Apple announced historic, sweeping changes for its iOS, Safari, and App Store offerings across the European Union (EU), in a bid to comply with Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules that go into effect in March.

Apple has long faced criticism about a walled garden approach for its App Store while developers have complained about high levels of commission they’re required to pay the company.

Apple stated the changes include “more than 600 new APIs, expanded app analytics, functionality for alternative browser engines, and options for processing app payments and distributing iOS apps”.

Third-party app stores will be allowed on iOS, which will break up the Apple App Store’s position as the lone distributor of iPhone apps. The changes will become available across the EU with the release of iOS 17.4 in March.

For the first time, Apple’s EU customers will be able to legally download software from outside its App Store through new app marketplaces. The apps in those stores need to be authorised by Apple to work on its software and to ensure they comply with the DMA.

Apps installed from the alternative sources using Apple’s APIs will show up in settings, with details about when they were downloaded and from where.

When developers upload an app for Europe, they will be able to pick which app store they’d like to distribute it from. Apple will institute a notarisation process for the apps to scan them for malware and other code issues.

While Apple has historically controlled the billing process it will now allow app developers to bill their customers directly. Apple will let them take credit card numbers inside the app, or app developers can choose to link users to their websites to collect payment information.

Bloomberg reported Apple has charged developers a commission up to 30 per cent since the App Store launched in 2008.

Apple stated developers of apps on its app store will pay a reduced commission of either 10 per cent or 17 per cent on transactions for digital goods and services.

The company noted while the new changes comply with the DMA, it believes the new regulations puts its users at risk for scams, fraud and abuse because apps that don’t go through Apple’s App Store aren’t reviewed for content and could contain malware.

It also warned that some new browser apps enabled by the DMA that don’t use Apple Webkit could impact system performance and battery life.