Apple is working on enabling support for sideloading in the EU in the coming weeks, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Apple will have to comply with a Digital Markets Act (DMA) deadline of March 7, which means that support for installing apps outside the App Store — currently unsupported in any region — is expected to arrive in the EU within the next few weeks. Apple is also expected to allow developers to add support for third-party payment providers and promote offers that are available outside the App Store.
In the subscriber-only version of his weekly Power On newsletter (via MacRumors), Gurman states that the iPhone maker will split the App Store in two in the coming weeks, in order to comply with the requirements under the DMA. The version of the App Store offered to users in the EU will be different from the standard version available to users in other countries.
Under the DMA, Apple will also be forced to allow users to sideload apps — effectively allowing applications to be installed outside the App Store. Android smartphone owners have been able to sideload apps for years, by downloading and installing Android package (APK) files. Apple must also allow developers to offer third-party payment systems in their apps while also allowing them to advertise offers that are not available via the App Store, in order to comply with the DMA.
Gurman predicted last year that Apple was working on allowing users to sideload apps that are not hosted on the company’s App Store by the first half of 2024, via a “highly controlled system” which suggests that Apple will still subject these apps to security checks before they are installed on a user’s iPhone.
In a Form 10-K filing with the US SEC in November last year, Apple stated that it expects it will have to make changes to the App Store in order to comply with the EU’s DMA regulation. In its filing, the iPhone maker also referenced potential policy changes related to platform access charges for developers, external app distribution, and communications related to third-party billing systems.
There’s no word from Apple on whether the company will enable support for sideloading in the EU in the coming weeks. The incoming changes are expected to apply only to the EU and it is unlikely that they will be introduced in other regions where third-party app stores and sideloading is not mandatory. However, Apple could theoretically extend access to the modified version of its App Store to users in other countries, if similar legislation is enacted in those regions in the future.
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