Apple will reportedly lay the groundwork for sideloading apps with iOS 17, finally giving iPhone users access to a feature long found on Android, PC and MacOS. That's according to a new Bloomberg report about Apple's WWDC 2023 this June, where we also expect to learn more about Apple's AR/VR headset and other updates.
Historically, the iPhone ecosystem has been very much a walled garden, as users can only download apps from Apple's official App Store. This update would enable iPhone users to download apps hosted outside of the App Store for the first time. That would finally give iOS developers a way to skirt Apple's 15 to 30% cut of App Store purchases.
It's not yet clear whether this means sideloading will be available with iOS 17 or if Apple is simply making tweaks to its operating system to enable this possibility at some point down the line.
Either way, it's a huge move for Apple. The company has long argued that enabling sideloading would undermine its ecosystem's security and leave iPhone users vulnerable to malware, scams, and other hacks. Just a few years ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook said side-loading of apps would “destroy the security of the iPhone."
But new European regulations have put Apple's feet to the fire. The European Union's Digital Markets Act, which goes into effect in 2024, is a historic reboot to the EU's digital rulebook. The act forces big tech companies to open up their services and platforms to other developers and give users the choice of downloading apps from different sources.
Apple plans to roll out sideloading support to comply with the new European regulations by next year, according to Bloomberg. But given how vehemently Apple has fought against opening up its walled garden, it's likely to continue to resist the requirement until the last possible moment. So it may still be a while yet before you're sideloading any apps on your iPhone.
Case in point, Apple was first reported to be working on complying with the new ruling back in December. And we haven't heard a peep since.
iOS isn't the only operating system likely to get an update. The report also notes Apple will announce updates for macOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS at WWDC 2023. While these operating systems will have some incremental changes, it looks like the biggest overhaul is headed for watchOS 10.