The source code for Apple’s latest iOS 17.2 beta showed that it will enable sideloading of apps on the iPhone, allowing users to download apps from third-party app stores.
The discovery was made by the team at 9to5 Mac, who identified a new public framework in beta code called “Managed App Distribution.”
How Apple allows sideloading
Initially thought to be related to modernizing mobile device management (MDM) solutions for enterprise app installations, this theory faced challenges as the iPhone already had this functionality. The presence of references to region locking further fueled speculation that this API might facilitate sideloading of apps to meet local regulations in certain countries.
Upon closer inspection, this API includes basic controls for downloading, installing, and updating apps from external sources, as well as extension endpoints for other apps to create similar extensions. It turns out that. Additionally, currently unused rights may be identified and third-party apps may be granted the necessary permissions to install other apps on his iPhone, allowing developers to establish their own app stores. It will look like this.
This development follows an April report outlining Apple’s intentions to lay the groundwork for app sideloading in iOS 17. If implemented, this change would mark a departure from Apple’s traditionally closed ecosystem, where users are restricted to downloading apps only from the official App Store.
Why sideloading is dangerous
Unlike reputable app stores that implement strict security measures, sideloading exposes users to a high risk of downloading malicious software. Apps obtained from unofficial sources may harbor malware, viruses, or other harmful elements that can compromise the integrity of your device and compromise sensitive user data.
Additionally, sideloading circumvents the regulatory framework imposed by official app stores. These regulations help ensure that apps meet certain standards, such as protecting privacy and adhering to ethical coding practices. Sideloading allows you to install apps that have not received such scrutiny, increasing your chances of encountering software with compatibility issues, privacy violations, and other undesirable features.
Additionally, sideloading raises concerns about intellectual property and copyright infringement. Users may unknowingly download pirated or unauthorized apps, violating the developer’s rights and exposing themselves to potential security risks. These risks are exacerbated by the lack of automatic updates and limited support for sideloaded apps, which can cause users to miss important security patches and updates. In summary, while sideloading offers flexibility, it comes with associated risks, making it a potentially dangerous practice, especially for users who want a secure and reliable digital experience.
How was Apple forced to make this decision?
Despite its drawbacks, sideloading allows iPhone users to download apps from external sources and provides iOS developers with an alternative that Apple typically takes 15 to 30 percent off App Store purchases. become.
The move to sideloading is seen as a response to new European Union regulations, particularly the Digital Markets Act, which is scheduled to come into force in 2024. These regulations force major technology companies, including Apple, to open up their services and platforms to other developers and provide services to their users. Option to download apps from various sources.
The move toward sideloading represents a notable adjustment for Apple, driven by an evolving regulatory landscape and calls for greater flexibility within the iOS ecosystem.
The European Commission has formally designated iOS and the App Store as “gatekeepers”, prompting the implementation of important changes outlined in the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). The European Commission recognized Apple’s iOS, Safari browser, and App Store as gatekeepers, which required adjustment within six months in accordance with DMA regulations.
As a result, Apple is now obliged to allow users to install applications directly on their iPhones, and one of the notable consequences of this is sideloading. DMA introduces far-reaching changes, allowing users to replace Siri with competing alternatives, while services like iMessage may change in the future.
Apple hasn’t made any official announcement about the feature coming soon to iPhones and iPads in the region, but this new discovery pretty much confirms this.
Failure to comply with these regulations could subject Apple to fines ranging from 10% of annual revenue, which could increase to 20% for repeat violations. Further implications could include the EU forcing Apple to sell part of its business or banning acquisitions.