Apple has hit back at regulatory efforts to crack open its iPhone App Store, warning the move would expose consumers to hacking risks.

The California-based company said on Wednesday that attempts to force it to allow downloading from outside of its secure smartphone store – a process known as “sideloading” – could put consumers at risk.

The tech giant said such regulations could increase the “threat of malware, piracy and intellectual property theft”. 

“Sideloading” sees consumers downloading apps from the open internet and is not currently possible on iPhones.

Rivals, however, have said the tech company’s App Store is anti-competitive and forces them to give away up to 30pc of their app income to Apple.

In a report, Apple said: “A huge majority of malware – over 99pc – comes from sideloaded apps, because first-party stores like the App Store have protections in place that prevent these distribution techniques from targeting users.

Apple's app fees: at a glance

“If regulations force platforms to support sideloading without any user protections, the harm to users could be even greater.”

Apple also argued that Android smartphones, which allow consumers to download apps from the open web, were more at risk of being infected with malware. It said this in turn led consumers to spend $3.4bn per year on anti-virus software.

The tech giant’s App Store includes a manual review process for new apps that are added for consumers to download, and removes software that appears suspicious or breaks its terms of use. However, critics argue this “walled garden” allows Apple to block potential rival services, and that its review process is flawed and fails to prevent scams.

The technology company is facing investigations into its App Store from the European Commission and in the UK after complaints from music streaming company Spotify.

It is also appealing a ruling in a court case against the developer of Fortnite, Epic Games, in California over the App Store fees it charges. The court had ruled Apple could no longer prevent app developers from adding links to external payment sites into their services, potentially bypassing its fees.

Today’s ruling isn’t a win for developers or for consumers. Epic is fighting for fair competition among in-app payment methods and app stores for a billion consumers.

— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) September 10, 2021

In March, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority launched an inquiry into the tech company’s App Store. The inquiry is expected to continue gathering evidence until November. The regulator said developers had complained that Apple’s rules “mean they can only distribute their apps to iPhones and iPads via the App Store”.

The European Commission is currently debating a new Digital Markets Act, which Apple says could force technology companies to allow apps to be installed from other sources.

In June, Tim Cook attacked rules, saying the legislation would “force sideloading” and “destroy the security of the iPhone”.

Meanwhile, Apple could be forced to slash production of 10 million iPhones this year as chip shortages hit its latest products.

The technology giant had been planning on producing 90 million new iPhone 13 models in the final three months of 2021, but it has now scaled back its targets because its suppliers are struggling to deliver components.

The iPhone maker has informed its manufacturers of a shortfall in parts from suppliers Broadcom and Texas Instruments, Bloomberg reported, which make wireless chip parts and display technology.

While Apple’s supply chain is well established and pumps out hundreds of millions of smartphones each year, it has not been immune to the bumps caused by a chip shortage as demand for tiny semiconductors outstrips supply. Apple declined to comment on the shortages.