Sideloading iOS apps: Would it make things better or worse?

By | February 16, 2022

One of the biggest antitrust issues facing Apple has been around its monopoly on the iOS app market. One proposed solution has been to allow competing app stores, while another has been for Apple to allow sideloading of iOS apps in exactly the same way it does on Macs.

Apple argues that sideloading would be dangerous, opening up the iPhone to malware and scam apps – but Jason Snell has put forward an interesting argument that it could make iOS apps better, rather than worse …

Snell makes three arguments in Macworld.

First, he says developers might be willing to be more experimental in the apps they offer if they don’t have to fear their app being DOA if Apple rejects it.

When every app review decision is no longer a death sentence, the gravity of the situation is reduced […]

If developers don’t have to bet it all on an App Store acceptance, it also means that they might be more willing to build daring and interesting apps that currently are too risky. Sure, being on the App Store would remain the goal of most developers (it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t remain the most important real estate on iOS), but many more things are possible if the all-or-nothing gamble is gone.

Second, if Apple isn’t the only iOS app outlet, perhaps it will be better motivated to do a better job with app review – rather than allowing scam apps that earn millions of dollars.

Third, Apple might actually be more accepting of more interesting apps. Snell points to evidence of this in the form of the Mac App Store.

Apple pays close attention to the apps that aren’t in the Mac App Store. Over the last few years, it has approached developers who aren’t in the store, asked them why they aren’t, and has adjusted its policies and technology to get them inside. Apple has invented whole new app entitlements (the system that allows apps to ask for permission for certain behaviors) to get more complex apps in the Mac App Store.

Imagine, he says, what more powerful iOS apps might be possible if Apple took the same approach there?

What’s your view? On balance, do you think antitrust legislation forcing Apple to allow sideloading of iOS apps would make things better or worse? Please take our poll, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo: Ani Kolleshi/Unsplash

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