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May 22, 2024

Apple Forced to Allow Sideloading on iPhones in EU to Comply with Antitrust Rules

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Written by AiBot

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Jan 17, 2024

Apple is making major changes to allow sideloading of third-party apps on iPhones and iPads in Europe to comply with new EU antitrust rules. The company will reportedly split its App Store into two versions – one for Europe to adhere to the EU Digital Markets Act (DMA) – by the March 7th deadline.

Background

The epic dispute between Apple and the EU over the App Store and allegations of anti-competitive behavior has been simmering for years. The EU has taken issue with Apple’s walled garden approach that forces developers to use the App Store and pay Apple’s 30% commission on digital sales.

Last year, the EU’s Digital Markets Act was approved, designating Apple a “gatekeeper” subject to new regulations. The DMA aims to open up digital markets by forcing companies like Apple to allow sideloading of apps outside the App Store.

Apple has vehemently fought against sideloading, arguing it would compromise security and privacy. But with hefty fines for non-compliance, Apple has little choice but to implement changes for iPhone and iPad users in the EU.

Impending Changes

To avoid being in violation of EU rules, Apple will reportedly introduce a separate App Store specifically for Europe in the coming weeks before the March 7th DMA deadline.

The European App Store will allow sideloading of apps hosted by third parties outside of Apple’s control. Apple may also be forced to allow alternative payment systems within the EU App Store, bypassing Apple’s 30% cut.

However, Apple does not intend to roll out these changes globally. For iPhone and iPad users outside Europe, the App Store experience will remain unchanged with no option for sideloading.

What Sideloading Means

Opening up sideloading represents a major shift for Apple’s famously closed iOS ecosystem. Currently, apps can only be installed on iPhones and iPads through the official App Store, with Apple reviewing every app for security, privacy and policy compliance before approval.

Sideloading would enable users to install apps from any source through direct downloads or third-party app stores. Users could access apps banned by Apple or those avoiding Apple’s 30% fee.

However, sideloading also raises significant security concerns. Apple argues sideloading leaves users more vulnerable to malware or privacy violations typically caught during App Store reviews.

To mitigate risks, Apple will reportedly [“strictly limit”]https://www.macrumors.com/2024/01/15/app-store-to-be-split-in-two/) sideloading capabilities and implement protections like requiring user consent before allowing each sideloaded app to access data.

But cybersecurity experts contend sideloading is ***”inherently less secure”** no matter the safeguards Apple implements.

What’s Next

The looming changes have sparked intense debate between Apple and EU regulators about how strictly sideloading should be regulated to balance antitrust compliance and user protections.

Further clashes are likely as details emerge on the exact policies and technical mechanisms Apple will use. And while sideloading is isolated to Europe for now, demands for app store reform continue mounting globally.

If sideloading succeeds in Europe without security disaster, calls for expansion outside the EU will intensify. But Apple insists “the best approach is to protect users while preserving their choice.”

For European users though, the era of iOS app exclusivity through the App Store is poised to erode starting in March. The long-term implications remain uncertain, but software freedom on iPhones just took a major step forward.

What Others Are Saying

Apple and observers around the tech world have weighed in on the impending sideloading mandate:

“We have worryingly little detail on how Apple plans to implement sideloading to meet new EU rules by early March.” – Nick Clegg, Meta VP of Global Affairs

“This could be a canary in the coal mine if app distribution via sideloading gains momentum.” – IDC analyst Ari Lightman

“Users should have a choice in how they get apps, but sideloading also introduces real security risks.” – Ferox CIO Ankur Nadhani

“Sideloading is the first crack in the garden wall. Where it goes from here will reshape app distribution.” – GlobalData analyst Rachel Foster-Jones

“Interoperability and sideloading requirements create vulnerabilities exposing users and sensitive data.”Apple statement to EU antitrust regulators

Key Events Timeline

| Date | Event |
|-|-
| April 2022 | EU Digital Markets Act approved designating Apple a gatekeeper
| March 2023 | DMA takes effect imposing new regulations on gatekeepers
| January 2023 | Apple CEO Tim Cook meets with EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager
| Mid-February 2023 | Expected rollout of sideloading for Europe App Store version
| March 7, 2023 | Deadline for Apple to comply with DMA rules

Sideloading Use Cases

If enabled in your region, sideloading opens up new possibilities for customizing and expanding iOS app capabilities:

  • Install specialty apps not allowed in the App Store like emulators or code editors
  • Try Android apps modified to run on iPhone hardware
  • Load工作 software banned in certain regions for legal or political reasons
  • Distribute internal corporate apps without App Store review
  • Develop and test experimental apps not ready for release

However, Apple warns that “apps obtained from other sources could have been tampered with or altered in ways that can undermine data security and user privacy protections.” So while power users may celebrate, average customers are better off sticking with the traditional App Store.

What Could Have Been

In an alternate timeline without sweeping EU regulation, Apple may not have opened iOS sideloading for many years, if ever:

  • Apple has fought fiercely in courts to defend App Store exclusivity
  • Allowing sideloading contradicts Apple’s core philosophies on software security and curation
  • CEO Tim Cook claimed sideloading would “destroy the security of the iOS platform”
  • But record antitrust fines finally forced Apple’s hand at least within the EU

So for European users long frustrated with Apple’s restrictions, change has arrived whether Apple likes it or not.

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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