5 Reasons Forced sideloading will make iPhone worse

To comply with EU law, Apple is reportedly considering official sideloading and third-party app store support for iOS 17. The EU Digital Markets Act comes into effect in 2023, and companies have until 2024 to make changes bring. The recent law mandates that Big Tech companies allow third-party app downloads to give customers more flexibility.

So sideloading is definitely coming to the iPhone, most likely with iOS 17 in 2023. But how will that change the iPhone? Here are five reasons why forced sideloading will make iPhone worse.

1. Increased security risk from unapproved apps

Much of Apple’s own App Store has to do with security. As you may already know, Apple puts new apps through a rigorous review process before they get the green light to be listed on the store. This ensures that there is nothing harmful in apps, such as spyware or malware hidden within an app. Apple even goes so far as to ensure that apps are kept up to date or else they risk being removed.

With the introduction of third-party app stores, Apple no longer pays attention to new apps. This means that malicious groups or developers would be free to bury malicious programs in apps with little risk of getting caught.

Sure, some third-party app stores could implement their own policies, but enforcement won’t be nearly as good as Apple’s. Moreover, now that sideloading is officially supported, developers can host their apps on their own websites without any restrictions.

A hand holding an iPhone with the Uncover jailbreak tool

We’ve seen this kind of thing happen before to users who jailbreak their iPhone – one of the unofficial ways to sideload apps from a third-party store. Many popular tweaks contain malware that is used to collect personal information about users, with no review policy to track them down.

However, there is room for official third-party app stores. Similar sites for Android devices, such as APKMirror, exist with a large library of safe apps to download. The question arises, will your average user be able to tell what is safe and what is not? And sadly, many probably won’t, and that’s if users even know how to access it.

2. Existing apps may leave Apple’s App Store

With third-party app stores now available, existing apps currently in Apple’s own App Store may choose to jump ship. While mainstream apps, including popular social media platforms, are unlikely to do this, smaller app developers could be tempted by other options.

This is especially the case for apps with in-app purchases, where Apple takes a 30% price cut as payment. Alternative app stores may offer lower or no fees at all, giving these developers a good reason to switch. Some might even host apps on their own websites and allow sideloaded installations, resulting in a 100% drop in revenue.

Delete iPhone app

Surely you can just re-download your app from the new store? Absolutely, that’s how it would work! But again, less technical individuals may not know how to do this. And things can get very confusing when apps start disappearing from home screens.

3. Introduces additional complications for app developers

Similarly, but from the opposite point of view, things can get a bit tricky for developers with multiple app store options. While third-party app stores may be attractive, developers may also want to maintain a presence in the inevitably more popular App Store.

So what happens when an app is updated? If the App Store has stricter rules than a third-party alternative, developers may need to release different software versions for the same app. Or even the simpler element of app sales can get confusing, with multiple sources of revenue. And what if a developer chooses no app store and allows sideloading of a website? The installation process can get even trickier.

An overhead view of hands typing on a laptop with green programming code on the screen

While each of these issues is manageable, especially for large developers, it creates unnecessary headaches for smaller or individual developers. If the process is that simple right now, big changes are likely to make things more complicated.

4. Changes the current iOS experience

But these complications are not just for developers, iOS as a whole is going to be a bit different. Ask many iPhone users why they prefer using an iPhone, and iOS will probably be a top answer. Apple’s software is known for being easier to use and more secure.

Third-party apps and sideloading put this part of the iOS reputation at risk, but it’s not just the reputation that’s at risk. Like it or not, Apple’s greater level of control is a big part of iOS. If Apple starts to lose this control, simple processes like downloading apps will no longer be a standardized experience.

iOS 16 home screen on iPhone

While this may sound minor, especially since Android devices are doing just fine, it creates a major problem for iOS. Those who bought devices for ease of use could suddenly encounter more complicated steps – without even wanting the changes. Remember Android has always allowed third-party stores and sideloading; iOS doesn’t have that. It’s the toggle that raises issues for everyday users, not the existence of such options.

Apple will likely cut back on sideloading settings somewhat, much like installing third-party apps on Macs. But when these options are inadvertently forced on users to keep using existing apps, things only get more confusing for them. Wasn’t EU legislation just about making things easier?

5. EU law sets a dangerous precedent

Nor is that the only place where EU law collapses. The governing body’s ability to force legislation on technology companies is a rather worrying state of affairs. In 2022 alone, the EU passed laws to force tech companies to allow third-party app stores and mandate USB-C as a charging standard.

Flag of the European Union
Image credit: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

What matters is how much power the EU displays, and it pushes other bodies to do the same. Legislators are often slow to adopt new technologies, meaning such mandates are likely to persist as new technology develops.

Moreover, it is not right that governments have so much control over private companies. The Digital Markets Act that enforces sideloading and third-party app stores on iOS (and other operating systems) sets a dangerous precedent for similar moves in the future.

Sideloading and third-party apps will change your iPhone experience for the worse

Sideloading and third-party app stores will change the iPhone experience quite drastically – and not for the better. With the day-to-day functions of the iPhone affected, the forced changes will affect users who don’t necessarily want to use them.

Keep in mind that Android phones have supported sideloading and third-party app stores for some time now, and some substandard methods exist for iPhone. Android phones don’t have all of the issues we’ve covered, as many of these issues stem from the move to iOS. It’s always been the case on Android, which is nothing new for existing users to adapt to.

In addition, there are plenty of other iOS 17 features we want to see in 2023 that won’t harm your iPhone.