Alternative app marketplaces won't work outside of the EU

Posted:
in iOS

A combination of on-device geolocation checks and Apple ID restrictions stop alternative app marketplaces from working outside of the EU -- even preventing app updates.

A screenshot of Apple Maps showing Europe
Apple is locking alternative app marketplaces to the EU



Apple was forced to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act by allowing alternative app marketplaces to install apps from outside the App Store. However, Apple treats this as a potential security threat and has locked down the system to a great extent some have called malicious compliance.

A support document first discovered by 9to5Mac explains how the company is handling policing alternative marketplace availability. The feature is only available in the EU and Apple has ensured that it won't work elsewhere.

There are two systems in place that will keep alternative app stores in the EU. The Apple ID must be set to a country in the EU and the user must be physically located in the EU.

Restricting alternative app marketplaces based on Apple ID region prevents users from casually traveling to the EU and installing one. It doesn't take much effort to work around this, but it is enough to stop most average iPhone users from doing it on a whim.

Apple also uses an on-device location check that can't be circumvented by VPNs. The user's location isn't sent to Apple, but an indicator of eligibility is.

That means curious users can't create an Apple ID, set it to Germany, and disguise their location using a VPN to install alternative marketplaces.

Traveling to the EU won't work either, at least for long. There is a short-term travel allowance if EU users go outside of the geolocation boundary, but it isn't forever.

After a grace period some features will stop working, like installing alternative app marketplaces. Apps that have already been installed will still work, but won't be able to get updates.

Apple released iOS 17.4 earlier on Tuesday with the changes and APIs to support developers creating alternative app marketplaces in the EU. The features surrounding alternative app marketplaces are unlikely to be released anywhere else without regulation pressure.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    lam92103lam92103 Posts: 140member
    Apple keeps poking the bear and then wonders why the bear is chasing them.
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 18
    On device VPN apps may not circumvent this, but a router-based VPN should, as the traffic being sent to and from the iPhone will masked at the router level, so the iPhone shouldn't be any the wiser.
    williamlondonappleinsideruserbeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 3 of 18
    Thank goodness for brexit 
    aderutterwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    aderutteraderutter Posts: 618member
    On device VPN apps may not circumvent this, but a router-based VPN should, as the traffic being sent to and from the iPhone will masked at the router level, so the iPhone shouldn't be any the wiser.
    The iPhone is bound to use the cellular information to determine location also even with mobile data turned off - if there’s a cellular signal the device will know where it is. I would expect even taking the SIM out of the iPhone would probably not be enough as the iPhone will probably simply report the last determined location. 
    darelrexBart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 18
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,297member
    ForumPost said:
    Thank goodness for brexit 
    yeah, your economy has been amazing since then :D 
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondonnubusappleinsideruserlam92103
  • Reply 6 of 18
    lam92103 said:
    Apple keeps poking the bear and then wonders why the bear is chasing them.
    More the reverse: the EU thought Apple wouldn't comply and they did. That's the reason for the ridiculous $2 billion fine they levied prior to the DMA taking effect. They had to cash in before compliance. 
    williamlondonBart Ywatto_cobradarelrex
  • Reply 7 of 18
    darelrexdarelrex Posts: 138member
    "Malicious compliance," haha. Sweeney is so hilarious. Like, I guess he and Ek thought for sure Apple would just throw up its hands, and say, "Gee, I guess we have to do this everywhere in the world because the EU said so." Nope, try again. EU law applies in the EU. Waaaaah.
    carstenl.danoxwilliamlondonBart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 18
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,091member
    lam92103 said:
    Apple keeps poking the bear and then wonders why the bear is chasing them.
    It seems that bear is geofenced.
    danoxwilliamlondonBart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 18
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,990member
    lam92103 said:
    Apple keeps poking the bear and then wonders why the bear is chasing them.
    I think the bear poked them first. 
    williamlondonBart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 18
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,990member
    Let them stew in their own juice. If they want to impose a virus and scam ridden store on their people. Let them. Just make Sure Apple makes it clear that you leave the garden at your own risk—warranty voided for open-marketplace damage. 
    williamlondonBart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 18
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,097member
    Fork in Bear :smile: 
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 18
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,638member
    danox said:
    Fork in Bear :smile: 
    I had to read that three times before I got it.
    Bart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 18
    igorskyigorsky Posts: 764member
    lam92103 said:
    Apple keeps poking the bear and then wonders why the bear is chasing them.
    Except that this bear chases so it can stick its paws in people’s wallets. 
    Bart Ybeowulfschmidtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 18
    NaiyasNaiyas Posts: 107member
    On device VPN apps may not circumvent this, but a router-based VPN should, as the traffic being sent to and from the iPhone will masked at the router level, so the iPhone shouldn't be any the wiser.
    iPhones have GPS assist so whilst a proxy location is initially determined by things like WiFi, Cellular network, IP address, etc. After a short time the full GPS satellite driven location is determined. So no, a router based VPN will not help much as location is not IP driven.

    I would also guess that the eligibility tag is time stamped, so even if location services were disabled after location eligibility was confirmed, there would be an ongoing requirement to refresh the tag after the “grace period” expired.
    Bart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 18
    dutchlorddutchlord Posts: 241member
    Alternative stores are DOA.
    Bart Ywatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 18
    On device VPN apps may not circumvent this, but a router-based VPN should, as the traffic being sent to and from the iPhone will masked at the router level, so the iPhone shouldn't be any the wiser.
    I can't imagine ever wanting to circumvent this.  What would be my incentive for making my device less secure? 😏
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 18
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,387member
    On device VPN apps may not circumvent this, but a router-based VPN should, as the traffic being sent to and from the iPhone will masked at the router level, so the iPhone shouldn't be any the wiser.
    Doubtful. Because of Apple Maps and similar GPS-based features, Apple still knows where you and your iPhone are. As I recall, even after toggling everything off, Apple can still log your approximate location using their analytics.

    Apple, Google and Microsoft like and understand toggle settings. ;)
    edited March 7
  • Reply 18 of 18
    FlytrapFlytrap Posts: 61member
    On device VPN apps may not circumvent this, but a router-based VPN should, as the traffic being sent to and from the iPhone will masked at the router level, so the iPhone shouldn't be any the wiser.
    This does not make any sense… a router-based VPN is not going to change the location eligibility indicator that is generated on your iPhone and sent via the VPN to Apple’s servers… it will simply change the IP address based location - which Apple does not even use to determine eligibility.
    watto_cobra
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