In addition to allowing low-cost side loading of apps in the European Union, Apple will also implement the ability for developers to use the iPhone near-field communication that Apple Pay uses for other banking and wallet apps.
As part of Thursday's announcement of details surrounding the iOS 17.4 release in the European Union due to the Digital Markets Act, Apple is opening up the NFC system to any developer who wishes to use it for contactless payments. The additions include new APIs enabling developers to utilize NFC technology in their banking and wallet apps throughout the European Economic Area.
In the EU, Apple is introducing new controls that allow users to select a third-party contactless payment app or an alternative app marketplace as their default.
As it did with the announcement of allowing those alternative app stores, Apple is warning users of the risks that the company sees.
"Inevitably, the new options for developers' EU apps create new risks to Apple users and their devices," Apple says. "Apple can't eliminate those risks, but within the DMA's constraints, the company will take steps to reduce them. These safeguards will be in place when users download iOS 17.4 or later, beginning in March."
In May 2023, EU regulators had ramped up an investigation into Apple over its practice of restricting third-party access to its onboard NFC technology.
The European Commission has accused Apple of engaging in anticompetitive behavior since the launch of Apple Pay in 2015. The commission is concerned that Apple's restriction of the iPhone's built-in NFC chip to Apple Pay is preventing third-party companies from entering the mobile payment market.
In 2019, EU investigators asked payment companies for feedback on Apple Pay. They were concerned that Apple's decision to limit the iPhone's NFC chip to only work with Apple Pay could prevent other companies from entering the mobile payment market.
Several governmental agencies have criticized Apple for restricting access to NFC technology on their devices. Australian banks were among the first to take issue with Apple Pay shortly after its release. They attempted to boycott the service to negotiate access to the NFC hardware within Apple devices for third-party use.
However, the banks eventually backed down after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission denied the boycott request in 2017.