Almost everything you read about how bad Android is when it comes to protecting your personal data is a lie. Maybe lie is a strong word here, but these types of anecdotes always seem to ignore things like Google Play Protect and instead try to tell you that using Android is a sure-fire way to give all your information to some hacker in a foreign country. Every Android phone with Google services, from the cheapest handset to the best Android phone, is protected no matter where you get your apps.
While most of this sort of thing comes from regular people with regular writing jobs, sometimes Big Tech does it, too. Case in point: Apple is trying every trick in the book to beat out Epic Games over the whole Fortnite mess. Yeah, you thought that it was finished. Not by a long shot. To bolster its idea that sideloading applications outside of the official Apple App Store is the devil, it has produced a 31-page manifesto telling us the dangers of sideloading apps.
You'll probably either read this or read excerpts from it on your favorite tech blog, but you don't really need to do that because it just regurgitates the same things Apple has been saying since Android took away its market dominance: sideloading is bad, millions of people suffer, and Apple is looking out for the best interests of humanity by not allowing it.
Some of what Apple says here is true. Some of it is bullshit. A lot of what's left is easily mitigated by Google's Play Protect, which scans every single app installed on your phone from any source. But that's not what's important here. What is important, at least to me, is how Apple doesn't tell us how to make this any better. Instead, it is saying the only way to protect us is to not allow a practice many iOS users would love to have.
This position infuriates me. I understand that there are different divisions working on different things at both Apple and Google, but hearing one team tell me the other team can't find a solution is just a huge cop-out that I refuse to accept. And yes, Google does this sort of thing too, even if it's not this blatant and obvious.
I can put this whole sideloading argument to bed in just three sentences:
- Sideloading can be good for users if you pay attention to what you are doing. If you don't feel like paying attention, the right thing to do is just use the app store installed on your phone.
- Sideloading is bad for Google's and Apple's bank accounts.
- Android was designed with sideloading in place and has plenty of services to mitigate security issues. iOS was not.
What I can't fix, and apparently, neither can Apple, is how to mitigate the issues that sideloading on iOS would bring. Not too long ago, I would have told you that you should stick to Google Play when it comes to getting apps for your phone. However, Google has done a lot of work to address the problems that can arise when you do sideload an app with malicious code in it, and today, it's not really an issue unless you install apps from some shady website that deals in piracy.
This is something Apple needs to be thinking about. How is it going to address this if and when (yes, I think it will happen within the next five years) the company is forced to allow third-party app stores? This is what I want to read about. Tell me how you as a company will protect my personal data while opening up the software on my extremely expensive device.
If I were an Apple customer, I would not care how things work on Android. As an Android customer, I don't want to care how things work on iOS. As a tech writer, I have to use and care about both. I don't want to see a 31-page PDF manifesto that tells me about how bad Android is and says, "this will happen to Apple if we do this horrible thing Epic wants us to do," because it's just 31 pages of crap.
I want to read about the particular problems sideloading on iOS would bring and how they would be addressed. Or even how they would be impossible to address. Pointing fingers at the other guy, especially when your entire OS is owned by visiting a web page, is a bad look. When you're half of the mobile tech industry like Apple is, we deserve better from you.
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