New In iOS 17.4: Apple Allows Third-Party App Stores, NFC Access, Default Browser Option, More In EU

Apple’s App Store and the way that people install and use apps on the iPhone are changing forever, but only if they happen to live in the European Union.

In an announcement made alongside the debut of iOS 17.4 beta 1, Apple confirmed that it will begin to allow alternative app stores in the EU, a move that could see Epic Games and others launch their own store and hose their own apps and games. Apple will still be required to notarize them, however.

Alongside the change, Apple will also allow for alternative payment methods and remove the requirement for the App Store’s payment system to be offered. However, Apple did note that Screen Time may not work as expected with these non-App Store apps, adding that refunds will no longer be handled by the company for apps that use external payment systems.

Other changes coming to the EU include support for third-party NFC access, allowing PayPal and others to use the iPhone’s tap-to-pay functionality. That means that Apple Pay will no longer be the only wallet on iPhones.

Apple also confirmed that it will allow EU users to choose their default browser the first time they launch Safari while third-party web browser engines will also be allowed for the very first time.

All of this will only apply to iPhones in the EU, Apple confirmed, saying that it believes the changes open the door to more scams and malware.

Apple has only made these changes because an EU Digital Markets Act requirement for them will come into force on March 6, but international lawmakers will no doubt be watching with interest. They may choose to follow the EU’s lead further down the line, of course.

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