With the release of iOS 17, Apple is rumored to be preparing the groundwork for side-loading applications, finally giving iPhone users access to functionality that has been available on Android, PC, and MacOS for a long time. This is according to a new story from Bloomberg(opens in new tab) concerning Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that will take place in June 2023. At this conference, we also anticipate learning more about Apple’s AR/VR headset and other improvements.
The iPhone ecosystem has always been very much like a walled garden, as consumers have only been able to download programs via the official App Store that is offered by Apple. With this upgrade, iPhone users will finally be able to download apps that are hosted by companies other than Apple’s App Store. This would provide iOS developers with a means to avoid Apple’s 15 to 30 percent share of any transactions made through the App Store.
It is not yet clear whether this indicates that sideloading will be available with iOS 17 or whether this simply suggests that Apple is making tweaks to its operating system in order to enable this possibility at some point in the future.
In either case, this is a significant step for Apple. The business has maintained for a long time that permitting sideloading would compromise the safety of its ecosystem and expose iPhone users to the risk of being targeted by malicious software, fraud, and other types of cyberattacks. When asked about the practice just a few years ago, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, claimed that it would “destroy the security of the iPhone.”
However, Apple is now being forced to comply with a new set of laws in Europe. The Digital Markets Act of the European Union will bring about a major reset to the digital rulebook of the EU when it is finally implemented in 2024. The statute requires large technology businesses to open up their services and platforms to developers from other companies and to provide consumers with the option of downloading applications from a variety of different sources.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has plans to include support for sideloading by the beginning of the following year in order to comply with the new restrictions that have been implemented in Europe. However, given how adamantly Apple has opposed opening up its walled garden, it is highly likely that the company will continue to resist the need until the very last second it possibly can. Therefore, it could be quite some time before you are able to sideload any applications onto your iPhone.
As an illustration of this, back in December, there were initial reports that Apple was working toward complying with the new law. Since then, we haven’t heard a word from them.
There is a possibility that other operating systems outside iOS will receive updates. According to the rumor, Apple will also introduce software updates for its operating systems macOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS at WWDC 2023. Even though these operating systems are scheduled to receive some relatively minor updates, it appears that the most significant revision will be made to watchOS 10.