Gurman says that Apple won't bring sideloading to the U.S. with iOS 17

Gurman says that Apple won't bring sideloading to the U.S. with iOS 17
All those iPhone users looking forward to sideloading apps on iOS 17 take one giant step forward. Those in the U.S., not so fast.  According to Bloomberg's ace Apple reporter Mark Gurman, who made the comments on a MacRumors podcast (via 9to5Google), iOS 17 will not allow sideloading in the U.S. Perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise since Apple has been forced against its will to allow sideloading by the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Gurman says iPhone sideloading on iOS 17 will be limited to the 27 countries belonging to the EU

Simply put, sideloading is the installation of apps from a third-party app store. Android users are allowed to sideload apps and some do from third-party app storefronts like the Amazon Appstore. However, it has always been Apple's contention that sideloading would allow apps not vetted by the company to infect iPhone units with malware. Last year, a letter signed by Apple's senior director of government affairs, Timothy Powderly, blamed sideloading for the surge in malware found on Android devices.

So the bottom line is that iOS 17 will allow sideloading on iPhone units only in the countries where the DMA is applicable. The 27 countries where sideloading will be allowed on iOS 17 include:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Unfortunately for iPhone users in the U.K. who are in favor of sideloading, Brexit took place in January 2020 which took the country out of the EU. In other words, the U.K. no longer follows EU regulations.

Gurman believes that Apple will handle this in the same manner it handled a change it was forced to make to the App Store in the Netherlands last year. A Dutch regulatory agency demanded that Apple allow users of dating apps in the Netherlands to bypass Apple's in-app payment platform and use other payment options when making in-app purchases. Apple allowed the dating apps to offer a version in the Netherlands that gives users the ability to pay for in-app purchases through alternate non-Apple platforms. But everywhere else, this option is not offered.

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In the podcast, Gurman said, "I think it will be a Europe-only feature. I think that they’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot and expand this globally if they don’t have to. I think they're going to play it similarly to other changes they've made to the App Store. If you remember, there was that change in the Netherlands around dating apps and the percentage there. And so you have to install a special profile, you have to go through some sort of hoops to do it, and it was very under the radar."

Apple might charge developers to allow their apps to be sideloaded on an iPhone in the EU

He added, "So I think they’re going to push more in that direction. I would be a bit surprised if they announced it at WWDC and made this a highlight consumer feature. I think they want to sort of downplay it as much as possible. At the same time, I think this has been a major undertaking inside the company. This has been a exhaustive project across the board, across several divisions, across Services, across software engineering, across any departments at Apple. Legal, marketing, the App Store department certainly."

Gurman said that this whole process is going to cost Apple money. He expects the company to follow the strict letter of the law and not offer anything extra that they don't have to. He does expect Apple to charge developers some sort of fee to have their apps available to be sideloaded on iPhone units running iOS 17 in the EU. Gurman believes that Apple will have a review process for these apps and developers.

If Gurman is right, sideloading will not even be mentioned by Apple at WWDC and will not exist outside of the aforementioned 27 member countries of the EU. What would it take to get Apple to allow sideloading in the States? Legislation that makes it out of Congress and gets signed by the president would do it. Gurman says that perhaps what is happening in the EU will energize lawmakers in the U.S. giving them an incentive to write some bills that would force Apple to allow sideloading in the U.S.

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