In the forthcoming year, iPhone users in the European Union (EU) will enjoy the freedom to download applications from external sources beyond Apple’s official App Store, in accordance with European regulations. Mark Gurman of Bloomberg has reported that this change, known as “sideloading,” is expected to be implemented in the first half of 2024. This exciting development will empower customers to access apps without being limited to the App Store, providing both users and developers the flexibility to explore alternatives and bypass the 15 to 30 percent fees imposed by Apple.

Mark Gurman, in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter disclosed that Apple intends to implement a “highly controlled system” enabling EU users to install apps from external sources. Additionally, modifications to Messages and payment apps are expected to be part of these changes, likely introduced through a localized iOS 17 update.

It’s worth noting that Gurman’s update contradicts a recent report suggesting that sideloading could be introduced with Apple’s iOS 17.2 software update, slated for release in the coming month. This confusion arose from the misinterpretation of new code related to an upcoming organizational app distribution framework that was associated with sideloading.

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which came into force on November 1, 2022, mandates “gatekeeper” companies to open up their services and platforms to other companies and developers. Apple’s platforms, including the App Store, Messages, FaceTime, and Siri, could witness significant changes due to the impact of the DMA.

Despite Apple’s argument that sideloading poses risks to the privacy and security measures valued by iPhone users, it’s important to note that adherence to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) is obligatory. Failure to comply with EU laws could lead to fines equivalent to 20 percent of Apple’s global revenue. This regulatory requirement reflects the EU’s commitment to fostering fair competition and ensuring a level playing field within the digital market. While opinions on the potential impact of sideloading may vary, the enforcement of the DMA underscores the significance of aligning with European regulations for tech giants like Apple.

In a December 2022 report, Gurman indicated that Apple was contemplating the implementation of security measures such as verification, potentially involving a fee. This process, akin to the verification system on the Mac, would ensure user security while allowing access to apps outside the Mac App Store.

In the future, the emergence of alternative app stores might not be limited to the European Union alone, as other countries contemplate laws akin to the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Reports suggest that the United States is exploring legislation that would require Apple to allow sideloading. If such regulations gain traction globally, it could usher in a new era of increased choice and competition in the app distribution landscape.

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