iOS 17.4 is here: A new iPhone era begins

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The time has come: the deadline for the stricter EU laws (Digital Markets Act) for technology giants to come into force has arrived, along with the long-awaited update for iPhones. With iOS 17.4, Apple is implementing the enforced changes for users in Europe.

The EU hopes that this will bring a breath of fresh air to the iPhone ecosystem, give iOS users more freedom, and allow smaller providers to benefit from the broken market power of the large technology companies.

Doubts are justified
It is difficult to predict whether the EU’s plans will work out. Only time will tell whether the dictated changes will bring the desired success. However, doubts are justified.

One reason for this is that numerous hurdles for alternative offers accompany the forced opening of the Apple ecosystem. In addition, Apple’s implementation has already come in for heavy criticism – more on this below.

New information about the battery status
The update can be found under “Settings,” then “General,” and then “Software Update.”. You should allow between 20 and 30 minutes for installation. The iPhone cannot be used during this time. It is always advisable to create a comprehensive backup before installing an update.

Alternative marketplaces for apps
For the first time in the history of iPhones, Apple allows applications to be installed via external app stores. A default marketplace can be specified in the settings. However, this innovation only applies to iPhones for now, not iPads.
There is still not much to see in the alternative marketplaces. iPhone users will not be able to download apps from external sources for now because no such marketplaces have been officially launched. However, this will change over time.

Fortnite developer Epic Games and Setapp from MacPaw will become two of the first alternative marketplaces for iPhones. Among other things, Setapp offers carefully curated productivity apps, but access to the app store will cost 9.99 dollars per month.

Apple Pay gets competition
If you want to use a mobile payment service on an iPhone, there has been no way around Apple Pay until now. Apple has not allowed competing payment services to access the iPhone’s NFC chip.
This is now changing. Developers of mobile wallets and payment services now have direct and free access to the iPhone’s NFC chip.

For their payment services, providers can use the Host Card Emulation (HCE) interface on Android devices. This enables secure and convenient authorisation of payments – using Face ID, for example.

Banks, for example, can now offer their contactless payment solutions on Apple phones and no longer rely on Apple Pay. However, domestic banks’ interest in offering their own payment apps for the iPhone is reportedly limited.

Changes to the Safari browser
Once you have installed iOS 17.4, you will see a new selection screen when you open the Safari browser for the first time. Users can then decide which default browser to set for their iPhone.

Until now, browser apps for iOS had to be based on Apple’s WebKit. Specially developed web engines, such as those from Google or Mozilla, were prohibited on Apple’s mobile operating systems.

These restrictions will also be lifted with the update to iOS 17.4. This opening could bring fresh air to the browser market on iPhones. This step is expected to enable numerous new functions for iOS browsers.

Other new features
The update to iOS 17.4 brings new emojis such as limes, head shakes, nods, and a broken chain. Improved settings for device protection called “Stolen Device Protection” are also included in the update.

In addition, iMessage has been fundamentally revised – but only in the background. Apple already announced a few days ago that quantum encryption PQ3 will be added to the iMessage app and the existing end-to-end encryption.

iOS 17.4 also brings new, detailed information about the battery’s health. For example, it shows how many charging cycles the battery has completed. It also shows when the battery was produced and operated for the first time. However, this information is only displayed on the new iPhone 15 models.

Fierce criticism of the implementation
However, how Apple has implemented the rules for external marketplaces has led to fierce criticism. The plan is a “total farce” and should be rejected by the EU Commission, railed Spotify boss Daniel Ek. He is particularly angry about the new annual app fee of 50 euro cents: “This is blackmail.”

This so-called “core technology fee” is also due if the apps are downloaded to iPhones via external stores. Spotify emphasized that, with a base of approximately 100 million Apple device users in the EU, it would be asked to pay a large sum. They will also have to pay the levy for people who do not use the service but only have the app on their iPhones.

Apple also leaves developers free to remain in the App Store under the previous app conditions. Spotify criticized the iPhone company for creating an unacceptable alternative for developers, saying they would rather stay with the old system.

In response to Spotify’s criticism, Apple countered that with the new rules, 99 percent of developers would have to pay the company the same amount as before or less.

Security of external apps
Apple relies on the so-called notarization model, which is already used on macOS, to prevent malicious software from being introduced to iPhones via these alternative app stores.

All apps must be signed by the developer with an Apple certificate. Apps must also be submitted to Apple. The apps are approved after an automated malware check and a manual check.

Apple does not want to check the content. This would mean, for example, that emulators or porn apps could be offered via the external marketplaces. Parental controls will, therefore, probably not work in externally downloaded apps.

However, applications from these app stores are subject to the usual security standards, meaning that the user must first approve access to the camera or location. Consent or refusal to track should also apply to these apps.

  • source: futurezone.at/picture: apple.com
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