Apple's Phil Schiller Discusses Risks of Alternative App Stores on iPhone

Starting with iOS 17.4, currently in beta, Apple is allowing alternative app marketplaces on the iPhone in the EU. Apple made this change to comply with new regulations under the EU's Digital Markets Act, which takes full effect next month.

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In an interview with Fast Company's Michael Grothaus published today, Apple's former marketing chief and current App Store head Phil Schiller said there are privacy and security risks associated with these alternative app marketplaces:

"These new regulations, while they bring new options for developers, also bring new risks. There's no getting around that. So we're doing everything we can to minimize those risks for everyone," Schiller told me in a recent discussion about the privacy and security impact of the European Commission's Digital Markets Act.

One of these risks is the potential for users to download malicious or unsafe apps, although Apple will be notarizing all apps through a combination of automated processes and a basic human review in order to prevent these apps from being available on alternative app marketplaces as much as possible. Still, Apple has said notarization will not be as thorough as its App Store review process and guidelines that developers must adhere to.

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Another risk is that the App Store's strict rules surrounding objectionable content might not extend to alternative app marketplaces, according to Schiller:

"We have dealt with a lot of input from families, from governments, on things that we need to do to try to either not allow certain kinds of objectionable content on our App Store, or give users control over that experience to decide what’s best for themselves—and we have rules around that," Schiller says. "Those rules will not apply in another marketplace unless they choose to make rules of their own, [with] whatever criteria they come up with. Does that increase the risk of users, and families, running into objectionable content or other experiences? Yes, it does."

Schiller's comments reiterate many of the risks that Apple outlined on its website:

If not properly managed, alternative distribution poses increased privacy, safety, and security risks for users and developers. This includes risks from installing software from unknown developers that are not subject to the Apple Developer Program requirements, installing software that compromises system integrity with malware or other malicious code, the distribution of pirated software, exposure to illicit, objectionable, and harmful content due to lower content and moderation standards, and increased risks of scams, fraud, and abuse. Apple has less ability to address these risks, and to support and refund customers regarding these issues. Even with safeguards, many of these risks remain.

The full interview can be read on Fast Company's website.

Top Rated Comments

contacos Avatar
4 weeks ago
Well anything in life is a risk but if I want to jump out of a plane or install some 3rd party app, that’s my decision to make.

Score: 68 Votes (Like | Disagree)
erikkfi Avatar
4 weeks ago
This guy is genuinely just Apple marketing-speak in human form. I’ve never heard or read one insightful thing from him.
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bankshot Avatar
4 weeks ago
Every time Apple execs go through this song & dance about how risky it is to install software outside the App Store, they’re basically saying that the sandboxing built into iOS is garbage and doesn’t work. You can’t have it both ways. That, and we all know about the huge numbers of copycat scam apps that get through Apple’s review process.

The whole argument is disingenuous, and is clearly only about one thing: the risk of Apple losing that juicy revenue stream.
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
antiprotest Avatar
4 weeks ago

Well anything in life is a risk but if I want to jump out of a plane or install some 3rd party app, that’s my decision to make.

You are not wrong, but from Apple's perspective, not only do they not want to lose control, but when security issues inevitably occur, people will blame Apple for it, so I think they want to minimize that.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HobeSoundDarryl Avatar
4 weeks ago

Once again, the Mac already has third party access to apps direct from developers, in app bundles, etc. It's ALWAYS been this way. Odds are good that most anyone reading this has at least ONE app they've downloaded from a third party and NOT through the Mac App Store. Unlike these app stores he's referencing, this is GLOBAL availability to get Mac apps however anyone wants to get them... from ANY source.

iDevices sync passwords to iCloud which syncs them to Mac Keychain. The same passwords are generally as accessible on the Mac. Can you auto-login to your bank, your credit cards, etc on your Mac? Does it auto-fill passwords to the most secure sites you use? If so, some nefarious software able to access such stuff on iDevices can access such stuff on your Mac. The "organized crime syndicates" would have already harvested such passwords from Macs years ago.

How many long-term Mac owners have suffered financial catastrophes, had "bank accounts drained", lost their home and possessions, had their children taken into slavery, endured locusts/frogs/plague/famine because of evil doings of Mac apps in the 40 years since Mac was born?

Let the "Apple is always right" crowd sing the same chorus but all it takes now is patiently giving it a few months to see if millions of people in the EU are devastated by this new flexiblity. The EU has MORE people than the U.S. So, if the risk is as high as spun over and over and over again, the fire & brimstone destruction should be abundantly obvious very soon.

Another EU law basically "forced" the switch from lightning to USB-C. That was always spun as very negative by Apple and thus chorused by Apple fans as terrible too. That too was not spun as being about the money (proprietary port and licensing revenue). Remember wobbly? Lint-magnet? Broken tongues galore? It's been many months now. Where's the abundance of broken tongues? Where's the abundant USB-C port replacement kiosks springing up like cellular kiosks? I'm STILL finding lint in my pocket. The pre-change spin made it seem like I'd never have to clean the lint filter in the dryer again, but there it is every time... exactly as it was before the USB lint vacuums were installed.

Just like USB-C, this is much ado about nothing in terms of how it will destroy millions of people's lives in the EU. What it will do is undermine a very lucrative stream of easy cash for Apple. And that's the actual reason they are against it. Nobody with complete control of any kind of market wants to facilitate competition. And they always make up very good (sounding) rationale why they should retain complete control of a market they 100% own. Why? Because "We want to 100% retain this easy & very lucrative cash cow" doesn't come off as well.

Again, doubt it??? Just stand by and gloat when millions of EU people are devastated by this change. Then, Apple and Apple fans can spin "I told you so" to no end. It will only take a few months to either witness the rampant destruction or realize it was only another big pile of spin. The risk from this is limited to those places where third party options are possible (so not the U.S.). And even the fans in the EU who believe the spin can opt to just keep getting apps only from the Apple App Store until they see what happens.

My guess is there will be a handful of cases that will seem like big news... just as there are a handful of cases for Mac... just as there are handful of cases of iPhones spontaneously combusting. Otherwise, countless millions are about to enjoy getting the same great apps for less money (robust competition almost always drives prices DOWN) and will have access to stuff that Apple- for whatever reason- has decided people shall not have via their store (such as Epic games). I hope the EU people enjoy their better values and broader selection of apps. As an American myself, I envy your Mac-like freedoms for the iDevices you own.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
till Avatar
4 weeks ago
Yeah it's so easy to find "objectionable content" by searching for an alternative app store, downloading it, installing it, opening it, and searching for an app.

Or you could just open Safari.
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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