Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

iPad sideloading is now official… with the same big caveat as the iPhone

Published May 3rd, 2024 6:50AM EDT
Apple iPad Pro
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

We knew iPhone sideloading was inevitable in Europe long before Apple actually announced the feature. By sideloading, I don’t just mean the ability of an iPhone user to download any application regardless of the source.

Yes, iPhone owners in the European Union will be able to install apps from the App Store, third-party App Marketplaces, and developer websites. But I also mean support for third-party payment systems and the ability for developers to place links in their apps to their websites that might feature better deals than the App Store pricing.

When Apple finally announced iPhone sideloading, the iPad was curiously absent. That wasn’t entirely surprising, as iPadOS is similar but different from iOS.

Fast-forward to late April, and the EU has unexpectedly expanded its gatekeeper designation to label iPadOS as a gatekeeper service under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The European Commission (EC) can do so at any time. The DMA allows it to give companies and products gatekeeper status when the conditions are met.

As such, we’ve already told you that iPadOS 18 will bring sideloading to the iPad, but with the same caveat. It’ll only apply to the EU markets. However, when the EU announcement dropped, Apple did not confirm that iPadOS would support sideloading. That changed on Thursday, as Apple announced the iPad will indeed support sideloading in the EU.

“This week, the European Commission designated iPadOS a gatekeeper platform under the Digital Markets Act,” Apple said in an update on its developer portal. “Apple will bring our recent iOS changes for apps in the European Union (EU) to iPadOS later this fall, as required. Developers can choose to adopt the Alternative Business Terms for Apps in the EU that will include these additional capabilities and options on iPadOS, or stay on Apple’s existing terms.”

As Apple indicates, the same policies it announced for iPhone sideloading will apply to the iPad. That’s what I had expected all along. I did see iPad sideloading happening, but maybe not as soon as the EU deemed it necessary. But once it happened, the iPhone sideloading rules Apple announced a few months ago would also govern iPad sideloading.

Indeed, the announcement says that’s the case. iPad users in the EU will be able to download apps from any source, App Store included.

Developers can stick with the current App Store contract and continue business as usual or go for their own app stores or web downloads. In either case, they’ll have to pay a new CTF fee that applies to paid apps after the first million downloads.

There is a change to how Apple will count those downloads now that iPad sideloading is official. Since iPhone apps also work on iPad, Apple will count downloads only once for users who install the same app on iPhones and iPads:

Once these changes are publicly available to users in the EU, the CTF will also apply to iPadOS apps downloaded through the App Store, Web Distribution, and/or alternative marketplaces. Users who install the same app on both iOS and iPadOS within a 12-month period will only generate one first annual install for that app.

Before you get too excited, I’ll remind you what I said before when covering iPhone sideloading updates. All of this applies to the EU bloc alone. International iPhone and iPad users won’t be able to get in on it. Apple will have strong safeguards in place. You’ll have to reside in one of the EU countries and have an Apple ID tied to the EU to get started with sideloading.

Meanwhile, nothing has changed in the EU. Some companies announced plans for third-party marketplaces, but they’re yet to roll out. As for downloading apps directly from websites, that’s yet to happen.

As a longtime iPhone user who will directly benefit from iPhone and iPad sideloading once developers start supporting them, I will say that I’m not particularly excited about the prospect. I’ll continue to get my apps from the same source, the App Store, as before.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.