iOS 17.4 alternative iPhone app stores will stop working if you travel outside the EU

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iOS 17.4 in the European Union brings Apple’s first operating system release that complies with the regulatory framework of the Digital Markets Act. This includes support for alternative app stores — or as Apple calls them, ‘alternative app marketplaces’ — which allows iPhone users to download apps from outside the walls of the Apple App Store for the first time.

The availability of functionality is geo-restricted to the EU only, and Apple has detailed for the first time how it detects this. But perhaps more surprisingly, it also turns out that existing app marketplaces you have downloaded to your device will stop working if you leave the EU for too long.

In a new support document, Apple explains that availability of app market places is meant to be available only to customers in the European Union.

Apple says in order for its system to consider you eligible, the country or region of your Apple ID must be set to one of the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

CountriES FOR iOS 17.4 Alternative App Marketplaces

Additionally, you must be physically located in the European Union. The geolocation check happens on device and your exact location is not shared with Apple’s servers.

As long as your Apple ID origin is one of those countries, and you physically reside in them, the app marketplace features will be available. When available, you will be able to install an alternative app store through the browser to download apps from outside of the Apple App Store.

However, what might be unexpected is that your eligibility can be revoked if the system notices your location changes. Apple says there’s a ‘grace period’ for short travel, but for longer stays outside of an eligible EU market, access to app marketplaces will be revoked. The exact period of time is not specified.

In this state, you won’t be able to install new app marketplaces, and any apps you previously installed from an alternative app marketplace will no longer be able to update themselves. You’ll either have to return to an eligible physical location, or delete the app and redownload an equivalent from the Apple App Store.

This potential customer support problem is yet another reason why third-party developers may be unwilling to embrace the third-party app store system. At time of writing, no alternative app marketplace is actually available (although a couple of have been announced).

Also, as another reminder, this all only applies to the iPhone. iPadOS 17.4 does not support this as only the iOS App Store was deemed a significantly-large ‘gatekeeper in the eyes of the EU law.

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