“Real” sideloading: iOS apps will soon be able to be loaded from websites

Within the European Union, an iOS update that Apple will make available in spring 2024 will ensure that iPhone apps can be downloaded directly from the developer's website. The company announced this today in a news post on its developer blog. In addition to the official app store and alternative app marketplaces, web sales should offer developers more flexibility. In the heading I wrote “real” sideloading in quotation marks because the web offer only works with Apple authorization and Apple API. Although these and other rules ensure more security, they are also restrictive.

After an iOS update announced for spring 2024, iPhone apps can also be downloaded from developer websites. However, there are many points that you have to consider when selling your own software online.
After an iOS update announced for spring 2024, iPhone apps can also be downloaded from developer websites. However, there are many points that you have to consider when selling your own software online.

This is what iPhone sideloading will look like

With App Store Connect, developers can download signed binary data from Apple and make it available on their website for app distribution. In order to install apps from the developer website on an iPhone, users must first enable the offer for installation in the settings of their iPhone.

When an app is installed, the information that the developer sent to Apple for review is displayed in a data sheet - e.g. B. the name of the app, the developer name, the app description, screenshots and the age rating. This is to ensure that you can get an idea of ​​what you are actually downloading.

Tight rules, two years membership and 1 million downloads

Apple wouldn't be Apple if a lot of obstacles weren't thrown in the way of interested developers. Selling your own app via your own website only works if you can check off many other points in addition to the above-mentioned link with App Store Connect.

Some are definitely useful for protecting users. Others, however, are a strong restriction and appear to be aimed at allowing the offer only to those people and companies that already have a user base in the App Store and are therefore difficult to leave there. Among other things, the following applies:

  • The developers must participate in the paid Apple Developer Program and have their headquarters in the EU.
  • Membership in the Apple Developer Program must have been in good standing for at least two consecutive years.
  • There must be an app that had more than one million annual installations (from the App Store) on iOS devices within the EU in the previous calendar year.

Apart from the company headquarters in the EU and the previously impeccable reputation, I find these three points to be unnecessary hurdles. Anyone who is just starting out with their own app offering or has only had a few downloads so far has no chance of being able to switch from the App Store to the web offering.

Here you can probably accuse Apple, without reading too much into it, of wanting to artificially curb sideloading development. In addition, Apple will be able to claim in the future that there are still a lot of new arrivals and small developers in the App Store - and thus argue against web sales with self-constructed number games. You should only trust the statistics that you yourself have falsified...

But now to the points that can be useful for protecting iPhone users. Because developers must, among other things, agree to the following points:

  • Only apps from your own developer account may be offered on the website.
  • Apple's inquiries must be responded to quickly, especially when it concerns fraudulent, harmful or illegal behavior or things such as security, data security and user privacy.
  • Transparent data protection declarations must be published so that users know whether or how their data is being collected and processed.
  • Laws applicable to the offer must be complied with, including and in particular with regard to the General Data Protection Regulation, the Digital Services Act, consumer protection laws and local laws.
  • Must be able to handle government or other app deletion requests.

The “Core Technology Fee” is also used here

As with the App Store or alternative app marketplaces, one million annual initial installations via web distribution are free of charge. However, if more than one million installations are achieved, then the fee known as the “Core Technology Fee” comes into play. This amounts to 0,50 euros for each additional initial installation in the last twelve months.

Non-profit organizations, accredited educational institutions or government entities based in the EU that have been granted a fee waiver are now exempt from the annual membership fee for the Apple Developer Program as well as from the Core Technology Fee. The developers are responsible for dealing correctly with taxes, reporting and collecting them, reporting them and paying them.

Sources for further research

If you are interested in the topic or would like to read more about it for your app offering, then take a look at these Apple pages:

  • Developer Blog “More options for apps distributed in the European Union”: Read here
  • Developer Support “Getting ready for Web Distribution in the EU”: Read here
  • Developer Support “Understanding the Core Technology Fee”: Read here

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