No, third-party iPhone app stores won’t work outside Europe – even with a VPN

After many years of Apple keeping its ecosystem firmly locked down, cracks have started to appear in its famous walled garden, with the newly released iOS 17.4 allowing third-party app stores for the first time. However, access to these is only available to users within the European Union (EU) – and don’t expect to be able to get around the restriction using a VPN.

As spotted by 9to5Mac, Apple has uploaded a new support document that outlines how it will make sure that anyone who wants to access a third-party app store is physically located inside the EU.

First, you must have an Apple ID that's set to an EU member state. As well as that, there’s a geolocation check to ensure that you're physically located in one of those countries. Apple says it doesn’t collect your actual location, only an indicator of whether you're eligible to use third-party app stores or not.

Interestingly, the geolocation aspect of Apple’s restrictions implies that even the best VPN services won’t be able to bypass them. That’s because a VPN can change your IP address to fool a server into believing that you're located in a different country, but a geolocation check happens on the device itself (usually using GPS), and therefore can't be spoofed in the same way.

Apple might use other ways to check your location, and it already has a system in place that does just this. Also as found by 9to5Mac, this system looks up things like your rough location (on a nation level, not your exact location), your Apple ID billing address, the region you are using in the Settings app, and the type of device you’re using.

The app stores are coming

The App Store on a phone screen

(Image credit: Shutterstock / BigTunaOnline)

Apple says that you will be able to access alternative app stores if you leave the EU for a brief “grace period,” but warns that if you’re “gone for too long, you’ll lose access to some features, including installing new alternative app marketplaces.” Apps you’ve installed will still work, but you won’t be able to update them. The company hasn’t said how long the grace period is.

Alternative app stores have only just been permitted, but one is already available to download. Called the Mobivention App Marketplace, this store is aimed at corporate customers who want a outlet for distributing their own business-focused apps. Other providers, like MacPaw, Epic Games and AltStore, have said they’ll be launching their own app stores soon.

Apple didn’t give a reason for why it's going so far to ensure that only EU citizens can access third-party app stores, but one reason could be to clamp down on the idea spreading to users in other nations. For one thing, Apple has repeatedly said that third-party app stores to which access is being enforced by the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) could be unsafe.

As well as that, they also represent a potential threat to Apple’s revenues – just one look at Apple’s onerous fees for developers who use third-party app stores shows you how worried Apple must be. While the company is being forced to open up in the EU, no other jurisdiction has followed suit, so it seems likely that Apple wants to contain the spread of alternative app stores as much as it can.

If you’re located inside the EU, you’ll be able to try out these new app stores pretty much straight away. If you’re not, all you can do is wait to see if Apple is forced to open up elsewhere.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Yes, Apple Vision Pro is being returned to stores – but this could actually be a good thing

We’ve officially passed the two-week return window for the Apple Vision Pro, which allowed people who purchased the headset on launch day to hand it back. Social media buzz has suggested that the Vision Pro was being returned in droves. However, inside sources suggest this may not be the case – and offer an interesting insight into who is returning their headset, and why. 

In our Apple Vision Pro review, we touched on the positives and negatives of using the device and rounded up our top three reasons why users may end up returning the headset. As Apple’s first attempt at a mixed-reality headset, the product was always going to be rather polarizing. It lacks the backing of familiarity that other Apple products like a new iPhone or MacBook always have at this point. 

Not to mention the fact that the Apple Vision Pro is expensive. Retailing at $ 3,499/ £2,788, AU$ 6349, it’s easy to imagine more than a few returns are down to buyer's remorse – I know I would slink back to the Apple Store as soon as I found even the slightest discomfort or annoyance (or looked at my bank account, frankly). Especially if I couldn’t get my prescription sorted out for the headset or just found it really uncomfortable. 

In fact, AppleInsider reached out to sources within Apple’s retail chain for more info on the headset returns and noted that discomfort is probably one of the biggest concerns when it comes to it. “Most of our returns, by far, are within a day or two. They're the folks that get sick using it,” one source told AppleInsider’s Mike Wuerthele. “The pukers, the folks that get denied by prescription-filling, that kind of thing. They know real quick.”

Influencer investments – gotta get that content!

The second group of people that seem to be making up most of the returns are influencers and YouTubers. Again, the Vision Pro is a product many people want to get their hands on, so it would make sense that online tech ‘gurus’ would want to jump on the trend at launch. 

With the two-week return window offered by Apple, that’s more than enough time to milk the headset for as much content as possible then give it back, and get your money back too. If you’re a tech content creator, it’s easier to look at the Vision Pro as a short-term investment rather than a personal splurge. 

“It's just the f***ing YouTubers so far,” one retail employee told Wuerthele. 

According to AppleInsider's sources, however, the return process isn’t as simple as just boxing the headset up and dropping it off. Each return is accompanied by a detailed, lengthy survey that will allow users to go in-depth on their reason for return and their experience with the product. This is great news in the long run because it could mean any future iterations of the Apple Vision Pro will be designed and built with this feedback in mind – and the Vision Pro is already arguably a public beta for what will presumably eventually become the ‘Apple Vision’.

Beyond AppleInsider's coverage, prolific Apple leaker and Bloomberg writer Mark Gurman has (unsurprisingly) chipped into the discussion surrounding Vision Pro returns. He reported much the same; some people think it's uncomfortable or induces sickness, while for others it's simply too much money. 

Gurman spoke to a Los Angeles professional who bought and returned the headset, who said 'I loved it. It was bananas,' but then went on to explain that he simply hadn't found himself using it that often, and that the price was just too much: “If the price had been $ 1,500 to $ 2,000, I would have kept it just to watch movies, but at essentially four grand, I’ll wait for version two.”

If users are returning it because they’re not using it as much as they thought they would, certain aspects are making them feel nauseous, or the headset is just really uncomfortable on their head, Apple can take this feedback in mind and carry it forward. It’s a common criticism of VR headsets in general, to be fair – perhaps some people just aren’t built for using this type of product?

You might also like…

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Apple Vision Pro blasts out of mixed reality and into real stores – here’s how to sign up for a demo

It felt almost odd to be standing in the rain outside of Apple's glassy Fifth Avenue flagship store on Groundhog Day and not be wearing my Apple Vision Pro. I'd barely removed the mixed reality headset in my first two days of testing the Vision Pro and the real world felt a bit flat. Until, that is, Apple CEO Tim Cook opened the swinging glass doors and opened the proverbial floodgates to new and soon-to-be-new Apple Vision Pro owners.

It is something of a tradition for Cook to usher in every new product at Apple's Central Park-adjacent location but this moment was different, maybe bigger. It has been almost a decade since Apple launched a new product category (see the Apple Watch) and so expectations were high.

The crowd gathered outside was not what I'd call iPhone size – the miserable weather might have been a factor there – but there were dozens of people somewhat evenly split between media and customers.

A cluster of blue-shirted Apple employees poured out of the store, which featured the giant white outline of a Vision Pro on the storefront, and started clapping and cheering (I'd heard them practicing cheers and getting amped up from inside the store), doing their best to substitute any enthusiasm the crowd might've been lacking. This, too, is tradition and I find it almost endearing but also just a tiny bit cringe-worthy. It's just a gadget – a very expensive one – after all.

At precisely 8AM ET, Cook appeared behind the glass doors (someone had previously double-checked and triple-checked that the doors were not locked so Cook didn't have to bend down and release a latch). He swung open the door and gave a big wave.

Soon customers who had preordered the $ 3,499 (to start) spatial reality computer were filing into the store (many pausing to take a selfie with Cook), while I waited outside, getting drenched and wondering if the Vision Pro is waterproof (it's not).

Image 1 of 5

Apple Vision Pro store launch

Tim Cook acknowledges the crowd. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 2 of 5

Apple Vision Pro store launch

Cook pops out and waves. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 3 of 5

Apple Vision Pro store launch

Tim Cook was in his element. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 4 of 5

Apple Vision Pro store launch

Waiting for the launch. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 5 of 5

Apple Vision Pro store launch

First guy on line. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Inside the store, which sits below ground level, the floor was packed. Vision Pros were lined up on stands similar to what I'd seen at launch. Below each one was an iPad, describing the experience you were about to have. Some people were seated on wooden benches near the back of the store, wearing Vision Pro headsets and gesturing to control the interfaces.

Oddly, though, not a lot of people were trying Vision Pros, but that was probably because Tim Cook was still in the room.

The scrum around him was dense, so much so that I noticed some nervous-looking Apple employees trying to gently clear a path and give the Apple leader some air. Cook, ever the gracious southern gentleman, smiled for countless photos with fans. He even signed a few things.

I stepped forward and Cook's eyes caught mine. He smiled broadly and said hello. We shook hands and I congratulated him on a successful launch. Then I gave him my brief assessment of the product: “It's incredible.” He brightened even further, “I know!” he shouted back over the din.

Apple Vision Pro store launch

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 1 of 4

Apple Vision Pro store launch

They put some of the Vision Pros on stands. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 2 of 4

Apple Vision Pro store launch

You cna see people in the back wearing them. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 3 of 4

Apple Vision Pro store launch

Tim Cook is surrounded. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)
Image 4 of 4

Apple Vision Pro store launch

Hi, Mr. Cook. (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

There wasn't much more to say, really, and I left him to get sucked back into the crowd while I took another look at the Vision Pro sales setup. In the meantime, customers were leaving with large Vision Pro boxes they'd pre-ordered. Thousands of the mixed reality headsets are in stores and arriving at people's homes (in the US only). This will be their first experience with Vision Pro.

The good news is, as I told someone else today, there is no learning curve. The setup is full of hand-holding and using the system generally only requires your gaze and very simple gestures.

There will be comments about the weight and getting the right, comfortable fit on your head, and some may be frustrated with the battery pack and that they have to keep Vision Pro plugged in if they want to use it for more than two hours at a time.

Still, the excitement I saw at the store this morning and in Tim Cook's eyes may be warranted. This is not your father's mixed reality.

Booking your demo

For the next few days, all demos will be first-come-first-serve in the stores. However, if you can wait until after Feb 5, you can book your in-store demo by visiting the Apple Store site, navigating to the Vision Pro section, and selecting “Book a demo.” Apple will guide you to sign in with your Apple ID. You must also be at least 13 years old to go through the experience.

Demos take about 30 minutes. An Apple specialist will guide you through the setup processes, which is fairly straightforward.

You'll choose a store near you, a date, and an available time. If you wear glasses, Apple should be able to take your lenses and do a temporary measurement to give you the right lenses for the demonstration (you'll be buying your own Zeiss inserts if you buy a headset.).

After that, you can go home and figure out how to save up $ 3,500.


♬ Epic Inspiration – DM Production

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Here’s what third-party iPhone app stores will look like – and how they’ll work

Big changes are coming to the iOS App Store for users in the European Union (EU), as Apple has announced it will soon start allowing third-party app stores to distribute apps to users from a host of European nations. And now, we’ve gained our first look at what these stores could look like.

AltStore, an existing provider of “sideloaded” apps, has announced they’re working on bringing their own alternative app store to iOS. That will move the store out of its current gray area of providing unofficial apps and transform it into what its developer calls a “legitimate app marketplace“.

Right now, AltStore provides a range of apps that fall foul of Apple’s existing App Store rules. For example, it hosts Delta, a Nintendo games console emulator, and UTM, a virtual machine that allows you to run Linux, Windows and more on iOS.

AltStore’s developer did not outline exactly what changes it is planning to make, but one difference is likely to be the installation process. Right now, you have to install a server app onto your Mac or Windows PC, then connect your iOS device and install the app store from your computer. 

Once AltStore becomes has been approved by Apple as that “legitimate app marketplace,” you will likely simply be able to download the AltStore app directly to your iPhone, with no lengthy workaround process required. In theory, this will mean being able to download any apps you want, including ones that don't conform to Apple's own App Store guidelines.

The AltStore app running on an iPhone.

(Image credit: AltStore)

You'll also be able to set the likes of AltStore (assuming it gets approval) as your iPhone's default app store, and manage them in Settings. As Apple states in its explainer about the app changes, “users can manage their list of allowed marketplace developers and their marketplace apps in Settings and remove them at any time”. 

Your default third-party app store will integrate with some iPhone features like Spotlight, to help you find and use the apps. But if you delete that non-Apple App Store, this will also delete “all related data from the device and stop updates for apps from that marketplace”.

A seismic change coming to your apps

Browsing the App Store on an iPhone.

(Image credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The momentous change in Apple’s App Store policy will be implemented in iOS 17.4, which is currently in beta and is due for a full release in March. 

Anyone in the E.U. will be able to install apps from third-party stores, and any developer will be able to release their own app store as long as they meet Apple’s requirements for fraud prevention, customer service and experience, and can provide a €1m credit note attesting to its ability to guarantee user support. However, despite the potential for this move to upend the way European users get their apps, there are a few catches attached to it.

For instance, Apple says that restrictions you place on in-app purchases using iOS’s Screen Time feature will not work in third-party app stores. Likewise, Family Purchase Sharing will be limited, as will the Ask to Buy feature, while universal purchases – where apps you buy work across various Apple platforms – won’t be available. That’s because Apple won’t be facilitating payments on third-party stores, so won’t be able to implement these features. The company also says it won’t be able to help users with refunds, purchase history, subscription management, and more.

Apple has fought tooth and nail against this change, but its hand was forced by the E.U.’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will start levying hefty fines against companies that don’t open up their platforms from March onwards. Apple says this move is likely to provide “new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats,” and that it won’t be lifting its App Store restrictions anywhere outside the EU. It’s possible the company might even be able to stop you bypassing the geolocation restrictions using a VPN, too.

That said, opening up iOS in this way could lead to some more positive changes. Web browsers on iOS won’t be forced to use Apple’s WebKit engine, for example, and users will be given greater ability to change their default browser. Payment apps will also gain access to Apple’s NFC system, which could mean we start to see contactless alternatives to Apple Pay popping up.

With the EU breathing down its neck, Apple has been forced to begrudgingly make these changes. That could prompt other jurisdictions around the world to consider passing their own app store laws, finally blasting a hole through Apple’s long-standing walled garden. That’s perhaps something for the future – for now, AltStore has shown us what that future could look like.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

The Apple Vision Pro arrives in stores next week, but you can ‘see’ the AR headset at home now using… AR

Not many people have been in the same room as an Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset, let alone touched and worn the thing. But if you're itching to get close before the February 2 launch day, Apple has the next best thing on its Apple Store App.

People often forget that Apple does some of the best AR in the business, including some wicked occlusion capabilities that let virtual objects block the view of real ones that sit or move behind them – and Apple's AR rendering of its Apple Vision Pro is right up there with its best work.

If you're not already familiar with the mixed reality set that everyone is talking about, Apple's Vision Pro is the tech giant's first attempt at an AR/VR-capable headset. Apple calls the entire experience Spatial Computing. I've worn it four times now, and I've experienced movies, interactive AR experiences, incredible panoramic photography, and almost wept through realistic spatial video; and I've done most of it with little more than my gaze and subtle gestures.

It's a wildly expensive product, starting at $ 3,499, but that hasn't dampened interest (it reportedly sold out on pre-order and is a hot item on eBay), so it makes sense for Apple to give us this AR taste.

Image 1 of 6

Apple Vision Pro in AR

(Image credit: Apple)
Image 2 of 6

Apple Vision Pro in AR

(Image credit: Apple)
Image 3 of 6

Apple Vision Pro in AR

(Image credit: Apple)
Image 4 of 6

Apple Vision Pro in AR

(Image credit: Apple)
Image 5 of 6

Apple Vision Pro in AR

(Image credit: Apple)
Image 6 of 6

Apple Vision Pro in AR

(Image credit: Apple)

To find it, you'll need to open the Apple Store App on your best iPhone or best iPad. In it, look for the Vision Pro, select it, and then scroll until you see 'View in your space'. Tap this, and then point your phone's camera at a flat surface like your desk or kitchen table. Keep the phone still for a moment, and after Apple finishes analyzing the 3D contours of the space, a translucent Vision Pro headset will appear. Tap it to drop it onto the table. After that, you can use one finger to move the AR Vision Pro around, and two fingers to rotate it. You can also resize it with two fingers, but then it won't be represented at full scale (it's easy to snap it back to 100%).

You can also move your phone around the rendering to see the headset from all sides, and even get close and peer into the dual, 4K microLED displays, which appear to be showing some sort of landscape. It's an opportunity to get an up-close look at the features, materials like the recycled yarn woven band, the aluminum spatial photography button, and the digital crown.

There's even a MagSafe-style power adapter attached to one side with a woven USB-C cable running off of the Vision Pro, but instead of running to a nearby battery, the cable disappears at the edge of the woven band. There's also no option to depict the Vision Pro with the Dual Loop Band that will also ship with the headset; I think that's a shame, since I bet that's how many people will end up wearing the Vision Pro.

Ultimately, this is a chance to see what the Vision Pro will look like in your real world; however, one thing this AR experience can't do is replicate the feeling of all that money leaving your wallet.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Here’s how Apple could be selling the Vision Pro in stores

We're still not sure when the Apple Vision Pro is going to go on sale, but when it does start appearing in Apple Stores, it looks like it's going to come with its own dedicated display stand that shows off the mixed reality headset from all angles.

That's according to an intellectual property database filing discovered by a MacRumors contributor, and it comes with diagrams attached. The headset will apparently be positioned in mid-air, much as it was at its launch event.

The separate battery pack will be placed at the base of the Vision Pro stand, though not hidden away from view, and it appears that there are going to be two Apple Vision Pro headsets for each display mat in the store.

That's just about all we can glean from this filing, but it's interesting to get a glimpse of what Apple is planning – as it attempts to get shoppers to part with the $ 3,499 (about £2,760 / AU$ 5,225) required to get hold of one of these devices.

What's in store

All Apple has said in terms of a release date is “early next year”. Those in the know suggest that could mean January, but other reports have suggested it might be March. Training is apparently scheduled for Apple Store employees on how to demo the device.

While some flagship Apple Stores are expected to have hands-on areas where you can test out the Apple Vision Pro, that's unlikely to be the case at every outlet. However, it might be the case that buyers have to call into a store in order to purchase the headset.

That's because the headband, light seal, and prescription lenses (if required) all need to be specifically configured for each person. Don't be surprised if Apple lets you order the Vision Pro online but then tells you to go to a store to get it.

The high price and limited availability point to a piece of hardware that Apple isn't expecting to sell in huge numbers – but this is definitely the start of something big for the company, with rumors about future Apple Vision Pro headsets already swirling.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Nearly 100 Apple Stores in the US will reopen this week, but most won’t let you inside

Almost 100 more Apple Stores are reopening in the US this week, but in most locations, they still won’t let you walk inside: instead, they’re offering curbside or storefront service only.

Apple Stores began reopening in early May with a four-state rollout, which expanded to 11 states later in the month. The next wave of openings will enlarge that list to 28 states, with the majority of locations located in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas, according to 9to5Mac

It’s not totally clear why some locations are permitting in-store service while others aren’t, but it likely depends on local laws in various state, which have had different approaches to reopening public spaces as the coronavirus outbreak continues. Most of the Apple Stores reopening this week are restricted to curbside and storefront service only, but those that allow in-store service are almost all located in California, Florida, and Texas.

It’s also not clear when locations that only offer storefront and curbside service will open further to allow customers inside, but in the meantime, they’ll still permit order pick-ups (say, if you order an iPhone 11 for in-store pickup) and Genius Bar appointments so long as folks engage in state-required protective measures, like wearing masks and/or submitting to temperature checks.

  • iPhone SE 2020: the long-awaited mid-range redux from Apple
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020): our thoughts on the newest version of the powerhouse 
  • iPad Pro (2020): our hands-on with the newest iPad Pro

Apple Store reopenings: a different case in different countries

Following the course of the coronavirus outbreak, Apple Stores in China closed in February and began reopening in March right as the company confirmed that US stores would be closed ‘until further notice.’

While that seemed indefinite, a leaked internal memo revealed Apple had set a target of early May for reopening US stores, and has followed that projected window. Given the company has safely reopened Apple Stores across countries recovering from the Covid-19 outbreak, we’ll likely see more US locations turn their lights back on in the coming weeks. 

  • iPhone 12: the most powerful yet affordable iPhone on the market

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More