Against Gatekeeper on iOS

There’s a popular article by Jared Sinclair that’s been circling the web these last few weeks:

Gatekeeper for iOSApple should expand the Gatekeeper program to iOS.1 Developers should be allowed to sell Gatekeeper-signed apps directly to customers outside of the App Store.

Jared argues that one way the iPad could gain popularity and, more importantly, get the attention of developers it needs, is by allowing developers to sell iPad apps without using the App Store. By giving developers full freedom they can set their own prices, allow for paid updates, demo versions,… which theoretically would result in more sales and a bigger incentive to develop so-called pro Apps.

But, I don’t agree from a end-user standpoint. It would result in a worse user experience and confusion.

Why? An example.

My mother

My mom called me yesterday because the needed help with her Mac. She had some issues with backups and email, and was worried her recent El Capitan upgrade had something to do with it.

While troubleshooting her Mac I decided to do a full checkup and upgrade every apps she used.


  1. Visit the App Store and check for updates. Press update all.
  2. Open every app she uses frequently -that’s sold outside of the App Store- to check for updates manually.

For apps that use the Sparkle framework upgrading is as easy as clicking the update button for every app that offers an update. For other apps like Adobe’s CC or Microsoft Office it’s a separate update app that gets launched and starts installing updates. And some are even more cumbersome and require the download of a separate DMG (hello VMWare).

Compare this to that same process on her iPad:

  1. Visit the App Store and check for updates. Press update all.

The experience

The experience on iOS is easy and fast. There’s one path to follow, every app behaves the same and you’re sure you got each and every one of them.

On the Mac it takes a lot more steps and I’m still not sure I’ve got every app updated to its latest release. (Some apps like Office even required me to do incremental updates one after the other). Compared to iOS it feels cumbersome, clumsy and kinda old-fashioned.

Side loading apps on iOS would mean that those apps aren’t updated via the App Store. They’re distributed outside of Apple’s control, so there’s no way Apple would allow these apps to appear in the Updates pane since they can’t guarantee their ‘stamp of approval’. Users would need to update these apps separately, either via alerts that tell them about updates, by requiring users to visit the developers website and download the app that way or by using iTunes or …

Why would Apple deteriorate user-experience for the sake of helping developers?

No, if Apple changes something about the way apps are distributed the last thing they do is bypass the App Store and make using iOS more difficult or confusing.