Last Updated on January 30, 2024 by TM
With the imminent iOS 17.4 update, Apple is introducing significant changes to its mobile operating system, specifically tailored for users in the European Union (EU) in compliance with new regulations. A noteworthy shift is Apple’s decision to permit alternative browser engines on iOS exclusively for EU users.
From the inception of the App Store, Apple allowed various browsers but mandated the use of the WebKit engine. WebKit powers Safari, Apple’s default browser. However, browsers like Chrome, Edge, Brave, and Opera, which use engines like Chromium or Gecko, were constrained to WebKit on iOS, leading to functionality issues. iOS 17.4 is set to change this restriction, granting developers in the EU the ability to employ non-WebKit engines.
Developers seeking to switch engines require Apple’s authorization, necessitating adherence to specific criteria and a commitment to privacy and security measures. Upon approval, developers gain access to features such as Passkeys and multiprocessing. Apple is also introducing a new choice screen in Safari, empowering users to select a different default browser upon the initial opening.
These adjustments are a response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), compelling platform owners to allow users to uninstall preinstalled apps, including browsers that direct them to the platform owner’s products and services. Apple, expressing dissatisfaction with these changes, emphasizes that they result from the DMA’s requirements.
It’s crucial to note that this modification exclusively impacts iPhone users in the EU. Apple asserts that it provides European users the freedom to choose different browser engines while restricting access to these options for non-EU residents. Beyond the EU, users will continue with browsers based on WebKit.
Apple contends, albeit without substantial evidence, that alternative browser engines pose security and performance risks, advocating that only WebKit ensures optimization and safety for iPhone users. However, this argument is specific to regions outside the EU.
The forthcoming changes in iOS 17.4 are poised to stimulate a competitive browser landscape within the EU. Google, for instance, has been actively developing a non-WebKit version of Chrome, promising users in the EU a diverse range of browsers available in the App Store upon the update’s March release.
In summary, Apple’s iOS 17.4 update, driven by EU regulations, marks a significant milestone by allowing alternative browser engines. This response to the Digital Markets Act aims to offer users more control over preinstalled apps. While Apple expresses discontent, users in the EU can anticipate enhanced browser options and heightened competition in the App Store.