Sideloading in iOS 17: Will Apple ever play fair and can the iPhone succeed if It does?


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WWDC 2023 has come and gone, which means iOS 17 should be upon us sooner rather than later (unlike the Apple Vision Pro unfortunately). Overall, my general impression is that this iteration is a somewhat incremental update and offers much less to be excited about than iOS 16 did last year. However, during the main keynote, I could not help but wonder – why is there no mention of sideloading, the one thing I was genuinely excited about? For reference, the latter is a fancy way of describing the process of downloading software from third-party distributors. In the context of iOS, it means enabling the co-existence of Apple’s proprietary App Store and alternative third-party ones.

By extension, implementing sideloading in iOS means putting a dent in the Apple ecosystem and forcing the Cupertino company to reconsider (at least partially) its business strategy, something it would never do willingly.

  For better or worse, the European Commission knows a thing or two about regulating American tech giants and it is pressuring Apple to give up on one of its most anti-competitive practices. So much so that Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman claimed that sideloading would be introduced with iOS 17 – hence, my expectations.

Needless to say, this prediction did not materialize. This might not sound like a big deal at first, but, considering just how dominant iOS has become in recent years, I beg to differ. In this article, I will take a look at the sideloading conundrum that the Cupertino company is facing and what is truly at stake here.

Sideloading: Why is it Necessary?

Firstly, I need to explain as concisely as possible why the omission of sideloading functionality is problematic. Essentially, it all comes down to Apple’s current business model. After the death of Steve Jobs, the company began putting a heavier emphasis on services and, by extension, the App Store.

Consequently, this made preserving Apple’s grip over the software its users can access all the more important. What was once contentious (i.e. banning third-party software channels) is now a de facto cornerstone of design philosophy and a major source of…