Apple is about to allow third-party app stores on the iPhone

Apple App Store logo
(Image credit: Apple)

We might be about to witness the end of an era when it comes to Apple's control over the iPhone.

As reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple is preparing to support third-party App Stores and the ability to sideload apps on the iPhone and iPad for the first time. The move is coming as a response to new laws that are going to affect in the European Union next year.

According to the report, "software engineering and services employees are engaged in a major push to open up key elements of Apple’s platforms, according to people familiar with the efforts." If the company does so, users (and app developers) would be able to sidestep Apple's App Store and, instead, offer their app to be side-loaded (directly downloaded without the need for an app store) or in an app store alternative to Apple's.

Financially, this would mean that developers could potentially dodge Apple's commission rates for apps and in-app purchases, something that has long been a point of tension between the tech giant and its developer community.

This has been a long game

Apple's shift here comes in response to the Digital Markets Act, which will require technology companies to "allow the installation of third-party apps and let users more easily change default settings. The rules demand that messaging services work together and that outside developers get equal access to core features within apps and services."

In addition to third-party app stores, Apple is also internally discussing potential changes to iMessage, more APIs, requirement changes to WebKit, allowing more services to use the NFC chip, and opening up its Find My network.

According to those with knowledge of the project, "the company’s changes are designed initially to just go into effect in Europe." This means that, while developers will be able to offer their apps outside of Apple's App Store in the European Union, they will not be able to do so anywhere else just yet. Internally, Apple is looking to release the change as part of iOS 17, which is expected to be unveiled at WWDC in the summer of 2023.

However, if other countries or regions pass similar laws, the company will be forced to do the same there as well.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.