May 24, 2024

Apple to Allow Sideloading and Third Party App Stores in Europe

According to statements from Apple’s latest financial filing, the company is reportedly getting ready to allow third-party iOS app stores and app sideloading in Europe. This would be a massive change for the tech giant, which is historically known for allowing iPad and iPhone users to download apps only from the iOS app store.

The shift in Apple’s policy comes in the face of its intensifying battles with regulators on several matters, including the company’s exclusive control of the distribution of iOS apps.

If Apple goes ahead with the changes hinted at by its financial filing statements, users in Europe will also be able to download and install apps from the web.

A Move to Comply With the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA)

Apple’s decision to allow app sideloading and third-party iOS app stores is most likely a result of the European Union (EU) Digital Markets Act. The act, which, according to a press release by the European Commission, is aimed at enacting  “rules for digital gatekeepers to ensure open markets”, requires “gatekeepers” to open up app stores to their rivals.

As a gatekeeper for iOS apps, Apple is required to comply with the DMA’s requirements when its requirements come into effect next year.

The schedule laid out by the EU for potentially affected companies to comply with the act is rather complex.

The companies in question will be required to notify regulators, following which a commission would determine if they actually need to go ahead with the changes. However, the EU has given gatekeeper companies a deadline of March 6, 2024.

Besides allowing third-party app stores and sideloading, Apple may also have to make a number of other changes under the Digital Markets Act. For instance, the act may prohibit Apple from shipping apps preloaded.

The company might also have to open up its messaging apps and start allowing payments from third-party services.

The latter has been a hot topic of contention in recent times, with regulators accusing Apple and Google of forcing developers to use their respective payment systems through unfair practices.

While some of these changes must be made by the March 2024 deadline, Apple has a bit more breathing room to enact the others. Failure to comply with the DMA’s mandates will cost the company a hefty penalty of up to 10% of its global annual turnover.

Apple Warns Against Cybersecurity Challenges

While Apple ultimately relented to the DMA’s requirements, the company has consistently pushed back against proposals to allow app sideloading by citing potential cyber threats. The tech giant presented supporting evidence and relevant white papers, arguing that allowing app sideloading will significantly hamper the security of iOS users.

Back in 2021, Apple argued that if it allowed sideloading, iPhone users wouldn’t know who to trust and would constantly have to watch out for scams. This, Apple said, might result in people downloading fewer apps, only from a handful of developers they trust.

While regulators are pushing for greater App Store competition, consumers continue to overwhelmingly prefer the App Store’s unmatched security, centralization, and convenience.Morgan Stanley

Apple has warned that the company expects to make further changes in accordance with the DMA’s legislative requirements in the future.

These changes could potentially affect the company’s business, including its handling of apps outside the App Store, the extent to which developers can communicate with users inside the App Store on alternative payment methods, and how much developers are charged for access to Apple’s platforms.

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