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Sideloading is a term that’s becoming more popular in recent times, especially for iPhone users. There’s been an ongoing debate on whether Apple should let iPhone users sideload their apps, and by the looks of it, that’s not going to happen any time soon.
Still, it’s better to understand what this term means and if sideloading is actually dangerous for you and your devices. Here’s everything you need to know.
Sideloading is basically transferring files from one place to another. You’re familiar with how downloading and uploading works, right? You basically transfer one file from a server to your device. Sideloading works the same way, but the difference is that instead of moving it to a server, you’re transferring files between two devices. So when you’re transferring an image or file from your computer to your iPhone or vice versa, you’re actually sideloading.
On the other hand, sideloading also refers to the action of installing apps without using your device’s store. For instance, finding and installing an app from Google into your iPhone instead of downloading it from the App Store.
How Does Sideloading Work?
If you’ve used an iPhone your whole life, chances are you’ve never sideloaded an app before. Android phones are the most common devices used for sideloading.
On Android, you can change the settings so that you can install apps from outside the Google Play store. All you need to do is find the APK file of any app, download it, and then manually install it. Basically, you’re doing all the steps the Google Play Store does on your own.
The app will usually work as if you download it from the store, and there shouldn’t be any issues with it.
Can You Sideload on an iPhone?
Apple has been on an ongoing journey to avoid sideloading on iPhone. So don’t expect to have the same freedom on iPhone as people do on Android, although that might be a good thing for some people.
Of course, there are ways for you to sideload, but that takes a lot of extra steps. That’s because you’ll also need to jailbreak your iPhone, which might ruin your iPhone forever if you do it incorrectly.
Why Do People Sideload?
There are many reasons why someone might want to sideload an app instead of getting it from the device’s store.
Sometimes, you might not have access to an app because of your carrier or the region you live in, and sideloading an app helps break that barrier. Other times a company might not grant access to an app or game to be in its store, so people will need to download it from somewhere else.
A great example is the Epic Games situation and how you can’t download Fortnite from either the Google Play Store or the App Store. Fortunately for Android users, they can still install Fortnite by sideloading it from Epic Games’ official website.
Another reason is piracy. Unfortunately, sideloading opens the door for many ways of piracy. People can download and install pay apps without spending a dime for them. You can also install sketchy apps where you can watch pirated movies. Sure, it might be good for the user, but it’s a hard hit for companies, especially indie developers.
Is It Actually Dangerous?
One of the biggest reasons why Apple doesn’t want people installing apps from outside the App Store is security. They say that it could be dangerous for its users, and they’re right to some extent.
Like other things on the internet, sideloading can be dangerous if you don’t use it properly. If you spend your time installing sketchy apps just to save a few bucks, you may face some big problems.
People can use apps to install malicious software on their device and disguise it as an app, much like they do on computers. This will basically leave the door open for hackers to extract your private information from your iPhone at any time.
Moreover, since any major store hasn’t authorized the app, they don’t really have to comply with any rules. They can ask to track any information on your device, take control of certain things, and even use your data however they want.
Also, as we mentioned before, if you want to sideload apps right now, you’ll need to jailbreak your iPhone, which can be extremely risky, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Other than that, sideloading can be just mildly annoying. In some cases, you’ll need to manually install updated versions of the app so you can have the latest version. However, you won’t get a notification, so you’ll also need to manually check for updates on your own.
Should You Care About Sideloading?
Most people won’t have to deal with sideloading on their devices in their entire lives. With that said, it’s still something you should know about because technically speaking, sideloading can happen on your computer too.
If you download and install apps on your Mac outside the App Store, you’re also at risk of the same problems sideloading has. You’ll need to be aware of not falling victim to any scam on viruses online.
Likewise, if you or someone you know uses an Android device, or if Apple ever allows sideloading on iPhone, it’d be best if you’re already prepared with everything you need to know about it.
The good — or bad — news is that Apple probably won’t ever allow sideloading on iPhone. The company has basically said that you should get an Android phone if you want to sideload apps.