Following weeks and weeks of beta releases, Apple has finally released the iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4 software updates to the public. The new update brings some major changes to the iPhone and iPad (especially for European users), including the ability to install third-party apps and app stores, new emojis, some improvements to Messages, and more. Here, we take a look at everything new in iOS 17.4 and iPadOS 17.4:


Support for Third-Party Apps and App Stores in the EU

li-apple-iphone-app-store

With the Digital Markets Act (DMA) coming into effect starting March 6, 2024, Apple has added support for sideloading third-party apps and app stores in the EU. This means users can now install alternative app platforms on their iPhones and iPads for the first time ever. Apple’s decision to align with the DMA comes as the EU aims to create a fairer environment for all companies, developers, and apps in Europe.


For the App Store as well, Apple has a new system in place wherein the developers won’t have to pay anything for the first million installs and will pay a standard fee of EUR 0.50 per user per year after that. Moreover, for apps distributed through the App Store, the commission is reduced to 17 percent, or 10 percent for those in the small business program. As expected, apps distributed through alternative app stores won’t have any commission fees.

Apps installed outside the Apple App Store will go through a security verification process to ensure they’re free of malware. Users will even be able to set a particular app store as their preferred app store in settings. However, for those wondering, this will remain available only to the users in the EU, and we don’t expect it to arrive in other regions like Asia and North America.

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Apple allows apps outside of App Store: What does this mean for you?

Apple is set to enable sideloading on iPhone as early as 2024, enabling millions of users in EU to download games and apps outside of the App Store

Other EU-Specific Changes

person using Apple Pay

Source: Unsplash


In addition to the support for third-party app stores, Apple is allowing developers to use alternative payment methods in their apps — apps are no longer forced to use Apple’s in-app purchase system. Developers can integrate third-party payment methods directly into the app or redirect users to their website for payments. However, Apple is forcing developers to use renowned and secure platforms for third-party payments.

Additionally, Apple will allow users to choose their default web browser. After installing iOS 17.4, when users in the EU open Safari, a pop-up will appear, asking them to select their preferred web browser. Users will be able to select Google Chrome, Firefox, or any other browser as their default browser.

Moreover, app developers are no longer required to use Apple’s WebKit engine for their browsers. This change means developers like Google and Mozilla can now utilize their own browsing engines instead of Apple’s engine. Finally, Apple is also opening up NFC access to developers in the EU, meaning third-party apps and services can now offer their contactless payment methods on the iPhone and users are no longer forced to use Apple Pay for contactless payments.


New Emojis

New emojis ios 17-4

Apple has also added a number of new emojis to iOS with the latest update. The list of new emojis includes a slice of lemon, a brown mushroom, a broken chain, a shaking head emoji, and a dragon. Moreover, there are now more than 15 people and body emojis that have the option to face in either direction.

Podcast Transcripts

The Apple Podcast app now offers transcripts on iOS 17.4. It works similarly to how the lyrics feature works on the Music app, syncing with the audio playback. Transcripts are available in English, Spanish, French, and German, and users can search for specific words or phrases within them.

New iMessage Security Protocol and Features

iphone 15 plus in hand


Apple has improved the security of the Messages app even further by integrating a new “state-of-the-art” protocol called PQ3. The new protocol protects users against phishing attacks that use quantum computers. Apple has also changed the wording of the messaging settings under Siri to “Messaging with ‌Siri‌.” You can now also set Siri to read messages in a specific language, including Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and more.

Battery Health Changes on iPhone 15

With iOS 17.4, Apple has changed the way it shows battery health on iPhone 15 models. The Battery Health label will now read “Normal” instead of showing the actual battery health percentage. In addition to this change, the battery health section now also displays statistics like battery cycle count, manufacture date, and first use.

iOS 17.4 contains a new City Digital Clock widget, perfect for those who prefer digital clocks over analog ones. Apple has also finally added the stopwatch Live Activity feature, which shows up as soon as you start a stopwatch. It shows up on the Dynamic Island and Lock Screen, and you control the stopwatch with pause, clear, or start a new lap button.


Should You Upgrade to iOS 17.4?

If you’re in the EU, iOS 17.4 is a must-have update. The option to add third-party apps is a game-changer, and even though there aren’t any alternative app stores yet, they’re on the way. Fortnite is already gearing up for a return to iOS because of these changes. If you’re outside the EU, the update might not be as thrilling, but the added iMessage security, Apple Podcast transcripts, and the new emojis are still worthwhile, so we recommend you to update your device as soon as possible.

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