Three Reasons Apple’s Anti-sideloading Rant Misses the Point

Apple has always notoriously been against sideloading, but head of software Craig Federighi took it a step further with a dramatic statement at Web Summit 2021. He declared that “sideloading is a cybercriminal’s best friend and requiring [it] on iPhone would be a gold rush for the malware industry.”

Federighi’s comments dovetail the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act, a bill aimed at allowing third parties to work with customers without a platform owner’s interference. It also features a few other requirements, including stopping companies like Apple from making select apps uninstallable and preventing them from favoring their own apps and services on their platforms. It’s understandable why Apple would be concerned about it — but that doesn’t mean the company’s aren’t being misleading.

Federighi compared iPhones to houses and said sideloading is akin to leaving every door unlocked and open to intruders, wherase the iPhone’s default settings is like a house with sturdy doors that offers fewer opportunities for break-ins. He also claimed that it didn’t matter if a user opted to sideload apps or not because there are cybercriminals who could get around that by tricking users into accidentally sideloading malware. He even cited social media companies being able to evade the iPhone’s privacy protections via sideloading. Finally, he intimated that those who wanted the option of sideloadable apps should use rivals like Android.

Thats a lot of unpack, but here are three reasons why Federighi’s perspective is misguided,

Apple already allows sideloading on MacOS

macOS Monetery launchpad.
Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

The problem, as has been noted already several times (including by a judge in the Apple and Epic case), is that Apple itself runs a platform where sideloading is allowed in the form of MacOS. The sky has yet to fall. Certainly, one could go to Android if they wanted Android features, but Apple has done quite a bit to bring over features that its users wanted like widgets, an app drawer, default apps, and even hardware features like 120Hz displays.

Federighi’s metaphor here is also a little off. Sideloading…