The Most Useful New iOS 17.4 Features You’ll Actually Care About

iOS 17.4 is ringing the changes for iPhone users all over the world and these are the new features you'll actually care about

Apple has just released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 17.4, with the update headlined by the ability to finally download apps from third-party stores. At least, that’s the deal in Europe.

iOS 17.4 lands hours before the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) makes it effectively illegal for Apple to continue its infamous “walled garden” ecosystem, which has been deemed to give the company an unfair competitive advantage over its rivals. Again, in Europe.

Competition laws differ dramatically in the US, of course, but globally there loads of new iOS 17.4 features to enjoy as well, including the usual slew of fresh emoji and a health security update as well.  Let’s take a look at the new features dropping for iPhones (and iPads, though iPadOS is now technically its own software).

New iOS 17.4 Features: Third-Party App Stores Incoming

The biggest change in iOS 17.4 will be for iPhone and iPad users in EU countries, where third-party app marketplaces will become available for the first time.

This will mean an explosion of choice when it comes to being able to download apps from small, independent developers, but also potentially less stringent quality and security controls. One of the most common criticisms of Google’s rival Android platform is that its more open app ecosystem has left it comparatively swamped with malware.

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All that said, at launch on March 7 things will look strangely familiar for European iOS users, as Apple will now need to approve all the alternative app stores and marketplaces that want to feature on iOS, both instead of and in addition to just approving individual apps for its own iOS App Store.

This is going to take time, and we’re currently only aware of one alternative iOS app store that’s going to be ready this week: Germany-based enterprise app marketplace mobivention.

Lastly, as part of the EU-only round of iOS 17.4 features incoming, the opening up of Apple’s walled garden will also extend to third-party payment platforms, so you may soon be able to load a Google Wallet directly on to your iPhone, if you’d prefer that over the native iOS Wallet app.

New iOS 17.4 Security Features

There’s no doubt that iOS 17.4’s new features are headlined by the enforced changes for the European market. Incremental updates come in all shapes and sizes, with iOS 17.4 seeming comparatively small compared to some recent efforts – namely iOS 17.2, which introduced the new Journals app and Spatial Video capture.

However, there’s also changes on the security front as well, namely improvements to Stolen Device Protection. This feature is still relatively fresh out the box itself, but now it’s gotten a little bit better with the release of iOS 17.4. The key change is to the security delay option, which will now be able to be implemented across all locations, not just ones your iPhone or iPad detects to be unusual or new.

In addition, iMessage is getting a new cryptographic security protocol known as PQ3, which is said to bolster its end-to-end encryption against quantum computing attacks.

 New iOS 17.4 Features: Siri and Podcasts Learn New Languages

The final super useful new iOS 17.4 features we’ll highlight are the additional languages now available to Apple’s Siri assistant and its Podcasts app.

For Siri, it’s actually a case of the digital helper’s existing language skills getting a little more refined. As of the iOS 17.4 update, Siri will be able to read incoming messages in all of the languages it supports. Previously, you had to manually toggle Siri’s default language between tongues.

For Apple Podcasts, it’s a much more noticeable change in the form of auto-generated transcripts to accompanying your listening, which will launch in English, Fresh, German and Spanish.

How to Download iOS 17.4 Today

That’s not all, though. Apple’s new iOS 17.4 release has still more features that will be coming to iPhones  for the first time, including over 100 new emoji and additional details for the Battery Health section of devices.

Owners of compatible Apple products (that’s the iPhone X and 2nd-gen iPhone SE and above) may well be prompted to download iOS 17.4 on their device. However, if you want to manually prompt the update, then here’s what to do.

Simply follow the Settings > General > Software Update pathway on your handset and make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi when downloading. As ever, our top tip is to wait a few days, as not only will your download time likely be much less, but any obvious iOS 17.4 problems will have come to light and you can make a more informed decision.

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Written by:
James Laird is a technology journalist with 10+ years experience working on some of the world's biggest websites. These include TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and The Sun, as well as industry-specific titles such as ITProPortal. His particular areas of interest and expertise are cyber security, VPNs and general hardware.
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