APPLE might soon let some iPhone owners download applications outside of the App Store, a company executive has hinted.
Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, suggested Apple was in talks with European regulators to discuss compliance around sideloading, according to tech blog GHacks.
Sideloading is when device owners can install software without using the approved app store.
When Apple unveiled the beta version of its iOS 17 at the beginning of the month, testers noted a lack of sideloading capabilities.
There had long been rumours that Apple was intending to bring this feature to iPhones in iOS 17, due to be officially released later this year – but it failed to materialise.
Sideloading is a feature that has traditionally set Android devices apart from iOS.
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It's a pretty common practice and it means users can download apps that may have been removed from the App Store.
Maybe because these apps aren't compatible with newer iOS, or perhaps they infringe on someone else's intellectual property, or a government has banned them.
However, Apple has cited security concerns as the reason it has avoided the feature.
It's largely fair, seeing as many apps removed from the App Store are ones disguising malware, adware, or even help people solicit illegal goods.
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When speaking to the Digital Markets Act proposed by the European Commission in 2021, Apple CEO Tim Cook claimed sideloading capabilities would destroy the security and privacy of iOS and that it was not in the "best interests of the user".
There are plenty of warnings around sideloading, and making sure that the app is still from a reputable source – so to avoid injecting malware straight into your device unknowingly.
However, Apple's laptops can install apps from anywhere, and there appears to be little objection to risks Mac users' are exposed to when sideloading.
People are divided on whether it's a good idea for the iPhones.
Some say they can't live without it and need more app variety.
"I won’t buy another iPhone without support for sideloading apps," says one Apple customer on Twitter.
Another said: "This sort of behaviour, them limiting what is allowed on the App Store, wouldn't be an issue if they allowed sideloading applications.
"Apple's monopolistic behaviour is exactly the reason I switched away from iPhone to Android, so in the event I wanted to sideload, I could."
But others say it'll just invite more malware into the ecosystem.
One Twitter user said: "Isn’t it obvious that you’re allowing more malware on the platform by allowing sideloading?
"Especially considering iPhone is the choice for the less tech savvy individuals."
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Either way, it's important to note that current discussions – which may fall through – are only being made for European users, with iPhones bought in Europe.
So, for US users, it appears the sideloading dream might be an even further prospect.
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