Rumor has it Apple will finally lay the groundwork to enable sideloading apps with iOS 17. But don't celebrate just yet: The feature may be exclusive to iPhone users in Europe.
That's according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman who revealed several new details about iOS 17 on the latest The MacRumors Show podcast. Gurman said he expects sideloading to be a Europe-only feature to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act. This historic reboot to the EU's digital rulebook, which goes into effect in 2024, forces big tech companies to give users the option of downloading apps from third-party sources.
It would mark the first time iPhone users have been able to download apps hosted outside of Apple's App Store. Developers who make their services available on a third-party app store may incur an additional fee to receive verification from Apple, Gurman said. He expects the company will downplay iOS 17’s new sideloading feature by not announcing it at WWDC 2023 in June.
Apple pulled the same tactic last year, Gurman noted, when it conformed to similar regulatory changes in the Netherlands with zero fanfare beyond a company blog post. Dating app developers in the country now have more flexibility about which payment system they use, though Apple still takes a cut even if users go through a third-party payments service.
What else to expect with iOS 17
Beyond sideloading, iOS 17 will focus on enhancing Apple's core system apps, Gurman said. That includes a "bigger push" on location- and Find My-related features as well as improvement to the Wallet app UI. No revolutionary changes, though, so overall it seems like a fairly low-key update.
In the past, Gurman has said Apple has de-prioritized iOS 17 features in lieu of getting its highly anticipated VR/AR headset out the door along with its accompanying xrOS software.
That being said, this does support speculation that iOS 17 will finally give iPhone users a level of customization similar to that of Android devices. A previous rumor suggests the update will include a long-overdue redesign for the iPhone's Control Center. According to another leak, radical changes to the UI and customization options are on the way. That includes more always-on display settings, more Focus Mode filters, additional notification changes and custom accessibility settings
It's not clear what devices Apple will support with iOS 17. The company dropped the iPhone 7 from the list of iPhones that could install iOS 16. This time around, the six-year-old iPhone 8 or iPhone X could very well be on the chopping block.
We'll likely have to wait until WWDC 2023 in June to hear more details about what'll change with iOS 17.