I recently bought a Backbone One and it’s quite good. I love turning my phone into a gaming pad when I travel. It’s the second most enjoyable part of travel after passing by loads of people from the UK in a queue that I, an EU citizen, get to bypass. I’m a smug man, what can I say? Which is why I’m also a little smug about the iOS 17.4 update that’s coming in March later this year. Apple’s is releasing some major updates that are limited only to the EU, committing the US and UK. Here’s what we’re getting, including the possibility to play retro games on emulators previously limited to Android.
- Sideloading Apps
- Alternative App Stores
- Gaming Streaming Apps
- Third-Party Payments
- Other iOS 17.4 Features
iOS 17.4 will enable sideloading of apps for iPhone users in the EU, and naturally, Ireland too. This means you’ll be able to install apps from sources other than Apple’s own App Store. These changes were brought about by the European Union’s revised Open App Markets Act (Open App Store Regulation), which aimed to promote competition and innovation in the app market.
But boring legal mumbo-jumbo aside, what’s the real benefit of this? Well, for me it’s loading apps that operate in grey areas. While some might be excited about IPTV apps, I’m really excited about retro gaming emulation.
Retro gaming emulation is totally legal, but owning some of the game files might not be. It’s an odd area that resulted in emulators not being available for iPhone unless you Jailbreak your phone. That’s a process of unlocking the phone’s software and effectively voiding your warranty with Apple too. So few people see it as a user-friendly approach to getting retro games going on iPhone.
However, with these new updates, Apple also said they have no intention of policing content customers use outside of their own ecosystem so this should mean this grey area offers no additional problems.
It’s by no means completely confirmed this will all be possible or that retro console emulators for consoles like SNES or Sega Mega Drive will be able to get their apps through to an iPhone. But it looks a lot more possible now inside the EU than outside it.
Alternative App Stores
An important update for iPhone users in the EU is Apple allowing alternative app stores to distribute apps for download directly to iPhone. This will massively support the sideloading side of things. Ideally, what will happen here is we’ll see an alternative app store offer up some emulation apps and make this whole process a lot easier.
It’s important that I don’t just paint a picture here that’s just raindrops and daffodils. There are also some potential risks associated with the introduction of alternative app marketplaces. For example, it could make it easier for malicious apps to be installed on iPhones. It could also make it more difficult for Apple to protect its users’ privacy and as I’ve mentioned, they won’t really be monitoring this area of downloads and installs. It can be done safely on Android today, so my advice is just to do some research and reading before trusting any content or downloads.
Gaming Streaming Apps
While retro gaming is still a little bit unsure, Apple will be making it much easier for people to play games on cloud gaming apps. This means Xbox Game Pass and Nvidia GeForce Now will be fully installable and playable on iOS worldwide.
Another sizeable enforcement by the EU is the insistence that Apple must allow customers to make in-app purchases using payment methods other than Apple Pay.
Before iOS 17.4, Apple had also restricted access to the NFC chip to its own payment platform, Apple Pay. This gave Apple a significant advantage over its competitors, as it allowed it to collect a 30% commission on all in-app purchases made using Apple Pay. However, the revised Open App Store Regulation prohibited Apple from requiring developers to use its own payment system, opening the door for third-party apps to access the NFC chip and offer their own contactless payment solutions.
This might open the door for an app like Curve to offer more services.
Other iOS 17.4 Features
There are some other features which are a little less exciting for me personally, but maybe they’ll make your day.
iOS 17.4 includes 118 new emoji, including lime, an edible brown mushroom, a phoenix, a broken chain, shaking head vertically (as in a “yes” nod), and shaking head horizontally (as in a “no” head shake).
Auto-generated transcripts with Apple Podcasts
iOS 17.4 adds the ability to automatically generate transcripts for Apple Podcasts episodes. This can be helpful for people who are hard of hearing or who want to follow along with an episode without having to watch it.
New Stolen Device Protection Feature
iOS 17.4 introduces a new Stolen Device Protection feature that makes it more difficult for stolen iPhones to be used. This feature includes a new Activation Lock bypass protection feature that prevents thieves from easily bypassing the Activation Lock screen.
Siri Message Reading
iOS 17.4 allows Siri to read incoming messages in a specific language, even if the user’s iPhone is set to a different language. This can be helpful for people who are multilingual or who want to receive messages in a language that they do not speak fluently.
There are also some CarPlay updates and the usual bug fixes and security updates. You can read more detail on Apple’s website.