iPhone users in the EU next year will be able to download apps hosted outside of Apple’s official App Store to comply with European regulations, according to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman.
Otherwise known as sideloading, the change coming sometime in the first half of 2024 will allow customers to download apps without needing to use the App Store, which will mean developers won’t need to pay Apple’s 15 to 30 percent fees.
Writing in the latest subscriber edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said Apple will introduce a “highly controlled system” that lets EU users install apps hosted elsewhere. Apple also will reportedly alter Messages and payment apps as part of the changes, likely via a localized iOS 17 update.
Gurman’s update contradicts a recent report that suggested sideloading could arrive with Apple’s iOS 17.2 software update, which is expected to be released next month. The report mistook as sideloading-related some new code that has to do with an upcoming framework for organizations to distribute apps to employees.
The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which went into effect on November 1, 2022, requires “gatekeeper” companies to open up their services and platforms to other companies and developers.
The DMA will have a big impact on Apple’s platforms, and it could result in Apple making major changes to the App Store, Messages, FaceTime, Siri, and more.
Apple has claimed that sideloading will “undermine the privacy and security protections” that iPhone users rely on, leaving people vulnerable to malware, scams, data tracking, and other issues. Regardless of its stance, Apple must comply with the DMA or it risks fines of as much as 20 percent of its global revenue if the EU laws are violated.
In a December 2022 report, Gurman said Apple was considering implementing security requirements such as verification, a process that it could charge a fee for in lieu of collecting money from app sales. Apple has a verification system on Mac that allows users to be safe while giving them access to apps outside of the Mac App Store.
If other countries introduce similar legislation, alternate app stores could conceivably expand beyond the European Union. The United States, for example, is considering legislation that would require Apple to allow sideloading.