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iPadOS 18’s surprising new feature is going to be sideloading apps

Published Apr 29th, 2024 7:50AM EDT
iPadOS 17 new Lock Screen
Image: José Adorno for BGR

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After complying with Europe’s Digital Markets Act law with the iPhone, it seems Apple will have to do the same with the iPad. While the company tried to differentiate its App Store per operating system, the European Commission has announced that iPadOS is also a gatekeeping platform. Hence, it needs to comply with the DMA.

With that, the European Commission said Apple has six months from now to ensure “full compliance of iPadOS with the DMA obligations,” which is around the time Cupertino will release its upcoming iPadOS 18 system.

After a market investigation, the Commission discovered the following:

  • Apple’s business user numbers exceeded the quantitative threshold elevenfold, while its end user numbers were close to the threshold and are predicted to rise in the near future.
  • End users are locked-in to iPadOS. Apple leverages its large ecosystem to disincentivize end users from switching to other operating systems for tablets.
  • Business users are locked-in to iPadOS because of its large and commercially attractive user base and its importance for certain use cases, such as gaming apps.

While Apple might try to say otherwise, Cupertino will likely have to comply with this law. With that, iPadOS 18 in Europe will have more than AI functionalities and a few other revamps but also exclusive features for users in the region, such as:

  • New options for distributing iOS apps from alternative app marketplaces (iPad sideloading), Including new APIs and tools that enable developers to offer their iOS apps for download from alternative app marketplaces.
  • New framework and APIs for creating alternative app marketplaces: Enabling marketplace developers to install apps and manage updates on behalf of other developers from their dedicated marketplace app.
  • New frameworks and APIs for alternative browser engines: Enabling developers to use browser engines other than WebKit for browser apps and apps with in-app browsing experiences.
  • Interoperability request form: Where developers can submit additional requests for interoperability with iPhone and iOS hardware and software features.
  • Changes to Safari: Reflecting the DMA’s requirements, Apple must also offer a screen with several browsers users can choose from as their main option.

Wrap up

As it’s been only a few months since the DMA took action for iPhone users, little has changed so far. At this moment, there’s only one third-party app store available for European users, and Apple is going to add the ability for users to download apps directly from a developer’s website with iOS 17.5.

While I don’t think sideloading will completely revamp the iPadOS 18 experience, it will at least make the iPad a bit more like the Mac, which allows users to download software whenever they want.

José Adorno Tech News Reporter

José is a Tech News Reporter at BGR. He has previously covered Apple and iPhone news for 9to5Mac, and was a producer and web editor for Latin America broadcaster TV Globo. He is based out of Brazil.