More sideloading: Apps will be allowed directly on European iPhones in the future



The changes for iOS in Europe continue: the opening up of alternative app markets foreseen by the Digital Markets Act, which Apple implemented with iOS 17.4, obviously did not go far enough. In the future, developers will therefore be able to make their iPhone apps available for download via a website, Apple announced on Tuesday. For the first time, users will be able to download apps directly from the provider, as they are used to with desktop operating systems. This means that the diversion via an intermediate app store is no longer necessary.

This new “Web Deployment” option will follow with a software update in the spring, Apple says, possibly with iOS 17.5. App developers and providers should receive new interfaces for delivering apps via the web, integrating system functionality, and backing up and restoring apps.

As with sales through app marketplaces, all apps must still be submitted to Apple for review, even those that are ultimately available for direct download through a website. As part of a process called “authentication,” the company automatically checks apps for malware, among other things; employees are also required to verify developer information and basic functions.

This means that iOS suddenly becomes more open than ever, while at the same time the operating system’s security features remain in place – and Apple retains extensive control. In terms of content, the group no longer wants to intervene in notarization, contrary to App Store approval.

However, for “web distribution” there are similar obstacles to operating an app marketplace: developers must apply for special permission from Apple and be registered as a company in the EU. Furthermore, the prerequisite is that the app provider has participated in Apple’s developer program for at least two years and has a “good reputation”, as Apple explains. Beyond that, it is crucial that the developer already sells an app that has achieved over 1,000,000 initial installs in the EU in the previous calendar year. As a result, small independent developers will likely remain excluded from this direct app distribution channel.

Apple apparently makes installing individual iPhone apps from a website just as complicated as importing an app marketplace in iOS 17.4. Apple’s new “Core Technology Fee” also applies to commercial vendors when they sell apps directly: 1,000,000 initial installs per year are free in the EU and the developer must pay Apple 50 cents (per year) for each subsequent initial app installation.

App marketplaces are only available directly on the provider’s website and not in the App Store.

Apple also leaves some control when it comes to the requirements for app marketplaces: Vendors can now open app marketplaces to exclusively sell their own apps there. Previously, Apple required that app marketplaces should always sell apps from other developers.

After the one billion dollar fine imposed on Apple by the EU, Apple also relaxes confidentiality requirements for app providers: apps can now link to external purchase options and offers. Developers no longer have to use Apple’s design templates with specific wording.


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