Apple to let EU users download apps from the web with iOS 17.5 Beta 2. How it works

On top of the App Store and third-party marketplaces, users will now be able to download apps directly from developer websites.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer and  Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
iPhone - Apple App Store
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

With iOS 17.5 Beta 2 rolling out soon, authorized app developers will be able to distribute their apps via the web to iPhone users in the European Union. 

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While Apple has been vocal about controlling the apps distributed outside its App Store following pressure from the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA) to allow sideloading, the latest update marks another avenue the iPhone maker is opening up for users to access new apps and services.

How it works

To download iOS apps from the web, the user must be on an iPhone running iOS 17.5 Beta 2. If it's their first time downloading from a developer, tapping on the "Download" (or "Install") button of a website will ask the user to permit app downloads from their iPhone settings.

Allowing the external installation means you're agreeing to the developer's terms and conditions and giving them access to your data. Should you move forward, the iPhone will run a Face ID scan to download the external app. 

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"When installing an app, a system sheet will display information that developers have submitted to Apple for review, like the app name, developer name, app description, screenshots, and system age rating," Apple mentions in its Tuesday press release. 

As far as app updates go, as long as developers implement their web distribution and APIs correctly, apps downloaded from the web should update automatically.

How do developers qualify?

Developers who want to offer their apps for downloading through a website must be enrolled in the Apple Developer Program for at least two continuous years (with "good standing" status), have an app with more than one million first-time installs on iOS in the EU in the past year, and comply with Apple's notarization process, including providing clear data collection policies. 

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Developers should also be able to attest to IP disputes and government take-downs if they occur. Lastly, Apple expects qualifying developers to provide users with customer service, especially with the apps being offered outside of the App Store's purview. To learn more about web distribution in the EU, Apple's developer Support Page is now live.

Once qualification is asserted, Apple will give authorized app developers access to an API for web downloads. Apps downloaded from websites should look and act like other apps downloaded on the App Store. Users can back up, restore, and update these apps like any other.

Why it's a big deal

This is the first time Apple has officially allowed app sideloading on iPhones, which allows developers to avoid paying Apple's commissions of up to 30%. The developers of apps distributed outside the App Store will still be subject to a 0.50EUR Core Technology Fee. 

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The DMA forced Apple to allow app sideloading in the EU effective March 2024. Though Apple was originally planning for sideloaded apps to only be available through alternative marketplaces, the company announced in March that it would also allow apps to be downloaded directly from websites. 

As the DMA only covers the EU, the ability to sideload these apps is restricted to iPhone users living in the EU. Downloading apps directly from websites is only available on the iPhone, not the iPad. 

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