iOS 17 sideloading and third-party app stores nowhere to be seen despite rumors

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple unveiled iOS 17 at WWDC 23 on June 5, bringing with it a slew of new features. One rumored upgrade that was notably absent, however, was the advent of sideloading and third-party app stores, tipped on multiple occasions in the run-up to the event.

At present, iOS 16 (and now 17) only allows the distribution of software through the App Store, and there's no room for third-party apps from companies like Epic Games or Meta, or for downloading software directly from the web as you can on Mac. 

The issue is highly contentious, and the EU plans to legislate against this business model in 2024, however, a reported switch from Bloomberg's top insider Mark Gurman didn't come to fruition at WWDC.

No third-party app stores... for now

In December, Mark Gurman reported that Apple "is preparing to allow alternative app stores on its iPhones and iPads, part of a sweeping overhaul aimed at complying with strict European Union requirements coming in 2024." At the time, Gurman said Apple was aiming for the changes "to be ready as part of an update to next year’s iOS 17."

He followed up that insight earlier this year, stating in his April 16 Power on Newsletter that "WWDC announcements should set the stage for hardware releases coming later." Specifically, he said "iOS 17 will cause some noise beyond WWDC itself. Apple is working to overhaul the software to open up the iPhone to sideloading — the downloading of apps outside of its official store — to comply with new European regulations by next year." 

However, Apple made absolutely no mention of this feature in any of its keynote or press release material, and the functionality has not yet surfaced in any of the beta software. While it's possible that this feature is laying dormant in the code of iOS 17, or may be introduced at a later date, the "noise" we were promised from a WWDC announcement certainly hasn't come to pass. 

iOS 17 did bring with it some cool upgrades with Contact Posters, AirDrop improvements, a new Journal app, StandBy, and more. You can download the developer beta of iOS 17 if you're enrolled in the program now. 

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

  • Annie_M
    True! I noticed that Tim did mention the anniversary of the App Store, but there was no mention of third-party apps or sideloading. I heard a phrase on an unrelated podcast yesterday that also applies to rumors in general: "It's nothing until it's something"!!!
  • Ledsteplin
    I don't think they like the 3rd party stores and sideloading, and really didn't want it. So why wouid they mention it, even if available.