Apple will prepare for sideloading in iOS 17

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iOS 17 is expected to be relatively light on major new features, but it will still contain significant changes.

The majority of Apple’s development efforts over the past year have been focused on preparing for the launch of its mixed-reality headset. As such, most of the company’s existing platforms have taken a backseat.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has a long history of accurate reporting on Apple’s plans, the upcoming iOS 17 will provide several “nice to have” improvements but will lack a “tentpole” improvement.

Among the expected improvements are interactive widgets, a revamped Control Center, more Dynamic Island functionality, and better search. Those certainly all fit the “nice to have” bill rather than anything particularly revolutionary.

However, major changes are brewing underneath.

Apple will soon be forced to allow third-party app stores on its devices as part of the EU’s forthcoming Digital Markets Act. To begin complying with the new law, Apple is expected to start allowing apps to be “sideloaded” similar to Android.

Sideloading refers to being able to install apps onto a device by means other than the App Store. Instead, apps could be transferred over from a connected computer, downloaded from the Internet, or acquired from a third-party app store.

Apple has resisted calls to allow sideloading over claims that it endangers users.

In a letter to lawmakers last year, cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier said that Apple’s concerns about sideloading were “unfounded” and that it’s “simply not true” that legislation such as the EU’s puts user privacy and security at risk.

“It’s fairer to say that this legislation puts those companies’ extractive business-models at risk. Their claims about risks to privacy and security are both false and disingenuous, and motivated by their own self-interest and not the public interest,” wrote Schneier.

“App store monopolies cannot protect users from every risk, and they frequently prevent the distribution of important tools that actually enhance security. Furthermore, the alleged risks of third-party app stores and ‘side-loading’ apps pale in comparison to their benefits.

“These bills will encourage competition, prevent monopolist extortion, and guarantee users a new right to digital self-determination.”

Microsoft is making preparations to launch its own third-party mobile app store on iOS and Android after the EU’s law comes into effect.

Microsoft has fallen foul of Apple’s App Store rules after being blocked from releasing a native app for its Xbox cloud gaming service. Microsoft has released such an app on Android but on iOS it’s forced to stream cloud games using the web browser.

According to Gurman, the one existing Apple platform that is expected to see larger changes this year is watchOS.

Gurman says that watchOS 10 will be a significant operating system update, which may reveal that minimal hardware updates are on the way. The UI may have its first major UI revamp, Siri improvements, fitness recovery features, and a new health dashboard.

While most of the updates to Apple’s existing operating systems may not be as exciting on the surface as previous updates, the under-the-hood changes will have a major impact on each platform’s future.

(Photo by Mike van den Bos on Unsplash)

Related: Mozilla and Google are developing non-WebKit iOS browsers

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