iOS 17 could let iPhone users sideload apps

Apple is working on allowing iPhone users to download apps from sources outside its own store with the upcoming iOS 17 update.

That is according to Bloomberg’s resident Apple expert, Mark Gurman, who explained the change was necessary to comply with new European Union (EU) regulations, which came into effect in November 2022.

As explained by Macrumors, the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) make it mandatory for major “gatekeeper” companies to open up their services and platforms to other companies and developers.

That includes allowing their users to download apps from third-party stores or websites, a practice known as “sideloading”.

Failure to comply with these new regulations could leave Apple with a fine of up to 20% of its global revenue.

As it stands, Apple imposes strict security and privacy policies on developers that want to publish their apps on its App Store. It also prevents installing apps from any third-party sources on iPhones.

The company has argued that these policies protect users from software threats.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has specifically blamed the higher presence of malware on Android devices on sideloading of apps, which Google permits.

But critics of the approach have also pointed out that Apple earns a 15–30% commission from developers on purchases made through the App Store and from within apps.

They argue its real motivation for disallowing the practice is to prevent a significant loss in revenue.

To counteract the commission’s impact on their revenue, developers often charge more for subscriptions taken up through an iPhone app than when they do so directly via a website.

For example, Twitter Blue in the US costs $8 per month on the web but $11 when taken up through the App Store.

Currently, users who want to sideload apps on their iPhones have to perform a “jailbreak”, which means they have to gain unauthorised root access to the operating system.

That leaves them without most of Apple’s security protections, no automatic updates, a potential loss of their warranty, less battery life, and exposure to more system instability.

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