iPhone Features You Can’t Use If You’re Not in the EU

In Short
  • To comply with the EU's DMA, Apple made notable changes to its App Store policies and unveiled exclusive iPhone features for European users.
  • iPhone users in the EU can download apps from third-party app stores and websites, uninstall Safari, and pay using third-party wallets or banking apps.
  • App developers in the EU can request additional interoperability with iPhone hardware and software features.

Since the European Union’s Digital Markets Act went into effect on November 1, 2022, Apple had to make a lot, I mean I lot of changes to keep its ship sailing. Enforced in March 2024, the DMA shook up the Apple ecosystem to some extent. After legal challenges, Apple introduced a range of new features for iPhones in the EU to comply with the DMA and avoid penalties. These EU-exclusive iPhone features are not currently available elsewhere, including the United States.

While Apple added some big and small changes to its policies, some of them are extremely exciting. In this article, I’ve listed the best EU-exclusive iPhone features that no one else would get. If you’re living outside of the EU, like me, these features will make you realize what you’re missing out on. Trust me, you’re gonna envy the EU iPhone users after knowing these perks.

1. Access to Third-party App Stores

App Store Logo

One of the biggest EU-exclusive iPhone features introduced by Apple is iOS 17 sideloading. Since the giant released its iPhone software update in 2023, iPhone superfans have been excited to know if sideloading is coming in iOS 17 or not. After all the excuses and efforts to maintain its walled garden, Apple has to push those boundaries to avoid a massive lawsuit.

Finally, with iOS 17.4, EU users have the freedom to access alternative app stores. Now, that means iPhone users in the EU can download third-party marketplaces. This is where they can install apps that may not be available on Apple’s official App Store. Apple has ‘split the App Store in two’ to comply with the DMA. Now, the App Store has two versions. One is the EU-only version that allows access to third-party app stores. The other version will remain the same for all the other countries.

Any app developer has the freedom to create an app marketplace for iPhone users. Also, they can use third-party payment mechanisms for purchases. All they have to make sure that they meet Apple’s criteria for customer support, customer experience, fraud prevention, and more. McPaw’s Setapp has already launched its alternative app store on the iPhone in the EU. Of course, Apple won’t offer the much-opposed sideloading feature for free. To make sure it still makes money, Apple will charge a commission of 50 euro cents per install to the app developers. This will be applicable once the app reaches 1 million downloads annually in the EU.

Besides this, the company has explicitly mentioned apps that are distributed through third-party app stores won’t support certain features. These include features like Screen Time and restrictions on in-app purchases. These features aren’t supported because Apple won’t promote purchasing apps through alternative app stores.

Well, whatever the reasons and conditions, sideloading is one of the major changes Apple introduced for its EU customers.

2. Option to Uninstall Safari and Switch to a Third-party Browser

Safari 15 Bug on macOS, iOS, and iPadOS Can Leak Your Browsing History, Google Account Info
Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Another iPhone feature that would be limited to the EU is the liberty to uninstall Safari entirely and switch to third-party web browsers. Well, this has to be a huge change by Apple to comply with the Digital Markets Act. With iOS 14, Apple allowed iPhone users to choose their own default web browser. That said, there was no way to uninstall Safari, Apple’s built-in browsing option.

Well, that’s soon going to be a thing of the past now. Apple is gearing up to allow iPhone users in the EU to completely uninstall Safari by the end of 2024. Therefore, EU iPhone users will see a new choice screen where they can choose a default web browser. When a user opens Safari on iOS 17.4, they’ll be presented with a list of the main web browsers available. From that list, a user is prompted to choose the default web browser.

What’s more? By fall 2025, Apple will also offer more “user-friendly ways” to transfer data from an iPhone to a non-Apple device. When this happens, Google and Samsung can come up with better data transfer tools so a user to easily switch from an iPhone to an Android smartphone.

Thinking about Apple’s business model and its obsession with locking users into the iPhone system, it would be quite hard for the giant to open up its walled garden for the competition. Well, it had no other choice but to offer this option.

3. Download Apps Directly from Websites

Another EU-exclusive iPhone feature that will make other users jealous is the freedom to download iOS apps directly from a website owned by the developer. Yes, you’ve heard it right! Honestly speaking, I think it’s one of the most significant DMA-inspired changes yet. As long as the app developers are ready to comply with Apple’s strict guidelines, they have permission to distribute iOS apps in EU markets without needing a separate app store.

To make this happen, Apple is all set to launch a new Web Distribution feature via a software update, later this spring. To use this feature, developers will have to agree to the new App Store business terms that include a new commission rate. Developers will have to pay the Core Technology Fee of €0.50 for every first annual installation after one million installs. On top of it, developers have to meet certain eligibility criteria to distribute their apps via a website.

So, later this year, iPhone users in the EU can download their favorite apps right from a website. I mean how cool is that! I genuinely envy EU users on this.

4. Pay Using Third-party Banking or Wallet Apps

Third party payment option Apple
Image Source: Apple

Apple also made some significant changes to its contactless payments policy as a part of the DMA-compliant. Developers can now offer their own tap-to-pay solutions from within their banking or wallet apps while maintaining user security and privacy. Now, it means iPhone users in the EU can initiate NFC payments directly from a third-party banking app or wallet app, without the need for Apple Pay or the Wallet app.

Moving on, users can also choose and manage their preferred default contactless payment app via a new setting for contactless payments. Once chosen, the default contactless payment app can be launched by double-clicking the side button on the iPhone. The app will also launch when the iPhone detects an NFC field at compatible terminals.

5. Interoperability Requests Form for Developers

Apple also announces some additional perks for EU developers. To comply with the EU’s DMA, Apple introduced a new request form to allow iOS app developers to request additional interoperability with iPhone hardware and software features. For reference, Apple already provides developers with more than 250,000 APIs that allow them to access iPhone features and frameworks such as Bluetooth, microphones, cameras, SiriKit, HealthKit, and more.

Going forward, EU developers can submit requests for additional iPhone features and technologies for use in their apps in the EU. The giant will examine these requests on a case-by-case basis. And, if they are technically feasible and adhere to the Digital Markets Act, Apple will release additional APIs in future iOS updates.

Since Apple introduced a handful of App Store changes in Europe, the giant will also provide all the developers across the globe with updated analytics. Over 50 new reports are now available through the ‌App Store‌ Connect API so the developers can closely analyze their app performance. Some of the new metrics include Commerce, App Usage, Engagement, and Framework Usage.

Those were the 5 new exclusive iPhone features that only EU users will enjoy. At the moment, no other country, not even the US has access to these features.

Interestingly, this exclusivity story might change soon. Recently, The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for the iPhone ecosystem monopoly. The US government alleges Apple’s practices raise prices for consumers at the expense of locking users into its ecosystem. Also, it purposely puts restrictions on the app developers to crush the competition.

Since the DOJ is all set to shake up Apple’s business model and iPhone ecosystem with its ambitious lawsuit, we might see Apple extending some of its EU exclusives to the US. Or maybe, Apple is cooking something special for iPhone users in the US.

comment Comments 0
Leave a Reply