5 Key Facts About Sideloading Apps on iPhone Post iOS 17.4 Update

iOS 17.4 brings several new features to the iPhone, such as Apple Music-like lyrics for Apple Podcasts, new emojis, widgets, a better iMessage security protocol, and more. However, the most significant change is Apple’s compliance with the European Union’s Digital Market Act, allowing users in Europe to download apps from third-party app stores.

This is the first time the Cupertino giant has allowed downloading apps from sources other than the Apple App Store on the iPhone. However, before you start using these new features on your iPhone, there are some essential points to consider. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Alternative app stores will stop working outside the EU

(Even if you have them installed on your device)

For those who may not know, the ability to sideload apps on iPhones running iOS 17.4 is solely available within the EU. Although this feature is integrated into the system, Apple has not extended its availability to other regions like North America and Asia. However, what’s particularly noteworthy is that if you leave the EU for an extended period, third-party app stores won’t work on your device. To install apps from outside the App Store or download new app marketplaces, you must remain physically present within EU regions.

2. Apps still need to go through a security check (Notarization)

By allowing the installation of apps from sources outside the App Store, Apple cannot ensure the security and content of the apps offered through alternative app stores. To address this, Apple has implemented a security measure known as Notarization in iOS 17.4. This ensures that all apps, regardless of the platform they are distributed through — App Store or alternative marketplaces — undergo a baseline security check to detect and prevent malware, viruses, and other threats.

While apps from the App Store undergo rigorous human review and security checks, those from third-party stores will go through Notarization for their security check. Apple says that if an iOS app is found to contain known malware after installation, it will be blocked from launching, and new installations will be revoked.


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3. There’s a grace period before third-party apps stop receiving updates outside the EU

To download new apps and alternative marketplaces, users need to be in the EU. But what about updating these apps while outside the EU? It seems Apple is also imposing restrictions in this regard as well. Third-party apps will stop receiving updates if a user stays outside the EU for more than 30 days.

This means that if you’re away from the EU for over a month, Apple will revoke update access, preventing you from updating existing apps. You must return to a supported EU region to update the apps. While 30 days seems more than enough, this restriction could be frustrating for those who spend most of their time outside the EU.

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4. Parents can block ‘unsafe’ apps from non-App Store sources

Apple says that it cannot monitor the content of the apps distributed through alternative marketplaces, which could include objectionable material like hate speech, illegal drugs, or pornography. To address this, the company is offering a solution where parents can prevent family members from installing third-party app marketplaces altogether.

This can be done through Screen Time restrictions by going into Content & Privacy Restrictions → App Installations & Purchases, and changing ‘App Marketplaces’ to ‘Don’t Allow’. Alternatively, parents can also opt to set age ratings for installing apps from third-party app stores instead of completely blocking them. These age restrictions will then apply to non-App Store marketplaces as well.

5. Developers can offer direct app downloads from their websites

While Apple has only opened up third-party app stores in the EU, the company more recently said that it will allow developers to offer apps directly through their websites. However, to be eligible for this, developers must adhere to a stricter set of requirements. These include being a member of the Apple Developer Program for two continuous years, with at least one app achieving one million installs in the EU, and passing the Notarization check. This feature will become available through a software update later this year, marking the first time Apple allows users to download apps directly from websites.

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