Apple finally letting people run third-party browsers unfettered – but only in the EU and not because it wants to

Release Time:2024-01-26

Part of a new sweeping changes coming to iPhones

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

For iOS 17.4, Apple is making sweeping changes to iPhones in the EU including finally giving users the ability to run native third-party browsers on their phone.

You may be wondering, “Aren’t there already third-party browsers on iOS?” Not exactly. The way things work currently is developers must rework their software to run on the WebKit framework, effectively

turning browsers like Chrome on iOS into a reskinned Safari. As a result, features that work fine on Android don’t on iOS. But in the future, the tech giant will allow companies to use their own engines “for

browser apps and apps with in-app browsing experiences.” What’s more, people can make their preferred browser the default on iPhone during setup. You will no longer be beholden to Safari.

This is a big deal for the everyday user. It means Google Chrome, the most popular browser in the world, will be able to deliver its intended experience to iOS for the first time. Of course, this includes other

apps running on the Chromium engine like Edge and Opera. Independent options like Firefox are a part of this group too.

Before developers can rush their unbound software to the App Store, Apple will need to approve them. A new support page on the Apple Developer website details all of the criteria teams must meet. It’s a

pretty long document, but the main takeaways are that browsers must have robust protections for iPhone owners, block third-party cookies, as well as be exclusive to the European Union.

      App Store upgrade

As for the other changes, they center around several App Store upgrades Apple will now let people install apps from “alternative app marketplaces'' like the Google Play Store. There is a catch, however.

Software downloaded from outside the App Store “will not be compatible” with the platform’s features such as Ask to Buy or Family Purchase Sharing.

Every app from an outside app store must meet “Notarization requirements” before being allowed on iPhones, according to 9To5Mac. The process involves meeting multiple automated checks and a

human review. Dev teams must prove their app is safe, fully functioning, and accurately represent their capabilities (No pulling a fast one on people). Once everything is squared away, companies can

freely distribute their service on their preferred marketplace.

Regarding sideloading apps, Apple’s announcement doesn’t broach the topic at all. A recent Wall Street Journal report revealed the tech giant has plans to enact fees on platforms allowing sideloading to

occur. But, the only money-related topics in the post revolve around offering developers new payment processing options and a reduced commission for iOS apps on the App Store.

These changes will “come into effect in March” across 27 EU countries. As we get close to the release date, Apple will publish resources explaining the iOS ecosystem update further.

      Future expansion

If you live in the EU and want to try out the revamp yourself, iOS 17.4 beta is available for download via your iPhone’s Settings menu. Make sure you’re currently signed up for the Apple Beta

Software Program to gain access. Check out our guide on installing an iOS 17 beta to learn how to do this.

Now the question is: will all this roll out to the US and elsewhere? Maybe, but not right now. In another 9To5Mac report, a series of Apple statements make it abundantly clear that it’s not making changes

because it wants to. It’s doing them because the brand is choosing to comply with the new rules set in place by the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

When asked about expanding the App Store update, Apple doesn't want to because it sees the DMA changes as unsafe and doesn’t want to expose others to potential danger. That said, if the US passes

its own version of the DMA, we could see the revamp elsewhere.

While we have you, TechRadar recently updated its roundup of the best iPhone deals for 2024. Give it a look if you're looking for a new device.

By Cesar Cadenas published

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