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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Apple May Allow Rival App Stores on Some iPhones and iPads

Apple’s gonna do what Apple’s gonna do—unless government regulations compel it to change.

A string of recent European Union regulations have forced Apple to loosen control over its tightly guarded product line. EU rulings have led to Apple establishing self-repair programs and will soon require Apple devices sold in the region to use USB-C charging ports. Now, Apple will allow some users to install third-party app stores and programs without having to go through its official App Store.

According to a report by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, Apple’s move comes as the result of another EU ruling, the Digital Markets Act, part of which prohibits large companies from forcing users to download apps solely through official channels. It isn’t yet clear how widespread the ability to access App Store alternatives will be. Apple could just roll it out to iPhones and iPads in the EU, where it is technically required to do so, and leave devices in the US and other parts of the world as restricted as they’ve always been. The new market requirements take effect in 2024.

Apple and Google keep tight grips on their respective app stores, vetting each app and supposedly ensuring that any software you download onto your device conforms to the companies’ rules around security and content. Both companies claim that letting users download programs from unverified sources could introduce security threats. While that’s technically true, the strategy has also made the companies bucketloads of money as they collect fees from developers who put their apps on the market. Sure, there will be risks to sideloading any old program on your phone. But Apple’s App Store certainly isn’t perfect, and has had malware sneak into it before. And no matter what device you’re using, you should continue to take steps to avoid app store scams.

Here’s some other news from this week.

Covid Tests Are Free in the US Again

Hey, remember Covid? Not only is the virus very much still a thing, it is making the rounds again, along with all sorts of cold and flu strains. (Maybe you’ve noticed how it seems like everybody is sick right now.)

To abate some of that virus spread, the US government is again making Covid tests free for a limited time. Each household is limited to receiving four free tests, but hey, that’s better than nothing. You can order the tests from the official Covid.gov site, or call 1-800-232-0233.

Hey Google, What’s the Matter

Google has announced that some of its smart home and Android devices are now enabled to work with the brand new Matter smart home standard.

Matter has been in the works for three years and is a joint effort by nearly 300 companies calling themselves the Connectivity Standards Alliance. The consortium’s goal is to smooth out the smart home experience by enabling devices to work together across brands. The interoperability standard officially rolled out in October, but few devices have implemented support. Now, Google says its Nest product line, Android phones, and Google Home devices will work with Matter.

It’s still not a seamless experience, as users will have to make sure their devices can establish a hub to incorporate Matter across them.

Lock Down Your Coins

Tony Fadell is widely known as “the iPod guy.” His work since the early days of Apple’s mobile device business cemented his legacy in the Silicon Valley hall of fame. Now, like seemingly everyone else in the technosphere, he’s decided to turn his efforts to cryptocurrency.

Fadell is working with Ledger, a French company trying to make crypto chic. The company’s newest device, the Stax, is a sleek physical wallet that acts as a vault for your digital coins. It may seem like an odd time to bet on crypto, considering that the market has been floundering. But Fadell—and some other tech bigwigs—are convinced that hardware wallets could be the future standard for securing everything from cryptocurrency to passports to concert tickets.

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This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, author and WIRED editor at large Steven Levy joins the show to talk about the iPod of crypto, and how many of our assets might be digital someday.

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