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Everything you hate about Apple could change thanks to leaked EU bill

A new bill making its way through the EU could be the best hope yet for improved Apple/Android compatibility.
By
April 22, 2022
Google Allo vs. iMessage
TL;DR
  • The EU is working on a bill that would target “gatekeeper” companies.
  • The bill could force Apple to open up its services and work with competitors.
  • This could have dramatic changes for Apple products such as iMessage, FaceTime, and more.

A bill making its way through the European Union could spell major trouble for Apple but bring welcome changes for everyone else.

The EU has a well-established reputation for tackling Big Tech, often taking measures the US refuses to take in the interest of protecting consumers. The EU is now pursuing legislation — the Digital Markets Act (DMA) — that would force Apple to open up most of its services and start playing nice with others.

MacRumors gained access to a leaked copy of the “final” version of the DMA, and it largely lines up with what was previously known. The DMA is designed to target “gatekeeper” companies, such as those that run a platform or service. By its very nature, the legislation would have a significant effect on a company like Apple, which is known for creating an entire ecosystem of services.

See also: Why iMessage is such a big deal

As part of the new changes to the DMA, one of the biggest services Apple would be forced to change is iMessage. The legislation would mandate that companies make their messaging, voice-calling, and videoconferencing apps work with rival services. Text messaging has become a growing point of frustration for Android and iOS users alike, thanks to Apple’s refusal to make its iMessage service work with Android or even the platform-agnostic rich communication services (RCS) protocol. Under the new legislation, the company could finally be forced to change that, as well as work with WhatsApp, Signal, and other services. Similarly, FaceTime would have to work with rival services like Google Meet or Zoom.

Another major addition to the latest version of the DMA covers the use of browser engines. Apple is well-known for forcing third-party browser makers to use the WebKit rendering engine that is built into iOS. As a result, the iPhone and iPad versions of Firefox, Brave, Chromium, Opera, Edge, and others are merely interface wrappers on top of the same engine Safari uses. This severely limits the amount of innovation third-party developers can offer their users. The DMA would prohibit this restriction, giving developers the freedom to use the browser engine of their choice.

Read more: iOS vs Android

A third major change the DMA would bring is offering users a choice of default virtual assistants. While many users end up installing another option at a later date, many other users have no idea that’s even a possibility. Under the new rules, companies would be required to offer their users a choice when setting up a new device.

There are several other features that would benefit users, including opening up in-app payment systems, allowing customers to select what apps they want to use during setup, and preventing companies from favoring their own apps and services over those of competitors.

In keeping with the EU’s tradition of looking out for consumer interests, failure to abide by the DMA would carry hefty penalties. Companies could be fined as much as 10% of their worldwide annual turnover, while repeat offenders could be forced to spin off portions of their business.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Commissioner for Competition, believes the DMA could go into effect as early as October. While the DMA would only apply within the EU, hopefully, compliance with the legislation would require so much effort that Apple and other companies will implement the changes worldwide.