iOS 17.2 Signals Apple’s Move Towards Sideloading, Responding to Digital Markets Act in EU

Breaking Barriers: iOS 17.2 Hints at Apple's Move Towards Sideloading in Response to DMA Pressures

App Store icon displayed on a phone screen is seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 2021. (Photo Ilustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


In response to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) antitrust legislation in the European Union, which mandates the allowance of sideloading apps outside the App Store, Apple seems to be gearing up for a significant shift. Evidence found in the iOS 17.2 beta code suggests that Apple is working on enabling sideloading on iOS devices.

Understanding Sideloading: Sideloading involves installing apps from third-party sources instead of the official App Store. Apple has traditionally restricted sideloading on iOS to maintain control over app distribution and adherence to its guidelines.

DMA Pressure and Previous Work: The European Union’s DMA places obligations on major tech companies, urging them to prevent anti-competitive practices. A requirement of the DMA is allowing users to install apps from third-party sources. Previous reports hinted at Apple’s preparations for sideloading within iOS 17.

iOS 17.2 Developments: The iOS 17.2 beta introduces a new public framework named “Managed App Distribution.” While initially thought to be related to Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions for enterprise apps, deeper analysis reveals more profound implications.

  • Extension Endpoint: The framework features an extension endpoint, suggesting the creation of extensions by other apps.
  • Unused Entitlement: An unused entitlement granting third-party apps permission to install other apps, paving the way for the creation of alternative app stores.

API Controls and Region Lock: The API in iOS 17.2 offers controls for downloading, installing, and updating apps from external sources, similar to existing App Store functionalities. Additionally, references to a region lock within the API indicate Apple’s potential to restrict sideloading to specific countries.

Timeline and Compliance: Apple is expected to comply with DMA legislation by March 2024. The company acknowledges anticipated changes that will impact the App Store’s business model in a Form 10-K filing. While Apple may appeal DMA inclusion for the App Store, iOS 17 appears poised for sideloading implementation.

Breaking Barriers: iOS 17.2 Hints at Apple’s Move Towards Sideloading in Response to DMA Pressures