Apple still wants control of sideloaded iPhone apps in the EU


Sideloading means no Apple App Store
Sideloading means no Apple App Store, but Apple isn't giving up all control.
Graphic: Apple/Cult of Mac

Although the European Union requires Apple to allow sideloading of iPhone applications, Cupertino reportedly hopes to review apps before they become available for installation from outside the App Store.

Apple also expects developers to voluntarily send a percentage of all revenue generated through sideloaded iOS applications.

Apple hopes to control sideloading iPhone apps

Since the early days of the iPhone, third-party iOS software always had to be installed via the App Store. Unlike with the Mac, applications can’t come directly from websites. The European Union judged Apple’s tight control of the app ecosystem to be too restrictive, so sideloading apps is required by the EU’s Digital Markets Act. And the change must be implemented in iOS before the end of March.

But don’t expect a frenzy of previously banned applications to be available. Not if Apple has anything to say about it.

Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday:

“Apple’s approach to the EU law will help ensure the company maintains close oversight of apps downloaded outside the App Store, a process known as sideloading. The company will give itself the ability to review each app downloaded outside of its App Store.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook warned before the passage of the Digital Markets Act that sideloading “would allow data-hungry companies to avoid our privacy rules, and once again track our users against their will.” It seems Apple’s answer is to review iPhone applications before they become available for sideloading, and to block ones that circumvent Apple guidelines.

How Apple plans to enforce this restriction remains unclear. Also unclear is whether the European Union will allow the company to limit sideloading applications. The purpose of the DMA is to reduce the power of Apple, Google, Microsoft and other companies the EU calls “gatekeepers,” and deciding which apps can be sideloaded is classic gatekeeping.

Apple wants a commission fee, too

Apple also expects software developers that use sideloading to pay a 27% commission on all revenue generated by their Phone applications, according to the WSJ.

This is the same commission Apple wants U.S. developers to pay if their iPhone apps use an alternative payment system rather than billing in-app fees through Apple.

If you don’t live in Europe, don’t get too excited about sideloading. Opening the iPhone to sideloaded apps reportedly will only happen in the European Union. It’s the result of an EU law, not a change of general policy by Apple.


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