EU users can't update 3rd party iOS apps if abroad too long

Remember how Apple told you security was its paramount concern?

It really seems like Apple is doing everything it can to make its new EU compliance rules for third-party iOS app stores a pain for any user or developer that wants to take advantage of them.

Hot on the heels of Apple releasing iOS 17.4 to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act rules (which force it to give users greater control over their devices), Apple has published a help page describing not only how it intends to track EU users eligible for the new permissions, but also how it'll shut down access for Europeans spending too much time outside the bloc. 

Along with obviously needing an Apple ID registered in an eligible EU nation (listed on the help page), Apple will use on-device processing to collect "an indicator of eligibility" that's transmitted to Apple. That indicator will need to include determining where the device is located, but Apple said it won't actually collect device location. 

EU residents who leave the continent for short-term travel won't notice any effect, and will continue to have access to what Apple calls "alternative app marketplaces" and the apps installed from said markets. However, "If you're gone for too long, you'll lose access to some features, including installing new alternative app marketplaces," Apple said. 

It's not clear how long the grace period is, or when Apple will disable alternative app marketplaces for EU residents traveling abroad. It's also not clear how often Apple collects indicators of eligibility, or what other features may be disabled (eg, non-WebKit browser engines.) We've asked Apple for a statement, but haven't heard back.

As for what alternative app marketplace users stand to lose if they spend too much time abroad, Apple doesn't mention deleting app marketplaces or their apps, but does say that "they can't be updated by the marketplace you downloaded them from." 

"If not properly managed, alternative app marketplaces pose increased privacy, safety and security risks for users and developers," Apple noted, taking the same line it's been pushing since it announced moves to comply with the DMA. Ironically enough, Apple made that statement on its help page right after saying it wouldn't allow EU residents to update apps from alternative marketplaces, leaving users vulnerable to the very issues it said would arise from complying with the DMA. 

Anyone looking for further proof that Cupertino is complying with the letter, but not the spirit of the DMA, need look no further. ®

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