Coming soon: unlocking the iPhone and iPad's full potential thanks to EU regulations; my dream comes true with iOS 17.4?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Coming soon: unlocking the iPhone and iPad's full potential thanks to EU regulations
iOS and iPadOS 17.4 are coming soon – in March – and with those updates for our iPhones and iPads comes the ability to access alternative app stores, and sideload apps. The caveat? Those upcoming major changes will apply only to users within the European Union, due to the EU Digital Markets Act that's about to come into effect in May. Apple's hand was pretty much legally forced into this.

Nonetheless, Apple will surely go out of its way to not just limit alternative app stores and app sideloading to EU users only, but also to make these processes as frustratingly complicated as possible, in order to discourage users from trying them out.

But why is that important anyway, and why do I care? Well, I happen to be an EU citizen, and there are some things I've always wanted to do with my iPhone and iPad, that I could only do on Android phones and tablets, until now.

Here's why I'm excited for this update, and why you should be too, especially if you're an EU-based Apple user…

Making the most of your powerful iPad, finally

Unlike how things are on Android, on Apple's mobile devices users can only access apps that were approved by the multi-trillion dollar fruit. Until now, iPhone and iPad users could only access one app store – Apple's – and only download or purchase apps that were pre-approved by it.

That's great in terms of security, but if you're someone who, say, wants to play Fortnite or download a torrenting app – you're out of luck. Apple's got a beef with Fortnite's developer, so it ends up being your problem, as a consumer. Apple also doesn't allow certain gray area apps like torrenting ones, so once again – if you ever needed one – no luck.

There are plenty of reasons why games and apps might not get Apple's stamp of approval, and unfortunately for users like you and me, this means we don't get an option to download them on our Apple devices.

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Now, I don't care about Fortnite or torrenting apps, but I do love virtual machines. That is, the ability to run one operating system within another. For example, I've run Windows on my Mac before, and Linux on my Android tablet. It's not just a fun thing to try, but genuinely useful for the right professionals and hobbyists.

iPads have become quite powerful these days, but they're limited to only running iPadOS. My problem with that? Multitasking still isn't great, and I can't run the desktop Chrome browser I'm used to, and need, in order to work.

iPadOS' Chrome browser can be roughly described as the mobile Safari browser in disguise, which is once again due to Apple's set limitations on developers.

If I could only run a virtual machine on my iPad, I could launch Windows or Linux on it, and get that full Chrome browser that I need, in order for my iPad to truly replace my laptop.

That's just one example of how sideloading apps and alternative app stores are soon going to empower iPad users such as me, and as you can probably see – it can be a huge deal for some of us.

Making your iPhone truly your own; no limits, finally

Once again, I need to state that Apple's set limitations aren't inherently bad, especially if you look at things with privacy and security in mind. However, the iPhone's limitations can be quite a compromise to deal with, if you're coming from Android.

You get less customization, and less apps in general, due to the aforementioned lack of alternative apps stores, on top of Apple's stricter rules as to what kind of apps are allowed on its own.

I like retro games. I have a huge collection of them, and I'm a part of a whole community that's just like me. We all have collections of abandonware retro games on our Android phones, and occasionally play them on plane flights and whatnot. However, Apple has decided that one of the many things it doesn't allow on its app store are emulators.

Those are programs that emulate gaming consoles, such as an old Atari, a SEGA Genesis, or perhaps an arcade machine that you used to play as a kid. Once again – Google allows those on Android phones and tablets, but Apple does not, on iPhones and iPads.

When iOS 17.4 arrives for us EU boys, we'll finally be able to play our old "I can't let go of my childhood" games on the go, when nostalgia hits. No more jumping through hoops – we'll just download our emulators from alternative app stores, no matter how discouraging Apple turns out to be about it. The EU Digital Markets Act grants us that right, as users, and I'm pretty happy about that.

Mobile app and game developers can break out beyond Apple's walled garden

I mentioned the beef between Fortnite developer Epic Games and Apple. This is merely just one example (albeit the most publicized) where an app developer doesn't see eye to eye with Apple, and at the end of the day – consumers suffer for it.

Your kid can't play their favorite game because Epic Games wants to share less of its revenue with Apple, while Apple… is Apple… It wants that revenue cut. It takes a percentage of all earnings from all app and game developers that sell on its devices, namely the iPhone and iPad.

The legal details don't really matter; the point is – with the EU Digital Markets Act coming in effect, and Apple being forced into complying with it, more developers will be able to reach more users, at least within the EU.

More, potentially cheaper mobile games, and more software in general, such as the examples I gave earlier. More freedom of choice for everyone.

I shared why that's important to me, and why I'm excited for the iOS and iPadOS update, but what about you? Do you wish that the Digital Markets Act would expand to other regions, such as the US, in one form or another? Let us know how you feel on the topic in the comments section below!

And stay tuned for all the crazy things I'm about to do with my iPad, once app sideloading becomes available. I can't wait to share them with you!

Learn more about the upcoming iOS update:

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