iOS 17 app sideloading might only be available in Europe

Apple App Store icon
The App Store might soon not be the only source for iOS apps (Image credit: Pexels / Brett Jordan)

Rumors of iOS 17 allowing app sideloading continue to rumble on, but in the latest round of unconfirmed chatter there's a caveat: the feature will apparently only be available in Europe, and won't be coming to the US.

This comes from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, a reliable authority on advance Apple information. Speaking to the MacRumors podcast, Gurman said that he thinks app sideloading will be only available in Europe.

If you've not got a clue what we're talking about, app sideloading means installing apps from outside of an official app store – as you can on macOS, for example. It's also fairly easy to do on Android, but Apple has long cited security and reliability concerns for wanting iPhones and iPads to be restricted to approved apps only.

Extra fees

This Europe exclusivity makes sense: Apple doesn't really want to add sideloading, and is only doing so because of regulatory pressure from the EU. Gurman says Apple won't "shoot themselves in the foot" by adding it everywhere, and will probably introduce the feature quietly and without fanfare.

In addition, developers may have to pay extra if they want their apps to be available outside of the iOS App Store, Gurman says. Don't be surprised if the feature is mentioned at the bottom of a press release rather than in the WWDC 2023 keynote.

The Worldwide Developers Conference starts on June 5, and will be a showcase for all the software Apple is pushing out this year, including iOS 17. Gurman also adds that upgrades are expected for the Wallet and Find My apps.

Analysis: Apple bows to EU pressure

If you're wondering what app sideloading has to do with EU lawmakers, the previous history here is that Apple has been coming under pressure from regulators in Europe over the issue of the App Store being perceived as a monopoly run by Apple.

The EU's Digital Markets Act coming into force this summer aims to limit the control of digital "gatekeepers". The EU would argue that Apple can't force iOS apps to go through its own App Store, whereas Apple would say that it needs that control to keep users safe and to maintain a quality experience.

Apple has previously had to fight a costly legal battle against Epic over the issue of controlling in-app payments, and it will want to avoid another protracted case – which is why it now seems likely that iOS and iPadOS are going to allow apps to be installed from other sources, even if it is only in Europe.

At the same time, the iPhone 15 is expected to make the switch from Lighting to USB-C. Again, this is in response to EU regulations – though it's much easier to make region-specific changes to software than to hardware, so the USB-C iPhone is going to appear in all of Apple's markets.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.