Alternative iOS app stores only work during a “grace period” when traveling outside the EU

With the release of iOS 17.4, iPhone users in the EU can access third-party app stores, but Apple warns that EU users traveling outside the bloc will only have a “grace period” before some features stop working completely when away.

From Apple Support document Details of alternative app markets:

If you leave the EU to travel for a short period, you will still be able to access alternative app markets for a grace period. If you're gone for too long, you'll lose access to some features, including installing new alternative app markets. Apps you installed from alternative app markets will continue to work, but cannot be updated by the market you downloaded them from.

We have contacted Apple for clarification on the length of this “grace period” and are awaiting a response.

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

In iOS 17.4, EU users concerned about 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 devices via Settings. The Screen Time setting also allows parents to decide whether their children's devices are able to install apps from alternative app markets.

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

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The EU's first alternative app marketplace will launch this week. German IT services provider Mobility It will launch its enterprise-focused Mobivention App Marketplace on Thursday. MacPaw also announced that it will offer an alternative app marketplace sometime in April, while Epic Games is also planning to launch one.

For additional details on the changes to the App Store and more in the EU, read our previous coverage. The changes do not apply outside the European Union, and do not apply to iPadOS in any country.

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