloomberg claims, however, that Apple might impose additional security measures on these applications.
Aside from that, Apple’s decision could be beneficial to Web3 since Apple is reportedly working on a mixed-reality headset that will likely be released in 2023. Developers of Web3 are working towards a metaverse based on interoperability, with NFTs representing ownership of assets that can be freely shared between environments.
It’s not just Web3 developers who are dissatisfied with Apple’s current ecosystem. Last year, Epic Games sued Apple for blocking its well-known Fortnite game after the videogame company added third-party payments to the game.
An earlier court ruling could have forced Apple to allow third-party payments, but it was delayed, resulting in the legal dispute continuing. Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, tweeted about Bloomberg’s report, urging American lawmakers to take similar steps to pressure Apple to open the ecosystem to the U.S. market too.
Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, also complained about Apple’s policies recently, questioning whether the tech giant was against free speech after Apple decided to cut its advertisement spending on the platform. In addition, Musk claimed that Apple considered removing the Twitter app but later explained it as a “misunderstanding” after meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook.