Setapp is opening its subscription-only iOS app store

An image showing Setapp’s app store open on an iPhone
Image: MacPaw

One of the first third-party app stores on iOS is getting ready to open up in the European Union. The software company MacPaw has announced that it’s releasing its Setapp store in beta on Thursday, with an official launch planned for April.

Setapp is currently only available on macOS and offers users access to over 240 third-party apps for a $9.99 per month subscription. Some examples of the curated apps available through Setapp include music software n-Track Studio, project planner MindNode, and the productivity app Session.

The new app store on iOS will feature a “carefully selected assortment of apps, including fan favorites from the Setapp catalog.” In addition to productivity and business tools, Setapp on iOS will also offer design software, utility apps, productivity services, and more.

Setapp’s new iOS app store will also be available with a subscription, but it’s unclear how much it will cost. MacPaw spokesperson Alyona Gorbatko tells The Verge, “The pricing will be tailored to standard subscription pricing models, but it hasn’t been defined yet.” If you’re interested in trying the new iOS store, you can sign up for the waitlist on Setapp’s website.

Apple’s previous rules against sideloading made it impossible for third-party app marketplaces to operate on the iPhone. Setapp, in particular, offers a unique approach to the app store business, as it makes all of its apps available through a single monthly subscription instead of having users pay individual fees for the apps they want.

“We are setting a new path for the software industry towards a better and more diverse app ecosystem,” MacPaw CEO Oleksandr Kosovan says in a statement. “We carefully curate our collection, ensuring that every app, every feature, and every update aligns with our philosophy of meaningful efficiency.”

In January, Apple announced that it would allow third-party app stores on iPhones as part of its efforts to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which goes into effect in March with the launch of iOS 17.4. This will allow iPhone users to download alternative app stores from the marketplace’s website, where they’ll be able to find apps that may not be available on Apple’s App Store. Just like third-party apps on macOS, any app distributed through an alternative store will need to be “notarized” by Apple.

Even though Apple is loosening some of its restrictions, there are still some concerns over whether third-party app stores will be able to succeed. Critics argue that Apple is steering developers away from putting their apps on a third-party store because they’ll have to agree to a different set of business terms. The new rules impose a “Core Technology Fee” that charges 50 euro cents per install once an app reaches 1 million downloads annually in the EU, which could hit popular freemium apps especially hard.