The days of the App Store being the only way to download apps and make purchases on the iPhone are slowly coming to an end. Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Apple will have to let apps link to other payment options, putting an end to the company’s anti-steering practices. In the coming months, Apple will begin to allow sideloading apps in European Union member countries. That’s because the Digital Markets Act will take effect in March, and Apple was designated as a gatekeeper. But despite the EU’s intentions, it looks like developers will still have to pay Apple for sideloading.
Apple is planning to introduce restrictions to sideloading on iPhone, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The report says that Apple will retain the ability to review apps that are downloaded outside of the App Store. It also notes that Apple intends to charge developer fees for apps downloaded via sideloading. The moves clearly go against what the EU has planned for the Digital Markets Act. The legislation is aimed to open up digital markets, make them less restrictive, and allow developers to avoid crippling fees.
With that being said, there appears to be no provision in the Digital Markets Act that would outlaw Apple’s potential plans. The law is somewhat ambiguous as of now, but the EU has said that it will be refined over time. It’s also worth mentioning that Apple has not announced official plans for DMA compliance yet. By comparison, Google — also a gatekeeper under the DMA — has released compliance changes. The Wall Street Journal also notes that Apple’s plans could change before March.
What is sideloading, and why will Apple make developers pay for it?
Sideloading is the process of downloading an app outside of a first-party app store. For example, when you download an app on macOS or Windows, it usually installs via a DMG or ISO file rather than through an app store. The same is true on Android, as you can download apps via APKs from the web. However, throughout the history of iPhones and iOS, sideloading has been nonexistent.
The process of sideloading gives developers and users a way to download apps that aren’t offered on the official app store. When Apple banned Fortnite from the App Store, it immediately became unplayable on iPhone natively. But when Google did the same thing for the Play Store, you could still play Fortnite natively on Android by sideloading. The process could also be used to access apps that don’t meet Apple’s app review guidelines.
The problem is, that many of the key benefits of sideloading will be neglected by Apple’s plans, should they be true.