iOS 17.4 Coming Soon as iPhone App Sideloading Deadline in EU Nears

Apple has until March 6 to fully comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which among other things will require the company to allow iPhone users to install apps outside of the App Store. With the deadline for this regulation fast approaching, it is likely that Apple will begin preparing for these changes with iOS 17.4.

The first iOS 17.4 beta is expected to be released as early as this week, although it is unclear if the app-related changes will be rolled out for testing immediately, or held for later beta versions. Apple is expected to add support for both third-party app stores and app sideloading on the iPhone for users in EU countries, including Austria, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and others.

Apple has strongly opposed the Digital Markets Act and app sideloading over the past few years, citing privacy and security risks for customers. At a tech conference in 2021, Apple CEO Tim Cook said app sideloading “would destroy the security of the iPhone and a lot of the privacy initiatives that we’ve built into the App Store.”

Apple will likely do the minimum required to comply with the Digital Markets Act, which may lead to several limitations and guardrails surrounding third-party app stores and app sideloading on the iPhone. We’ve seen Apple do similar with legal compliance in the U.S., where it recently allowed developers to direct customers to payment methods outside of the ‌App Store‌, but is still collecting up to a 27% commission and has several rules.

There are other changes coming to the iPhone in Europe as a result of regulatory pressures. Earlier this week, the European Commission announced that Apple has promised to allow third-party payment and mobile wallet apps to access the iPhone’s NFC chip in Europe, which should result in more competition for Apple Pay and Apple Wallet. It’s unclear when Apple will implement this change, but it is likely further away than app sideloading.

We will be digging into iOS 17.4 as soon as it is released, so stay tuned for a closer look at any new features and code changes.

Related Roundups: iOS 17, iPadOS 17
Related Forums: iOS 17, iPadOS 17

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