I’m hugely amused by all the kerfuffle over Apple, sideloading, the EU, and third-party app stores.

You see, although I have an iPhone now, and an iPad, I’ve used Android and Android-based OSes for extended periods of time, and I can testify that nothing horrible necessarily happens when you sideload an app or use a third-party app store. I used a couple of different ones, specifically the Amazon Appstore and F-Droid, and things were fine. Really. No viruses, my phone didn’t explode, and the apps got updates.

The first thing you need to realize is that many of the folks you see online acting as if you’re taking your life into your hands using an Android phone usually say the same thing about Windows. God knows there are plenty of cheap Android phones with tacky UI skins that I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, but one gets the impression that the last time they used something not made by Apple was in the days of Windows 98 or the Motorola Droid X. People, time marches on. You don’t need to be scared. But preferences don’t have to be logical, and they’re entitled to their opinions.

Having said that, I am not one of the people clamoring for access to sideloading and third-party app stores, either. I’ve seen them, they’re OK, but they’re nothing to write home about. Amazon’s usually has older versions of apps, and F-Droid is mostly useful for open-source stuff. If you like Linux, you’ll like F-Droid. But 99% of people don’t need it. There’s no huge advantage for them.

And here is where I think Apple is being stupid. They don’t have to be Dr. Evil demanding 30% of revenue from apps that never touched an Apple server. All they have to do is the following:

  1. Make users find a diabolically hidden checkbox to enable sideloading and third-party app stores. iOS settings are Byzantine enough compared to Android settings that it wouldn’t be hard to hide.
  2. If someone checks the box, pop up a great big warning in giant red capital letters that if you do this, Apple will do nothing if you brick your phone, install a virus, accidentally hit “Buy” on an app that costs $5000, or you wet your pants.
  3. If the user still proceeds, make them confirm again and state that they’re on their own. Wild West. Good luck with that.
  4. Hell, say that installing from external sources voids the AppleCare+ warranty. That should get people’s attention.

My point is this: it’s not that big a deal. Most people won’t do it, and those who do will do it maybe once to satisfy curiosity and then go back to the official App Store. The hardcore folks who REALLY want it are probably already cracking their phone’s security and doing it anyway. These people also run Linux nightlies and write restroom graffiti in assembly language. They are not like you and me.

In any case, it doesn’t really affect me. I’ll just sit back and watch the show. Maybe I’ll make popcorn.

And if someday Apple stops being such a control freak, relax.