iOS 17.4 Will FINALLY Let Users Sideload Apps

Apple’s latest installment of iOS 17 – iOS 17.4 – is landing very soon, and the update is a pretty significant one – it’s FINALLY bringing the ability to sideload apps…

Apple’s walled garden has been breached, at least if you live in the EU. The latest build of iOS 17 – iOS 17.4 – which will begin rolling out at any minute brings a host of new features and improvements. But the biggest new addition is the ability to side load applications.

What The Heck is Sideloading?

Normally, if you use an iPhone and you want to install an application, you have to do it through Apple’s App Store. This has been the case since day one and, barring legal intervention by the European Union, it would have stayed that way too.

Sideloading applications has been a thing on Android for a while now, but with iPhone – it never seemed like it was on the cards. But with iOS 17.4, Apple’s hand has been forced and users in the European Union will soon be able to install applications from sources other than the App Store.

Apple has implemented security measures like Notarization for iOS apps to check for malicious code and authorization for marketplace developers, despite acknowledging potential security risks.

This is a huge deal, both for Apple and for consumers. The change, instigated by EU regulation, is the second victory the block has had over Apple in as many years. Back in 2022, Apple confirmed it would be switching its iPhones – and all subsequent product releases – over to USB C at the behest of EU law.

What Else is New Inside iOS 17.4?

  • iOS 17.4 discontinues support for Home Screen web apps (PWAs) for EU users, a move confirmed by Apple as intentional to align with DMA regulations, which has led to dissatisfaction among users and developers.
  • The update also enhances Stolen Device Protection, adding a feature that requires an hour’s delay for changing security settings from any location, building on the existing feature that requires authentication via Face ID or Touch ID.

iOS 17.4 Full Changelog

Alternative App Marketplaces

A novel framework, accompanied by a set of APIs, empowers marketplace developers to install and manage app updates on behalf of other developers within these new ecosystems. This initiative aims to broaden the distribution channels available for iOS app developers.

Browser Engine Diversity

In addition to marketplace diversification, there is now support for alternative browser engines beyond Apple’s WebKit. This change permits the use of different browser engines in both standalone browser applications and in-app browsing experiences, fostering a more diverse and competitive environment.

Interoperability Enhancements

An interoperability request form has been made available, enabling developers to seek further integration with iPhone and iOS hardware and software capabilities, enhancing app functionality and user experience.

App Safety Measures

Notarization Process

Addressing potential security concerns associated with apps obtained outside the App Store, a notarization process has been instituted for all iOS apps, irrespective of their distribution method. This process, which includes automated checks and manual review, is designed to ensure platform integrity and user safety.

App Installation Sheets

Leveraging the notarization process, app installation sheets will provide users with concise summaries of apps before downloading. These sheets will include vital information such as the developer’s identity, app screenshots, and other key details, aiding users in making informed decisions.

Marketplace Developer Authorization

Marketplace developers are now required to adhere to ongoing standards aimed at safeguarding both users and developers. This measure ensures that marketplace operators maintain high security and privacy standards.

Enhanced Malware Protection

New safeguards have been implemented to prevent the execution of iOS apps identified as containing malware post-installation, thereby protecting users’ devices from potential threats.

Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin is a leading UK technology journalist with a focus on consumer tech trends and data security. Renowned for his insightful analysis, Richard has contributed to Sky News, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 2, and CNBC, making complex tech issues accessible to a broad audience.

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