Apple is preparing to shed its walled-garden approach to allow alternate app stores and sideloading on iPhones and iPads, reports Bloomberg citing people familiar with the matter.
The Cupertino tech has decided to change its approach in response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act that came into effect on November 1, 2022, which compels the so-called “digital gatekeepers,” such as Apple, to allow alternative app stores on its platform to offer more choice to iOS users.
For those unaware, Apple is against the practice of installing third-party app stores and sideloading apps from outside the App Store on iOS devices. As a result, iOS users are required to download apps only from Apple’s own App Store.
If Apple conforms to the new rules, it would enable customers to download outside App Stores on their iPhones and iPads without the need to use the App Store. However, the phone’s security will be the responsibility of the individuals who will need to be extra cautious while downloading apps from third-party sources.
Acceptance of the new EU rules by Apple would also bring some respite to developers who may not have to pay a 30% (or in some cases 15%) commission to the tech giant for in-app purchases.
Software engineering and services employees are allegedly working to make it possible for customers to download third-party software to their iPhones and iPads without using the App Store, adds the report.
Apple is applying a significant amount of resources to the companywide endeavor. It hasn’t been a popular initiative within Apple, considering that the company has spent years decrying the need for “sideloading” — the process of installing software without using the official App Store.
In lobbying against the new European laws, Apple has argued that sideloading could put unsafe apps on consumers’ devices and undermine privacy. Some engineers working on the plan also see it as distraction from typical day-to-day development of future features, according to the people. The company is aiming for the changes to be ready as part of an update to next year’s iOS 17, which would be in line with requirements.
Apple has always claimed that sideloading will “undermine the privacy and security protections” that iPhone users depend on, leaving them susceptible to malware, data tracking, scams, and other issues.
Hence, to limit users’ exposure to potentially malicious apps and ensure that the security of iOS users is not compromised, the company could consider “mandating certain security requirements”.
This could include apps installed outside of the App Store to be “verified” by Apple with specific security requirements and could also be charged a fee, said the cited source.
To start with, Apple is only planning to implement sideloading support in Europe. The tech giant has time until March 2024 to comply with the EU (European Union) order.
It will be interesting to see how Apple adopts to the new EU rules without compromising the security of iOS users. Not just this, the EU had recently officially signed its USB-C legislation into law that requires Apple to launch iPhones with USB-C from December 2024.