In context: Amid an antitrust investigation against Apple by EU regulators, as well as the discussion subsequently generated around the topic, the iPhone maker has published a 31-page report defending why its iOS ecosystem is limited to the App Store. The tech giant attempts to justify its refusal of allowing sideloading apps onto their smartphones by highlighting how Android has been heavily exploited by malware.
Apple’s report, “Building a Trusted Ecosystem for Millions of Apps — A threat analysis of sideloading,” stresses that supporting sideloading via direct downloads and third-party app stores would “cripple” the privacy and security protections of the iPhone, which would expose users to “serious security risks.”
“iPhone is a highly personal device where users store some of their most sensitive and personal information. This means that maintaining security and privacy on the iOS ecosystem is of critical importance to users,” Apple said. “However, some are demanding that Apple support the distribution of apps outside of the App Store, through direct downloads or third-party app stores, a process also referred to as “sideloading.”
The European Commission’s antitrust charges against Apple claim the company broke EU competition rules pertaining to policies associated with the App Store. The case was triggered due to a complaint from music streaming service Spotify.
In an effort to alleviate concerns surrounding the monopoly Apple has established over iOS, it stressed security problems are rampant for Android as Google’s operating system allows sideloading. Specifically, Apple points out how “over the past four years, Android devices were found to have 15 to 47 times more malware infections than iPhone.”
Another statistic used in the report was that nearly six million attacks per month were detected by a large security firm on its clients’ Android mobile devices. If Apple were forced to support sideloading, it said cybercriminals would inevitably target iPhone users through harmful apps. Users would also have less information about apps up front, Apple states, as external app stores would not “be required to provide the information displayed on the App Store product pages and privacy labels.”
Some may consider Apple brings up a valid point when factoring in how Android malware has become a prominent security issue for the OS. For example, a trojan that was found on 200 malicious apps on both the Google Play Store and third-party app stores infected millions of devices, extracting tens of millions of dollars from victims. Because of the open platform Android is based on, security firm Eset asserts that it’s more “interesting” to cybercriminals than iOS.
However, others may counter by showing that it’s in Apple’s best financial interest to reject sideloading — Apple generates tens of billions of dollars from the 30 percent cut it takes from developers on the app store for both the initial payment for paid apps, on top of in-app purchases. It could be set to enjoy that sizable slice of revenue for at least a few more years due to an appeal in its Epic Games lawsuit.