Sideloading on iOS is not the biggest issue of the EU's Digital Markets Act
Software is so easy to break if the wrong person starts messing with it.
Have you heard? The sky is falling.
If you listen to pundits that want all the clicks you would think that Apple is going to be forced to allow iPhone users to sideload apps and that means the end of everything good. Meta will pull all their apps from the App Store and all your iProducts will suddenly be filled with malware.
This is all a reaction to the European Union's Digital Markets Act, which is set to change how big tech companies milk us for their business. If you take 10 minutes and read it, you'll soon see that all this drama is speculation at best — nowhere does it say anything about Apple or sideloading. What it does say is that companies considered Gatekeepers ( companies defined as having a significant market share in the EU, generating a lot of cash inside the EU, and having a significant business presence in three or more EU member countries) would no longer be allowed to have unfair business practices.
Is Apple considered a gatekeeper in the E.U.? Probably. Google, Amazon, Meta, and Microsoft are candidates as well. That means they will be "forced to allow third parties to interoperate with the gatekeeper's own services in certain specific situations." (Emphasis is mine). If that means iOS users will be able to sideload apps, almost none will, and every app in the App Store will still be there and downloaded with practically no changes. Meta will not yank Facebook and Instagram out of the App Store and will still bend backward to be included in the place where everyone gets their apps — just like they do for Android.
This whole debate means nothing until we know exactly what's planned but one very specific section of the DMA is a lot more concise, a lot more concerning, and will lead to a bunch of "broken" tech:
"Gatekeeper platforms may no longer prevent users from un-installing any pre-installed software or app if they wish."
My first thought is AWESOME. I can finally uninstall Skype and Cortana from my gaming PC, get rid of all those extra Samsung apps from my cool new phone, and reclaim that paltry few MB of space they are taking up.
My second thought is that people aren't going to stop there and they will uninstall things that make it impossible for their products to work normally.
- Why does my iPhone need Safari, WebKit, and WebKit2? Buh-bye extra second WebKit2, you're going away just like Apple Stocks.
- I'm going to sideload all my Android apps so I can delete this Google Play Services thingy. Adios!
- I didn't save up the money to buy 32GB of memory for my Windows Desktop just so the Window Manager can eat 40MB of it. I'll delete it and manage Windows myself.
All these things are apps. Deleting any of them will break how your device works. WebKit2 is what renders actual page content inside an iOS browser. Google Play Services is what allows Apps to sync to a server and communicate with each other in a secure way. Microsoft's Window Manager is what draws everything on your screen.
There are probably much better examples of "apps" you should never delete but I don't know them. That's because I am a computer nerd but I'm not an expert in all operating systems on all tech products. Neither are you, and neither is the person who is going to randomly start deleting stuff just because they can.
To be fair, this scenario isn't following the spirit of the DMA and there will almost certainly be exceptions and clarifications to make sure some dummy can't uninstall the iOS Home app. There will also be exceptions that allow Apple to use the App Store normally even if they do have to add a developer setting to sideload content.
If we take everything at face value though, like many folks in the Apple world are doing, uninstalling system apps and services is a lot worse than being able to sideload Fortnite. Even for the iPhone, though it doesn't get those precious clicks and likes and hearts some people crave.
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Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.