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iOS 17.4 beta launches with App sideloading and alternative browser engines in the EU

Apple has just released the iOS 17.4 beta developer beta 1. Following the wide public release of iOS 17.3 just a few days ago, the writing was on the wall for a new developer build. And it’s here for all those adventurous enough to test out a developer beta, which are these days free to test-drive.

But back to the new here iOS 17.4 beta 1. What’s new and what’s changed?

iOS 17.4 beta 1 new features

From the get-go, there aren’t that many changes visible on the outside. In fact, there’s little new to play with.

What’s major here, however, is Apple complying with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) and adopting tons of changes to Safari, the App Store, and iOS itself. The directive, which essentially allows iPhone users in the EU to benefit from sideloading apps from third-party app stores, enjoy non-WebKit-based browsers, and additional safeguards to tone down risks for users will arrive with the public release of iOS 17.4.

Essentially, iOS 17.4 will allow users in the EU to:

  • sideload apps from third-party app stores (currently only developers can sideload apps)
  • use browsers based on another engine (all iOS browsers right now rely on Apple’s WebKit engine)
  • choose their default browsers the first time they launch Safari after iOS 17.4 (currently not available in the beta)

Apple says that it has included more than 600 new APIs as well as expanded app analytics but doesn’t miss the opportunity to once again voice concerns about “new avenues for malware, fraud and scams, illicit and harmful content, and other privacy and security threats.” One way to combat this is a new safeguard protection dubbed Notarization for iOS apps, which aims to reduce risks by authorizing marketplace developers can peddle apps or take alternative payments.

Still, the word “risk” is used some 22 times in the press release, revealing that Apple is adopting this EU-forced changed very willy-nilly.

Some developer-intended new iOS features that will arrive with iOS 17.4 but aren’t necessarily part of the newest beta include:

  • New options for distributing iOS apps from alternative app marketplaces
  • New framework and APIs for creating alternative app marketplaces
  • New frameworks and APIs for alternative browser engines
  • Interoperability request form
  • Notarization for iOS apps
  • App installation sheets
  • Authorization for marketplace developers
  • Additional malware protections

iOS 17.4 sideloading

When sideloading, iOS users in the EU won’t be able to benefit from some of the regular perks. For example, purchases of app ouside of the App Store won’t be detailed in the latter and Apple won’t be able to issue a refund. Family Purchase Sharing and Ask to Buy also won’t be compatible with apps downloaded and/or purchased outside of the App Store.

However, App Tracking Transparency will still work with apps coming from alternative stores, so users will be able to forbid apps from sharing tracking their data and sending it to the respective app developer.

iOS 17.4: When is it coming?

Apple says that all of these changes will come into effect in March, so we should most certainly expect iOS 17.4 to go out of beta and arrive as a public release to all iPhone users before March. Of course, non-EU iOS users needn’t worry as seemingly nothing will change for them. No sideloading and no alternative app stores and browser engines are to be expected in the US.

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