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iPhone sideloading might be available in Japan after the EU

Published Dec 27th, 2023 7:20AM EST
iPhone 14 Display
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Installing apps from any source, also known as sideloading, has been the dream of many iPhone users since Apple unveiled the App Store. However, Apple never brought sideloading support to the iPhone, citing security reasons. Indeed, sideloading apps can be hazardous. Unsuspecting users might be tricked into installing malware apps, something that already happens on Android.

Then, some developers asked for third-party app stores on iPhones, which would be a safer way to install apps while circumventing the official App Store. They also wanted more control over payments, asking for third-party payment systems for these app stores.

All of that is about to happen in the EU. iPhone sideloading is inevitable in the region, as the App Store is a gatekeeper service. Apple has to allow others to compete on the iPhone, and iOS 17 should deliver these changes by March 2024.

While sideloading will not be available internationally, another jurisdiction might force Apple to allow iPhone users to install apps from anywhere they choose.

According to Nikkei, Japan is working on legislation similar to Europe’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). Japan wants companies like Apple and Google to offer support for third-party stores on iOS and Android. Also, third-party payments should be supported on both platforms.

If that becomes law, then sideloading support will be practically a given. If you can install apps from any source on the iPhone, it won’t matter if it’s a third-party store or a website. But I’m just speculating here.

As for when Japan will implement the new rules, it’s unclear. Japan will reportedly send legislation to parliament in 2024. It’ll focus on four key areas: app stores and payments, search, browsers, and operating systems.

If approved, the Japan Fair Trade Commission will oversee the new legislation. It’ll have the ability to impose fines on companies that fail to implement the software changes.

The six companies and 22 services the EU considers gatekeepers under the new DMA law.
The six companies and 22 services the EU considers gatekeepers under the new DMA law. Image source: European Commission

Considering the EU’s DMA is already in effect, we’ll soon learn what sideloading apps on iPhones will look like. As I said before, sideloading is practically a given, considering the App Store is a gatekeeper service in the region.

Reports already say that Apple is working on sideloading support for iPhone. That also means support for third-party app stores and payment systems. However, the same reports point out that Apple will restrict the features to EU countries. iPhone owners who do not reside in one of the EU countries won’t be able to just use a VPN to start sideloading apps.

But once the software changes are in place in iOS 17, Apple should easily turn on support for sideloading, third-party app stores, and alternate payment systems in other countries or regions.

I explained more than once why I’d never sideload apps on iPhone and why I’m not excited about third-party app stores. But many people are. Maybe Apple should make it available around the world and avoid all the drama.

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.