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Apple could do the impossible: Imprison sideloading within its walled garden

Between app reviews and commissions, it seems like sideloading on iOS might be a restrictive affair.

Published onJanuary 25, 2024

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Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • Apple will allow sideloading of apps in the EU, but it will reportedly review these apps too.
  • It’s also believed that the iPhone maker will still collect fees from developers of sideloaded apps.

Apple will be forced to allow the sideloading of apps on its iPhones in the European Union (EU). However, it now turns out that this approach has a few more restrictions compared to sideloading apps on Android.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple will still review each app sideloaded onto iPhones, citing people familiar with the issue. This could be a double-edged sword for users, suggesting that the company could still block apps as it sees fit.

Apple has blocked plenty of malicious apps on the App Store, but it’s also blocked apps that fall foul of its arbitrary terms. Blocked apps that fall in the latter group include web browsers that use a different browser engine, emulators, and game streaming services (e.g. Xbox Cloud Gaming). So the ability to review apps downloaded from third-party sources suggests that the company could still potentially block apps that don’t abide by the App Store’s restrictive terms.

Furthermore, the outlet adds that Apple will still collect fees from developers for their sideloaded apps. App makers hoping to avoid the so-called Apple Tax might be out of luck as a result. This comes after the iPhone maker allowed third-party billing options in other regions but still took a notable cut from these solutions.

For what it’s worth, the Wall Street Journal notes that these plans could change. Either way, we hope Apple is only reviewing sideloaded apps for malicious content rather than for the purposes of quashing apps it doesn’t agree with. We’ve asked the company for comment on this report as well as for clarity on this apparent review process and will update the article if/when it gets back to us.

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