Sideloading update arrives on EU iPhones with iOS 17.5 beta 2 — but not everyone will be able to use it

iPhone App Library iOS 17
(Image credit: Getty Images / NurPhoto)

As part of Apple’s ongoing endeavor to comply with the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act, the company today rolled out its previously-announced web distribution feature to iPhones in the EU, via the new iOS 17.5 beta 2. 

Apple says its new Web Distribution tool, first unveiled in March, will provide “more flexibility for developers who distribute apps in the European Union,” along with the option to create an alternative app marketplace already available on iOS in the EU.

Apple has also revealed the process for sideloading in the EU, which will look quite a lot like installing apps from the web on macOS. Users will be presented with a prompt to give an app’s developer permission to install, as well as important security information.

Sideloading with limitations

Not only is Apple’s Web Distribution limited to the EU (there’s no prospect of it coming to the U.S. or anywhere else anytime soon), it’s also more limited than other forms of iPhone app distribution in terms of which developers will be eligible. 

To be eligible, developers must be enrolled in Apple’s Developer Program in the EU, be “a member of good standing in the Apple Developer Program for two continuous years or more,” and have an app with more than one million first annual installs on iOS in the EU in the prior calendar year. 

That criteria would disqualify Epic Games and its Fortnite app (which has been unavailable on iPhone for years because of a spat between the two companies), as well as most small-time developers. Developers must also agree to be “responsive” to communications from Apple regarding fraud and malicious behavior and must publish transparent data collection policies. 

As with alternative app marketplaces, developers who ship apps via Web Distribution will also be subject to Apple’s controversial Core Technology Fee (CTF), which will charge a €0.50 commission “for each first annual install over one million in the past 12 months,” with updates counting towards that total. By way of example, a developer with 1.5 million Web Distribution downloads would owe Apple €0.50 for 500,000, or €250,000, irrespective of how much money their app has actually made, if any at all. A developer who finds their app going viral could be on the hook for a hefty bill, possibly before they’ve made any money. 

As Apple continues to try and appease the European Commission, the bloc has already opened investigations into Apple over its default browser screen and the fees for its alternative app marketplaces, almost certainly including the aforementioned CTF. The company has also updated its rules for music streaming apps like Spotify and opened up the App Store worldwide to game emulators and game streaming apps like Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud and NVIDIA GeForce Now.

The latest iOS 17 beta is available from the Software Update section of General Settings on all of Apple's best iPhones

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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