Alternative iOS App Stores Only Work for 'Grace Period' When Traveling Outside of EU

With the release of iOS 17.4, iPhone users in the European Union can access third-party app stores, but Apple warns that EU users traveling outside of the bloc will only have a "grace period" before some features stop working altogether when they're away.

App Store vs EU Feature 2
From Apple's support document detailing alternative app marketplaces:

If you leave the European Union for short-term travel, you'll continue to have access to alternative app marketplaces for a grace period. If you're gone for too long, you'll lose access to some features, including installing new alternative app marketplaces. Apps you installed from alternative app marketplaces will continue to function, but they can't be updated by the marketplace you downloaded them from.

We've contacted Apple for clarification on the duration of this "grace period" and are waiting to hear back.

Apple is allowing iPhone users in the EU access to alternative app stores in order to comply with the regulatory framework of the Digital Markets Act, which comes into effect for all 27 countries included in the bloc on March 7. The change means users can download apps from marketplaces outside of Apple's own App Store for the first time.

In iOS 17.4, EU users concerned with the potential privacy, safety, and security risks of alternative app marketplaces can set their preferred alternative app store as the default App Store on their device via Settings. A Screen Time setting also allows parents to decide whether their children's devices are able to install apps from alternative app marketplaces.

To gain access to alternative app marketplaces, the country or region of a user's Apple ID must be set to one of the countries or regions of the EU, and they must be physically located in the EU. Apple says device eligibility for access to alternative app marketplaces is determined by using on-device processing, with only an indicator of eligibility sent to Apple. To preserve user privacy, Apple does not collect a device's location.

The first alternative app marketplace will launch in the EU this week. German IT service provider Mobivention will launch its corporate-focused Mobivention App Marketplace on Thursday. MacPaw has also announced it will offer an alternative app marketplace sometime in April, while Epic Games also has plans to launch one.

For additional details about changes to the App Store and more in the EU, read our previous coverage. The changes do not apply outside of the EU, nor do they apply to iPadOS in any country.

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Top Rated Comments

Mrkevinfinnerty Avatar
19 weeks ago
They make 90's Microsoft look like the care bears.
Score: 106 Votes (Like | Disagree)
krspkbl Avatar
19 weeks ago
This behaviour from Apple is making me consider not buying an iPhone when it's time to upgrade.
Score: 67 Votes (Like | Disagree)
krspkbl Avatar
19 weeks ago
They are desperately trying hard to do the absolute bare minimum. Pathetic.

Hopefully other countries force them to add alternative stores.
Score: 62 Votes (Like | Disagree)
treacher Avatar
19 weeks ago

This behaviour from Apple is making me consider not buying an iPhone when it's time to upgrade.
Already beat you to it. 20-year Apple user here; tossed it all. Their true colors are loudly on display these past few years.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wanha Avatar
19 weeks ago

Already beat you to it. 20-year Apple user here; tossed it all. Their true colors are loudly on display these past few years.
curious... why do you keep coming to Macrumors and commenting if you no longer have any Apple devices?
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
j26 Avatar
19 weeks ago
The lack of ability to update apps while not in the EU is not good enough. It introduces a security hole, as security updates will be parked until the person returns to the EU.

This will affect tens of thousands of cross-border workers, and students like my daughter who is from Ireland, but goes to college in the UK. Ireland is not the only country with a land border with non-EU countries, or who imports/exports students. There will be many people adversely affected by this.

And this from a company that's supposed to be all in on security!
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)