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Apple may be making some major changes to its iOS operating system in the near future. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, iOS 17 will include a feature that will allow iPhone users to download apps from sources outside of Apple’s official App Store, a process commonly known as sideloading.
This is a significant departure from Apple’s current stance, which requires all apps to be downloaded through the App Store, a move that has garnered criticism from developers due to the 15 to 30 percent fees they are required to pay to Apple.
The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which went into effect on November 1, 2022, requires “gatekeeper” companies to allow other companies and developers access to their platforms and services. This includes Apple’s App Store, which has been the subject of antitrust scrutiny in recent years. The DMA is expected to have a major impact on Apple’s platforms, including the App Store, Messages, FaceTime, Siri, and more.
To comply with the new European regulations, Apple is reportedly planning to implement sideloading support in iOS 17 by next year. However, Apple has been vocal in its opposition to sideloading, claiming that it could lead to security and privacy risks for iPhone users. Nevertheless, Apple will be required to comply with the DMA or risk fines of up to 20 percent of its global revenue.
Gurman’s report also suggests that Apple is considering implementing a verification process for sideloaded apps, which could involve charging developers a fee for security checks instead of collecting money from app sales. Apple already has a verification system in place for the Mac, which allows users to download apps outside of the Mac App Store while ensuring their safety.
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If other countries introduce similar legislation, it could lead to the expansion of alternate app stores beyond the European Union. The United States is currently considering legislation that would require Apple to allow sideloading, which could further expand the market for alternate app stores. However, it remains to be seen whether sideloading will become a mainstream feature of iOS or if it will remain a niche option for tech-savvy users.