Last Updated: 03 Dec 2021 | 8 min read | Category: iOS App Development |
You probably know that it’s possible to download app binaries from non-recognized platforms or the internet and install them just like a regular mobile application. This feature is available on Android devices, but not Apple. In fact, Apple is strictly against this feature called sideloading.
The fancy term “sideloading” basically refers to downloading app binaries from non-recognized platforms or the internet and installing them on a mobile device, just like any regular mobile application.
This feature is available on Android devices. It grants users a flexible opportunity of downloading applications from official, as well as off-the-books app stores, apart from the world of the web. Apple, however, is strictly against sideloading.
The Apple App Store came into existence in 2008. From the first day, the company has been stringently controlling the iPhone experience. It even dictates where users can download and install apps from. Apple’s iOS-powered devices prevent sideloading of applications because every self-contained app installed on a mobile device will get distributed through the App Store.
The brand has a dedicated team of specialists in charge of vetting applications before publishing the same. At the moment, whether Apple should allow users to sideload applications or not has become quite a hot topic, especially among business owners looking to hire an iOS app development company in the USA.
It’s also a result of the lawsuit between Apple and Epic Games. Among everything else, Epic Games wants to create its own Epic Games Store on iOS as it wants to compete against Apple App Store. Apple takes its stand against this idea as it believes that sideloading will leave iOS users vulnerable to insecure and malicious mobile applications.
Apple did everything with its power to provide its users with information and context concerning its decision to prevent sideloading. For instance, some of the top executives of Apple spoke publicly about it. It even published detailed studies on the subject.
The brand and its top officials have already shared too much information on the subject. When there’s more than enough info available, it becomes difficult, even for the best iOS app development company in the USA to digest, let alone common customers. After all, when things become too technical, it gets challenging to contemplate the more important aspects.
If you wish to understand the reason behind Apple’s unwavering stand against sideloading, you should continue reading. This topic will try to touch on the most crucial questions regarding the act of sideloading and Apple’s answers to those queries.
So, macOS users can sideload applications, but iOS users can’t. What’s the reason for this discrimination?
Apple has a dedicated App Store for macOS gadgets. Then again, it was never stringent when it came to users installing apps downloaded from the internet or somewhere else. It’s only natural for customers and every iOS app development company in the USA to wonder why it won’t be possible on iPhones.
If the security system of macOS is effective enough to protect the Mac, as well as its owner, from malicious software programs available online, why isn’t the same level of security available on iOS?
According to Apple, the Gatekeeper system of macOS ensures that a user downloads software programs already inspected by Apple for the presence of malicious code. Before someone runs such a piece of software, it gets analyzed by Apple. If Apple deems it dangerous, it’ll prevent the user from installing the application.
It’ll also update its own database to ensure no other user can download and install the application. Apple even utilizes notarization on its Mac devices, where it scans apps for harmful code and allows users to download and use them if they’re safe.
Craig Federighi appeared at the Epic Games trial to give his testimony. There, he explained why it’s not possible to implement similar levels of security on iOS devices. Federighi actually admitted that macOS devices are getting plagued by malware programs frequent, and Apple isn’t happy at all with the situation.
What Federighi basically wanted to say is this – the security model of macOS isn’t immaculate. Understandably, Apple doesn’t want to incorporate something it considers “unacceptable” into another one of its prominent platforms.
Just as there are hundreds and thousands of providers of iPhone application development services, there are millions of users of Apple’s devices. Why wouldn’t the brand allow its customers to download and install apps from outside the iOS Apple App Store? After all, if it turns out to be a piece of malware, it’ll affect that customer only and no one else.
Well, Federighi gave a fair enough answer to this question. At the 2021 Web Summit of Apple, he said that there are many tech-savvy users. These people can differentiate a legitimate software program from malware. Others, however, aren’t as knowledgeable.
Here’s an account of what Federighi said.
“Maybe you have a reason to believe that everything is true, but it can’t convince me to download an app designed specifically for sideloading only. Nothing or nobody can trick me into downloading and using such an app, either. This approach works for sensible adults, but it won’t for your child or your old parents. Also, if you know enough to be able to see right through the deceptive stuff, it won’t be the right thing to do, from your side or mine, to stand for malware, right?”
In other words, Apple believes that even if one device gets infected or harmed by a sideloaded application, then the brand will lose its face. Apple did the same thing about five years ago. In 2016, it refused to create a back-entrance on iOS to gain access to information stored on one iPhone. After all, the same backdoor will allow them to enter other devices.
Federighi further added that even one harmed iPhone could pose a threat to every other iOS device on a specific network. Further, the presence of such applications threatens the credibility of even the best providers of iPhone application development services like Moon Technolabs.
