Apple is reportedly considering a split of its App Store into two separate entities to comply with the impending Digital Markets Act (DMA) in the European Union (EU). According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the tech giant might create a region-locked version for the EU, allowing users in that region to sideload apps. This move is in response to the DMA’s requirement for Apple to enable sideloading by March 7, 2024. If implemented, the EU App Store would become distinct from the global version, maintaining Apple’s walled garden while adhering to regulatory demands.
What is Sideloading on iOS?
Sideloading is the process of installing apps on a device from sources other than the official app store. For example, Android users can sideload apps by downloading APK files from the web or transferring them from another device. Sideloading allows users to access apps that are not available or approved by the app store, such as beta versions, modified apps, or apps that violate the store’s policies.
Apple has historically prohibited sideloading on iOS devices, citing security and privacy reasons. Users who wanted to sideload apps had to jailbreak their devices, which voids the warranty and exposes them to potential malware. Apple has also enforced strict rules and guidelines for app developers who want to publish their apps on the App Store, such as requiring a developer account, paying a yearly fee, and submitting their apps for review and approval.
The Rumored Change: Sideloading on iOS 17
According to a recent report by Bloomberg, Apple is considering allowing sideloading of apps on iOS 17, which is expected to be released in September 2024. However, this feature will only be available for users in the EU, as a response to the antitrust pressure from the European Commission. The EU has accused Apple of abusing its dominant position in the app market and harming competition and innovation by imposing unfair and restrictive practices on app developers.
The report claims that Apple will introduce a new setting in iOS 17 that will let users enable sideloading of apps from third-party sources, such as websites or other app stores. However, this setting will be disabled by default and will come with a warning message about the potential risks of sideloading. Users will also have to manually trust the app developer before installing the app. Additionally, Apple will still require app developers to comply with its privacy and security standards, such as using its App Tracking Transparency framework and obtaining user consent for data collection and sharing.
What This Means for Users and Developers
If the rumor is true, sideloading on iOS 17 could have both positive and negative consequences for users and developers. On the one hand, sideloading could offer more app options and flexibility for users, especially for those who are dissatisfied with the App Store’s selection, quality, or pricing. Users could also benefit from faster app updates, lower app costs, and more customization and personalization of their devices.
On the other hand, sideloading could also pose security and privacy concerns for users, as they could expose themselves to malicious or fraudulent apps that could compromise their data or device functionality. Users could also lose the protection and support that the App Store provides, such as app ratings, reviews, refunds, and customer service. Furthermore, sideloading could create compatibility and performance issues for users, as some apps may not work well or at all on iOS devices.
For developers, sideloading could also have mixed effects. On the one hand, sideloading could reduce the barriers and costs of entry for app development and distribution, as developers could bypass the App Store’s rules, fees, and review process. Developers could also reach a wider and more diverse audience, as well as experiment with new features and functionalities that the App Store may not allow.
On the other hand, sideloading could also increase competition and fragmentation in the app market, as developers would have to compete with more apps and platforms. Developers could also lose the benefits and advantages that the App Store offers, such as exposure, discovery, monetization, and analytics. Moreover, sideloading could affect the quality and reputation of app development, as some developers may produce low-quality or unethical apps that could harm users or the app ecosystem.