Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman this week reported that Apple is preparing to allow alternative app stores on the iPhone and iPad in the European Union, as part of an effort to comply with the Digital Markets Act, which goes into full effect in 2024. The report said Apple is aiming for the changes to be introduced as part of iOS 17.
Best Third-Party App Stores on iPhone
In a research note this week, a trio of analysts at investment bank Morgan Stanley argued that third-party app stores and sideloading would pose a “limited risk” to both App Store revenue and Apple’s overall revenue given that iPhone users have “long prioritized the security, centralization, and convenience that the App Store brings.”
Importantly, the proposed changes in the Digital Markets Act (DMA) are regulator-driven, not consumer-driven. From the consumer perspective, we see very little demand for alternatives to the App Store given the unmatched security, ease of use (centralization), and reliability the App Store provides. According to our Fall 2022 Smartphone survey, less than 30% of iPhone owners are extremely likely to purchase a mobile app directly from a developer website vs. the App Store.
In an implausible worst-case scenario where Apple somehow lost the entirety of its App Store revenue in Europe as a result of competition from third-party app stores, the analysts estimated this would equate to just a 4% hit to Apple’s services revenue and a 1% hit to Apple’s total revenue. If third-party app stores are allowed globally, the analysts forecast around a 9% hit to services revenue and around a 2% hit to total revenue.
In reality, the impact on Apple’s revenue could be far less, as the analysts believe it’s likely Apple would still receive a commission on purchases made through third-party app stores. In the Netherlands, for example, Apple’s standard 30% commission is reduced by only 3% for dating apps using third-party payment systems.
While there are still a lot of question marks surrounding third-party app stores and sideloading, Morgan Stanley believes that the reported changes do not present a material risk to App Store revenue/growth or the long-term performance of Apple’s stock.