According to 9to5mac, Apple is testing a new, more modern system in iOS 16.2 that enables or restricts certain features based on the user’s location. The system, called countryd, is currently being tested and is likely intended to replace the previous method of determining whether sideloading features should be enabled for European Union (EU) users.
Apple currently employs several methods to determine a user’s location, including hardcoding, which restricts some features regardless of the user’s actual location or account region. However, Apple feels this approach is not stringent enough.
The new countryd system combines various data sources for determining a user’s location, including GPS coordinates, WiFi regional codes, and SIM card data. With this information, it becomes much more difficult for users to bypass restrictions, though not entirely impossible.
The primary speculation around the purpose of the countryd system involves iOS 17’s sideloading capabilities. As previously reported, iOS 17 is expected to allow users to install apps and games from sources other than the App Store. This concession is in response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) requirements, but it will likely only apply to users within the EU.
With the new system in place, Apple can enable sideloading capabilities in select markets, such as adding EU member countries to an open list. If other markets introduce similar legislation, they can also be added to the list, simplifying matters for Apple.
Whether the sideloading feature will be announced at WWDC 2023 remains uncertain, as it is not considered favorable news for Apple. The company may opt for a more low-key approach, such as suddenly announcing the availability of sideloading later this year.