- Apple expected to allow sideloading and alternative app platforms on iPhone starting with iOS 17
- EU's DMA law forces Big Tech companies to give users "more choice and freedom" over app platforms
- Epic Games, Microsoft, and others have hinted at eagerness to launch their own app platforms on the iPhone
Ahead of when Apple is expected to announce it will allow third-party app platforms on iPhone with iOS 17, a new survey has revealed just a tiny minority of developers would take full advantage of the freedom to move away from the App Store.
The survey of 701 Apple developers by Setapp reveals that just 14% would switch to a platform other than the App Store. A more significant 46% said they’d use a third-party platform in addition to Apple’s. 14% said they’d stick solely to the App Store, with 26% remaining undecided.
The survey is far from accurately representing the sentiment of the several million registered Apple developers. Still, it does express opposition to companies looking to challenge the App Store with their own app platforms on iPhone.
Epic Games has been central to Cupertino’s troubles with the App Store since both companies entered a public feud over Fortnite in 2020. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has called the App Store a “disservice to developers” and has teased Fortnite’s return to iOS, possibly through an Epic Games app store for the iPhone.
From Epic Games, Meta, and Microsoft, momentum within pockets of the tech industry to deploy third-party app platforms on iPhone has only grown, but developers remain hesitant to move away from Apple’s over ten-year-old platform.
Nearly half of the developers surveyed cited a risk of malware and viruses as a reason to stick with the App Store, with the inconvenience for users and app piracy tied at second place. Apple vehemently claims the App Store is a “trusted and safe place for users,” a point that’s been repeatedly critiqued. Last year, Apple said it rejected over 34,000 apps for having “hidden or undocumented features” and stopped $1.5 billion in fraudulent transactions.
Alternative app stores, also known as sideloading, would be an unprecedented step for the iPhone that has stayed within Apple’s firm grip since the start. Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman reported in December Apple would allow sideloading on the iPhone starting with the iOS 17 update, due to be released this fall.
Specific details about what the process would look like for third-party platforms and what restrictions would be in place are unknown, including whether changes are being planned to make the App Store more enticing for developers. Apple’s 15% and 30% commission for in-app purchases on the platform has been controversial, with the latter only applying to developers making over $1 million a year.
Any alternative app store would likely need to offer commissions less than Apple’s to attract developers. In the survey, 55% of developers cited an additional revenue stream as a top reason to engage in a third-party platform, with a smaller 42% citing lower user acquisition costs.
According to Bloomberg, the effort within Apple includes senior members of Apple’s software and services divisions and comes as a result of the EU’s DMA law, passed in March 2022. The new law requires that big tech companies allow alternative app platforms to “give users more choice and freedom.” Companies have until 2024 to comply. The EU has already forced Apple’s hand to adopt USB-C, which is expected to replace the decade-old Lightning port on the iPhone 15 series this fall.