iOS 17.4: The Most Important Update in Years for EU Users

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Apple has released the first beta version of iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4 for developers. The update brings several major changes for users in the EU, including the ability to download apps from other sources than the official App Store. Some other features will be available worldwide.

Apple has been under pressure from the European Union to comply with the new rules that stem from the Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA aims to ensure fair competition and innovation in the digital sector, and to protect consumers from unfair practices by dominant platforms.

According to MacRumors, Apple has to implement these changes before March 7, 2024, when the DMA comes into force. To avoid fines and lawsuits, Apple has released the first beta version of iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4 for developers, which introduces some of the required changes for users in the EU. 

The update also includes some other features that will be available for users worldwide.

Alternative Stores and New Payment Options

The main and most significant change for European users is the possibility to download apps from alternative stores. Users will be able to choose their preferred alternative app store and even set it as default. Parents will also have the option to decide whether their children’s devices can install apps from alternative app markets.

Apple also allows apps to use alternative payment options in their apps and no longer requires the use of in-app purchases. Developers can choose to link to their website, where users can make payments. Apple, however, requires that developers use a reputable and secure service provider. 

Safari Will No Longer Be the Only Possible Default Browser

After updating to iOS 17.4, users in the EU will see a pop-up window when opening Safari, which will allow them to select a new default browser from a list of the most popular browsers on iOS. Apple also allows alternative browsers and will not force browsers like Chrome to use the WebKit engine.

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Access to NFC

Payment apps and third-party banks will get full access to the NFC chip in iOS 17.4. Users will be able to make contactless payments without using Apple Pay or the Wallet app. Users can set their default provider of contactless payments and also change the default Wallet app on their iPhone. 

Cloud Apps Will Delight Gamers

One of the other features that will be available for the whole world will please gamers in particular. Until now, Apple only allowed offering cloud gaming services through the web, but in the next app, it will also allow specialized apps. This means that services like Xbox Cloud Gaming or Nvidia GeForce NOW will be able to be offered as standalone apps for iPhone and iPad. Mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins can now use the in-app purchase system.

New Emojis

iOS 17.4 beta adds new emoji characters, which are part of the Unicode 15.1 update approved in September 2023. They include an edible brown mushroom, a phoenix, a broken chain, a lime, a head nod, and a head shake. 

News in Apps

The Automatically Send Messages setting in the Siri and Search section has been renamed to “Messages with Siri”. It allows you to set Siri to read incoming messages in a specific language, such as Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and many others. This change does not affect the primary language in which Siri listens and responds, and is limited only to playing messages.

The “Play” panels in Apple Music and Podcasts have been renamed to “Home Page”. The Podcasts app also now offers transcripts, which work similarly to displaying song lyrics in the Apple Music app.

A minor cosmetic change also appeared in the Safari browser. It concerns the bottom address window, which is slightly wider than before. 

Protection of Stolen Devices

The current version of iOS 17.3 brought a number of security features that are designed to prevent the misuse of stolen devices. Apple, however, is working on further improvements. In the Protection of Stolen Devices section in the Settings app, there is now the option to require a security delay always or only if you are outside of known locations.

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