Image: Petter Ahrnstedt
Software developers may soon be able to offer iPhone apps for download outside Apple’s official App Store, a process known as sideloading. But hopes that this will enable them to escape the company’s tight controls and substantial fees are fading.
Apple currently plans to allow sideloading of apps on its hardware products in order to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, or DMA. (Note that this will only be possible in Europe, where the DMA applies.) But according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the company’s plans,” it’s going to do so in the way that is most beneficial to itself.
What that means in practice is that sideloaded apps will face many of the same rules and limitations as ones downloaded via the App Store. Apple will still levy a fee on paid-for downloads of such apps, for example, and intends to review them before they are allowed to go on sale.
Sources do not specify a number for the revenue cut Apple intends to charge on sideloaded apps, but experience suggests it’s unlikely to be substantially lower than on the official App Store. When the company agreed to allow alternative payment systems for apps that are downloaded via the App Store, it announced that the fee would be dropped from the usual 30 percent… to 27 percent. After all, it’s in Apple’s interests to make sideloading as unappealing as possible, both for developers and consumers.
The deadline for compliance with DMA is March, so time is starting to run short. But the WSJ’s sources insist that Apple’s plans could yet change between now and that point. The company has yet to issue an official statement on how sideloading will work on iOS and other Apple platforms, nor has it presented its plans to the European Commission, which will need to review whether they meet regulatory requirements.
If Apple’s plans fail to win the EC’s approval, there could be significant consequences. The WSJ quotes antitrust czar Margrethe Vestager as saying that Europe “stands absolutely ready to do noncompliance cases.”
Author: David Price, Editor
David has loved the iPhone since covering the original 2007 launch; later his obsession expanded to include iPad and Apple Watch. He offers advice to owners (and prospective owners) of these devices.