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iOS Users in the EU Can Expect Sideloading in the First Half of 2024

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, a contributor to the Power On newsletter, has unveiled information indicating that iOS users within the European Union (EU) can anticipate a transformative capability in the coming year. This update suggests that iOS users in the EU will gain the ability to download applications from sources beyond Apple's official App Store, aligning with evolving regulatory requirements specific to the European region.

This forthcoming feature, often referred to as sideloading, is expected to be part of a "highly controlled system" slated for introduction in the first half of 2024. Sideloading empowers users to download applications independently of the traditional App Store infrastructure. Additionally, developers are poised to benefit from this change, as they will be exempt from the customary 15 to 30 percent fees imposed by Apple on App Store transactions.

Mark Gurman's report also hints at broader modifications within the iOS ecosystem, particularly in the realms of Messages and payment applications. These alterations may be introduced through a region-specific update embedded within iOS 17.

The backdrop for these developments is provided by the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which came into effect on November 1, 2022. The DMA mandates "gatekeeper" entities, such as Apple, to facilitate access to their services and platforms for other companies and developers. This legislative framework is expected to exert considerable influence on various aspects of Apple's platforms, potentially necessitating substantial changes to products like the App Store, Messages, and FaceTime.

Notably, Apple has long resisted the idea of sideloading, emphasizing concerns over security risks. In a report released in June 2021, Apple argued that sideloading could expose users to scams, compromise iPhone security features, and violate user privacy. Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, reiterated the company's collaboration with the European Union in June 2023, signaling ongoing discussions about compliance with regulatory requirements.

It's worth noting that Gurman's latest update contradicts recent speculation suggesting that sideloading might be incorporated into Apple's anticipated iOS 17.2 software update, which is reportedly scheduled for release in the coming month. The earlier report had mistakenly associated specific new code with sideloading, whereas it pertained to an upcoming framework designed for organizations to distribute apps internally to their employees.

Source: adapted from an article by Sophie Blake, Author of Archives for Mobile Marketing Reads.

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