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iOS 17.5 Will Let Users Download Apps From Websites

iOS 17.5 is bringing a major new feature: the ability to install apps from websites.


TL;DR: What’s coming in iOS 17.5?

  • Big feature: iOS 17.5 will allow users to download and install apps from a website instead of the App Store. 📲
  • Region-limited: But this new feature will be limited to those users who live in the EU. 🇪🇺
  • Previously expected: In March Apple said this was a feature that would be coming to iPhone users in the EU. 🍎
  • Release date: iOS 17.5 is expected to be released in May or June. 📆

Today Apple released the first beta of iOS 17.5 to developers. iOS 17.5 is likely to be one of the last major releases of iOS 17 considering Apple is gearing up to preview iOS 18 at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. However, while iOS 17.5 will be a relatively minor upgrade for most iPhone users in the world, it will be a fairly significant one for iPhone users in the European Union.

That’s because iOS 17.5 will add the ability for iPhone users to download apps directly from a developer’s website instead of from Apple’s App Store or a third-party app store.

The move isn’t completely unexpected. As we reported in March, Apple actually announced that it would bring this functionality to the iPhone for its EU users. Apple calls this ability “Web Distribution” and explained it like this:

“Web Distribution, available in a software update later this spring, will let authorized developers distribute their iOS apps to EU users directly from a website the developer owns and operates. Apple will provide access to APIs that facilitate the distribution of developers’ apps from the web, integrate with system functionality, back up and restore users’ apps, and more. Apps offered through Web Distribution must meet Notarization requirements to protect platform integrity, like all iOS apps, and can only be installed from a website domain that the developer has registered in App Store Connect.”

Apple

However, this are some big stipulations to downloading apps from websites. First, it’s not like just anyone can host an iPhone app on their personal website or blog and let an iPhone user in the EU install it. Among other requirements, Apple says developers must “be a member of good standing in the Apple Developer Program for two continuous years or more, and have an app that had more than one million first annual installs on iOS in the EU in the prior calendar year.”

What remains to be seen how how the Web Distribution process will actually function on the user’s end. Presumably, the website will just show some kind of “download” button in the Safari web browser, which, when tapped, will download and install the app on the user’s iPhone.

Apple will obviously have background security checks in place, but it makes one wonder whether this type of app distribution will be as safe as downloading apps in Apple’s App Store. It’s only not clear right now how users will know when there is an update to an app that they have previously directly downloaded from a website.

Will the app itself alert them that there is an update for it? Or will the user need to return to the website to manually check? If the app notifies the users, will the update automatically download, or will the user need to give their permission first?

Web downloads bring a whole new element of app installation to the iPhone that has never existed on the device before. But with the ability it’s easy to see how bad actors may try to take advantage of the new installation vector, which could put users at risk.

Michael Grothaus

Michael Grothaus is an American author and journalist with a flair for exploring the intersection of technology, creativity, and digital culture. With a background in film, journalism, and creative writing, he brings a unique perspective to the world of mobile technology. His work has been featured in renowned publications like Fast Company, The Guardian, and Engadget. At KnowYourMobile, Michael leverages his extensive knowledge to guide readers through the complexities of mobile devices, helping them make informed choices in the fast-paced tech landscape.

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