Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

iPhone sideloading is coming, but there’s no sign of it in iOS 17.4 beta 1

Published Jan 25th, 2024 7:44PM EST
iPhone 15 Pro Max Screen
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

It’s official: iPhone sideloading, third-party app stores, third-party payment systems, lower fees (with a twist), Apple Pay alternatives, game streaming apps, and better support for alternate browsers are coming to iPhone with the iOS 17.4 update.

This sounds amazing until you actually start reading Apple’s press release and developer documentation. These features will only be available in Europe as of March 7th, which is the deadline for the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) that forces Apple to open up the iPhone to improve competition.

The iPhone maker says these features are localized to the EU. Also, Apple says the ability to install apps from other sources on iPhone (aka sideloading) might impact the user’s security and privacy. That’s why Apple is not bringing these features to international markets. Then again, no other jurisdiction is forcing Apple to do it, but Japan and the US are both contemplating similar legislation.

If you’ve read my coverage, you probably know I’m not going to take advantage of iPhone sideloading. I won’t get apps from anywhere other than the App Store. And I’m not going to use any other developer’s payment system.

However, since I am in Europe, I’ll be able to see all these iOS 17.4 features in action, and I’ll show how Apple will implement them. I understand that some people want these alternatives on iPhone, and I think Apple should release them globally without putting up another pointless fight.

That said, iOS 17.4 beta 1 doesn’t introduce many changes when it comes to app downloads. I couldn’t find anything that would inform users about sideloading, third-party app stores, and all the DMA-related features after I installed the beta.

When installing the iOS 17.4 beta 1, I did not expect to find any third-party app marketplaces in the App Store or sideloading support from other apps.

That’s because, well, developers will have to go through the process of signing a new agreement with Apple, which will include the DMA-related terms. That can’t happen yet, as Apple has just published the documentation. Developers will have to think it over.

Some, like Spotify and Epic, have made up their minds. Microsoft might also launch an app marketplace for iPhone and iPad. Then, there are game streaming apps coming to the iPhone.

But I, the end-user, would have to find any proof in the iPhone’s settings that such features are coming. iOS 17.4 beta 1 has none of that, and I checked everywhere.

I checked the App Store section in the Settings app, my Apple ID, Face ID & Passcode, and my Wallet & Apple Pay settings. I also looked at Screen Time restrictions, but I couldn’t find any indication that Apple is laying the groundwork for iPhone sideloading.

It’s also still unclear how Apple will restrict access to iPhone app sideloading for users outside of Europe. Geofencing is one way to go. Requiring a European-based Apple ID is another. But this is just speculation. Again, there’s nothing in the Settings app of iOS 17.4 beta 1 regarding the new iPhone app experience soon to be unleashed on the EU.

It’s early, of course, but I assumed Apple might have added new settings to manage app downloads on iPhones (and iPads) in Europe. They will probably come in future iOS 17.4 beta updates once developers approve their third-party app marketplaces.

iOS 17.4 beta 1 brings changes to Stolen Device Protection.
iOS 17.4 beta 1 brings changes to Stolen Device Protection. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

I did find one change in iOS 17.4 that’s worth mentioning, but it has nothing to do with the DMA regulation. Apple already tweaked Stolen Device Protection so iPhone users can set a time delay for all attempts to change sensitive settings. In iOS 17.3, said time delay starts only when making changes at an unfamiliar location.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

More Tech

Latest News