iOS 17.4's new browser choice screen explained — Apple displays randomized list of 11 most-downloaded Safari alternatives

iPhone 13 mini in hand
(Image credit: Future)

Apple has revealed how iOS 17.4 will display its list of alternative browsers on iPhones in the EU as part of the company’s wider compliance with the Digital Markets Act, which takes effect this week. 

The headline change to iOS is, of course, alternative app marketplaces, which will let users download apps from outside the App Store. However, Apple is also being forced into changes around how it displays browser settings to its users. Specifically, it must now offer users “a new choice screen that provides EU users an additional way to choose a default web browser from a list of options.” While choosing a new browser in iOS has been around for years, this new prompt will be displayed to every EU iPhone user the first time they open Safari after updating to iOS 17.4, and when purchasing a new iPhone. 

The screen, at first glance, is quite confusing for one obvious reason: there doesn’t seem to be any semblance of order or design to the list of choices. One exuberant commenter noted on X “did they print out icons of all of the browsers, put them in a cup, shake it around, throw them on the floor, and list them in the order they fell out in because that is the only explanation I can think of.” Turns out, that’s pretty much it.

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iOS 17 Browser choice screen 

Apple notes that to be eligible for consideration, browsers must have the Default Browser Entitlement available to developers and have been downloaded “by at least 5,000 users across all the EU App Store storefronts on iPhone in the prior calendar year.” Apple selects up to 11 of these for the browser choice screen in addition to Safari, updating the list once per calendar year. 

Apple says, “on a user’s device browsers will be shown in a randomized order per user,” meaning no one will ever see the same list. Apple has even listed the current browser cohort for each of the 27 eligible EU countries on its website alphabetically for ease. A couple of big names stand out and are present on every list, notably Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera. However, there are also some names you probably haven’t heard of, including Onion Browser, Yandex, and hilariously in Sweden, Blackberry Access. 

Figures published Wednesday by Opera and shared with iMore reveal the results of a 4,000-person survey conducted across the EU, which show 83% of mobile device users are open to testing a new browser. While 91% said that more choice and transparency when choosing a browser was important to them, 49% said they had never changed their default browser, and 20% didn’t even know they had the option. Jørgen Arnesen, EVP Mobile at Opera said, “This is an exciting moment for Opera and the European tech scene in general… We believe that open digital ecosystems are better for businesses, consumers, and society. And as a European-made challenger browser, we relish the opportunity to more fairly compete against the defaults – especially when the vast majority of the respondents we surveyed said they were considering trying out a new browser after March 6th.”

While the browser choice screen might be a welcome change to some users, all of the browsers on offer will run on Apple’s WebKit framework, meaning all of the differences are really surface level. Part of Apple’s major changes announced for iOS also includes new frameworks and APIs for developing browser engines other than WebKit, which will let rivals like Chrome and Edge build their own browsers from the ground up, should they so choose. There are no new native browsers on the horizon as yet, however, so for now the EU is stuck with this browser choice screen. 

The latest version of iOS 17 complete with these changes is available to download on all of Apple's best iPhones now. 

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Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9