“The truth is that if even just one device gets compromised, it can affect the whole network. Malware-infested sideloaded applications can endanger the systems put in place by the government. It can also infect things used by the public, enterprise networks, and everything else you can think of. You’re probably one of those folks who never sideload applications, but if Apple fails to prevents to stop sideloading entirely, your device and data will be in danger because of others who sideload.”
When it comes to macOS devices, users receive a warning against a sideloaded app, especially if Apple didn’t notarize the application. Why can’t it happen to apps designed by a recognized agency offering iPhone application development services?
The truth is that Steve Jobs approved this idea. Indeed, this notion isn’t new at all. It was back in 2008 when the Epic Games trial was still ongoing. Steve Jobs had approved a specific set of words that a user would see if he/she downloaded and installed a sideloaded application.
Jobs received an email from Scott Forstall and replied to it by saying that he liked the warning message. Apple should still be able to do the same thing by providing users with a choice to install and open a sideloading application while warning them about the potential risks.
If someone feels uncomfortable upon seeing the message, he/she can choose to avoid opening the app or even consider uninstalling it right away. Others will have the freedom to inspect it before getting rid of it. Federighi, however, thought that this approach isn’t worthwhile as users won’t be able to determine which sideloaded apps are safe and which ones aren’t.
Hypothetically, it should be possible for a user to download an app from a so-called “authorized” third-party mobile app store, just like Epic Games Store. Apple, however, scrapped this idea because it won’t be able to oversee those platforms as it does its own.
“The presence of tremendous amounts of malware programs and the resulting privacy and security breaches on third-party mobile app vendors prove that they don’t adhere to strict vetting techniques to inspect the apps submitted there for malware. These stores are full to the brim with copied apps, apps that don’t pay heed to user privacy maintenance, apps containing objectionable and downright illegal content, as well as apps targeting children to leverage their innocence and absence of knowledge.”
Every top rated iOS mobile app development company knows it better than everyone that the Apple App Store has strict rules in place, particularly for scam applications. Apple says that its stringent control over the Apple App Store lets it remove malicious applications that may find their way onto the platform quickly and promptly. Of course, it’s the rarest of the rare situation.
Apple won’t be able to do the same thing if its users started downloading and using apps from app stores controlled by third parties.
Apple is perfectly aware of the fact that every sideloaded app isn’t malware. After all, it knows that even a top rated iOS mobile app development company like Moon Technolabs can create sideloaded applications.
However, Apple does believe that the ability to install sideloaded solutions will inevitably expose one or more people to malware. From it, a chain reaction will start and bring down everything that this brand has achieved over the years.
Apple released a paper containing thirty-one pages explaining that just allowing users to sideload applications would defeat all security layers. As a result, users will get exposed and severe security-related problems continuously. Sooner or later, all the mobile devices of Apple would turn into virus-ridden pocket PCs.
“If regulatory bodies, other businesses, and customers force Apple to allow sideloading on iPhones and other iOS-powered devices, it would destroy every layer of security we’ve enforced to keep our users safe. They’ll get exposed to a new and more severe security risk every time they download something from a third-party app vendor. It would facilitate the penetration of illegitimate and dangerous applications into our user base. It would turn a blind eye to the protective measures and systems incorporated into iPhones. In other words, agreeing to sideload would be like playing with fire knowing that it can char your skin and char your bones. It would be akin to undermining the importance of privacy and security – something for which Apple is famous all over the world. Everyone knows how their computers are always at risk of getting infected by viruses. Our iPhones are devoid of this vulnerability now, but if we start supporting the act of sideloading, our gadgets would become as useless in terms of security as our personal computers.”
According to Apple, the very act of sideloading exposes users to other kinds of dangers. For instance, sideloading would facilitate iOS spoofing. Actors will ill intentions can distribute copied versions of popular applications to trick users.
It would also expose users to applications containing illegal content, such as pirated apps, illegitimate betting apps, apps containing swindled intellectual property, etc.
Well, the questions elucidated above have been the most frequently asked ones. Of course, many more queries keep coming constantly from every top rated iOS mobile app development company, their clients, and even common users. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to include everything in this write-up.
The best way to find all the questions and their answers are to go through the paper published by Apple explaining its anti-sideloading move. Before wrapping this up, here are a few pieces of statistical information shared by Apple through the paper.
For a lot of developers and users, Apple’s arguments may seem unconvincing. Regulators are also attempting to take a closer look at the practices of Apple regarding sideloading. Only time will tell how everything will play out in the end, but for now, it’s clear enough that Apple is dealing with a lot of pressure to reduce a few restrictions concerning its App Store.
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