Apple releases iOS 17.4 for iPhone with huge EU app store and browser changes, new emojis, podcast transcripts, and more

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Apple's iOS 17.4 iPhone software update has been in beta testing for weeks, but it's finally now available for download by everyone. And while there are new features and changes for all, those in the European Union will notice more than most.

The iOS 17.4 software update is available for all the same iPhones that were able to install iOS 17 and subsequent releases, including the latest and greatest iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models. The update is of course free to download and can be found in the Software Update section of the Settings app.

While the biggest changes are of course available to those in the EU, that doesn't mean that there isn't something here for everyone.

Big changes for the EU

There's only one place to start and that is undoubtedly with the changes that are exclusive to those who are using iPhones in the EU. With the Digital Markets Act about to come into force, Apple has been forced to make changes to the way the iPhone works in EU member countries, not least allowing third-party app stores onto the iPhone for the first time.

While stopping short of allowing sideloading in the way some had expected, iOS 17.4 does allow third-party app stores, or marketplaces, to be launched within the EU. apps will then be downloaded via those marketplaces allowing apps to be made available outside of the App Store in a way that simply wasn't possible before — and remains impossible outside the EU. Apps will also be able to offer third-party payment options, too.

Another EU-only change will see third-party web browsers able to use their own engine, removing the requirement for them to use Apple's WebKit. This could open the door to faster web browsers with different features, but it remains to be seen how many browsers will offer two versions of their app — one in the EU using a different engine and another in the rest of the world powered by WebKit.

Continuing the EU changes we have the ability for third-party wallet apps to access the iPhone's NFC chip, allowing them to make contactless payments in a way similar to Apple Pay.

Podcast transcriptions

Transcripts Apple Podcasts iOS 17.4

(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Podcasts app now supports transcripts, allowing people to follow along with their favorite show and read what the hosts are saying as they go. The feature works in much the same way as Apple Music's lyrics feature, with the words highlighting as the podcast progresses.

New emojis, and more

Other notable improvements include a slew of new emojis including a mushroom, phoenix, broken chain, and a slice of lime. New faces showing horizontal and vertical movement can also be used to show a nodding and shaking of the head, too.

Apple has already announced its new iMessage security upgrade with PQ3 technology, and that's part of this iOS 17.4 update. Designed to help protect iMessage from future attacks using quantum computing, the new feature won't be visible to users but is future-thinking to ensure Apple's messaging protocol remains secure in the future.

Finally, Apple has improved the Stolen Device Protection feature to allow people to always require a delay when changing security settings while a Siri tweak enables the assistant to read messages in additional languages, not just the default system language.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.