Apple Releases First Beta of iOS 17.5 | Here’s What’s New

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After a four-week hiatus, Apple has kicked off its iOS 17 beta cycle again with the first developer beta of iOS 17.5 and its other companion operating systems for the iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Mac, and Vision Pro.

Apple put the iOS 17.4 cycle to bed on March 5 with the public release of the update, which brought some important security fixes along with a bunch of other fun stuff, including new emojis, transcripts in Apple Podcasts, Virtual Card numbers in Apple Cash, and much more.

With every promised iOS 17 feature checked off the list and iOS 18 expected to be unveiled in June, it wasn’t clear when or even if we’d see iOS 17.5, especially after Apple slowed things down dramatically compared to previous iOS 17.x releases, which saw new betas landing before the paint was dry on the last one.

What’s Coming in iOS 17.5

Nevertheless, there are always bugs to be fixed and other new things Apple is working on, especially in light of the big changes it’s facing in the European Union with the new Digital Markets Act (DMA).

As far as Apple was concerned, iOS 17.4 was the update that would address the DMA’s requirements, making it one of the rare updates with a fixed deadline. The DMA came into effect on March 6, so iOS 17.4 was released on March 5 to ensure Apple would be in compliance with support for alternative app marketplaces, third-party web browser engines, and NFC payment apps.

Web Distribution for Apps in the EU

However, it seems like those changes may not have been enough. Only a week after iOS 17.4 hit our iPhones, Apple announced to developers that it would be opening direct web distribution for apps in a software update “later this spring.” (Translation: iOS 17.5).

What this means is that both developers in the EU will soon be able to make their apps available for download to iPhone users in those countries directly from their own websites, bypassing not only Apple’s App Store but also any alternative app marketplaces. That’s a change from Apple’s original plan, which only allowed marketplace apps to be downloaded but required all other third-party apps to be distributed through an app store of some kind.

While it’s a welcome change, it still has a few limitations. For one thing, developers can only provide their own apps from their website. Anyone who wants to sell or distribute apps from multiple developers will still need to set up an alternative app marketplace.

Apple also isn’t giving up its requirement that apps be screened and “notarized” by Apple to ensure they’re safe. Despite what the EU says on the matter, Apple still feels it’s responsible for protecting iPhone users from malware and other malicious apps, so anything that doesn’t pass Apple’s scrutiny won’t be allowed on an iPhone. Apple doesn’t plan to censor apps on other marketplaces, but it does want to make sure they do what they’re supposed to and are free of anything that might cause problems.

A More Colorful Podcasts Widget

In some of the earlier iOS 17.4 betas, a small but nice tweak for the Podcasts widget was introduced that matched it up with the colors of whatever you’re listening to, similar to how the Apple Music widget has worked for some time.

This was inexplicably removed by the final release of iOS 17.4, but thankfully, it’s back in this first iOS 17.5 beta — and we’re hoping it’s here to stay this time.

Still MIA: SharePlay for HomePod and Apple TV

Unfortunately, at least one other feature that Apple teased us with during the iOS 17.4 cycle has yet to make a comeback: the ability to create a party playlist for your HomePod or Apple TV and let others join in on the fun.

This feature briefly appeared in the first iOS 17.4 beta before being unceremoniously pulled in beta 2. It was effectively the same SharePlay via CarPlay feature that came along in iOS 17.0, extended to work in the living room.

Much like its CarPlay counterpart, the new Home SharePlay feature would allow you to start a playlist on your HomePod or Apple TV and then invite friends to participate by adding and reordering songs of their own.

With an Apple TV, a QR code would be shown to let everyone easily join in, while listening on a HomePod required guests to scan the code from the host’s iPhone instead. Everyone and everything simply had to be running the same iOS 17.4, tvOS 17.4, or HomePod Software 17.4 betas. Nearby folks in your contact list could also find you automatically, although that didn’t appear to be working in the limited time that the feature was available.

After this feature was pulled, we’d hoped to see it return in iOS 17.5, the same way that Apple Music Collaborative Playlists vanished in iOS 17.2 only to return in the first iOS 17.3 beta a few weeks later. It’s worth noting that the feature likely requires all of the involved devices to now be running iOS 17.5, and, as of this writing, Apple hasn’t yet released HomePod Software 17.5. However, we’ve confirmed it’s still missing when used from an iPhone 14 Pro Max paired with the latest Apple TV 4K running the first tvOS 17.5 beta.

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