Apple has come under scrutiny as governments around the world, especially the European Union, accuse the company of anti-competitive practices because of the App Store and iOS not allowing users to install apps from other sources. A report last year revealed that Apple was working on allowing sideloading with iOS 17, but it didn’t happen.

However, Apple’s vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi has said that the company might comply with the EU in its decisions on sideloading.

What the rumors said

Bloomberg reported last year that Apple was gearing up for a major change in how the iOS ecosystem works. More specific, the company would allow sideloading for the first time on iOS. This process basically lets anyone install apps from any sources on the system.

At the time, Mark Gurman heard from sources that the sideloading project was being handled by Andreas Wendker, a software engineer reporting directly to Craig Federighi, and Jeff Robbin, a top service manager at Apple reporting directly to Eddy Cue. But of course, Apple would not simply let users do whatever they want despite the big move.

The system would still establish some security requirements for software distributed outside of the App Store, similar to what already exists on the Mac. Bloomberg later reported that Apple would allow sideloading exclusively in European Union countries, and 9to5Mac corroborated that report by finding unused code in iOS 16 to restrict new features based on a user’s location.

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iOS 17 beta has no sideloading

Prior to the WWDC 2023 kenyote, the media was wondering if Apple would announce sideloading as a new feature during the event or at least discuss it somewhere. But the first iOS 17 beta is here, and it doesn’t have sideloading. Unsurprisingly, Apple didn’t say a word about it.

But interestingly, multiple Apple executives joined John Gruber’s “The Talk Show” live after WWDC. And during the podcast recording, Craig Federighi said that “we want to make sure that whatever we do is the right thing for our customers” and that Apple is “working with the EU” to discuss compliance.

Craig hasn’t explicitly said that iOS 17 will have sideloading, but he strongly suggests that Apple will eventually offer this option as required by the European Union. And knowing Apple, I won’t be surprised if it keeps this option a secret until iOS 17 becomes available to the public later this year.

Apple doesn’t want sideloading to be a big deal

If iOS eventually gets sideloading, this will certainly be a big deal. But at the same time, Apple will try its best to make sure that the feature goes unnoticed by most users. After all, one of the reasons why the company is not in favor of sideloading is because the App Store is a big source of revenue, as developers pay a commission of up to 30% of each sale to Apple.

If the rumors are true, sideloading will only be available in countries where Apple has been forced to allow it. And even so, I doubt that Apple will make this process friendly to average users.

The first beta of iOS 17 is now available to developers. Apple says a public beta will be available this summer, while the official release is expected this fall. More details on how to install the beta update can be found on the Apple Developer website.

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