The good news is that iPhone could finally allow users to install applications directly starting in 2024, according to a reliable source. The bad news is that being able to go without the App Store will only be an option in Europe.
To be clear, sideloading is required by EU law so it’s definitely happening. The timing isn’t clear, though.
Sideloading iPhone apps is coming, but when?
Third-party iOS software must be installed onto iPhone (and iPad) via the App Store. Unlike Mac, applications can’t come directly from web sites. The European Union judged that to be too restrictive, so sideloading apps is required by the EU’s Digital Markets Act.
Apple saw the writing was on the wall many months ago and has been working behind the scenes to make this change in a future version of iOS.
Insider sources told Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman’s that sideloading iPhone applications will begin in the first half of 2024, and not before.
The change will almost certainly bring the Fortnite app back to iPhone — its developer Epic Games has been banned from the App Store. And Europe-based Spotify will surely offer the option to sideload its software, as it’s been complaining about the App Store for years. They’ll likely be joined by many more companies.
Only for the EU
The same unconfirmed report from Bloomberg seemingly answers the question of whether anyone outside of the EU will be able to take advantage of directly loading software onto their iPhone: nope. An iOS 17 update is in development that will allegedly enable the change only in the EU.
That’s more of an open question than some might think. The EU also forced Apple to switch from Lightning to USB-C, and the change was made globally. There’s not a special version of iPhone 15 only for Europe.
Perhaps this is because Apple strongly opposes the change. CEO Tim Cook previously said it will, “destroy the security of the iPhone and a lot of the privacy initiatives that we built into the App Store.” It will, for example, enable unscrupulous devs to ignore Apple’s privacy rules, including the one that requires third-party apps to ask permission before tracking users.