The iOS 17.4 Release Candidate Is Out | Here’s What’s Coming

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With the European Union’s Digital Markets Act set to go into effect next week, Apple is preparing for the final iOS 17.4 release to bring the iPhone into compliance before the deadline. As a result, it’s pushed out the final Release Candidate (RC) build to developers in preparation for the wider public release.

Apple typically seeds Release Candidates of each iOS update about a week before sending those same versions out to the public. In most cases, the RC build is identical to the final version, but the early release provides a window for developers and beta testers to highlight any problems that could be show-stoppers.

Since it’s intended to be the final build, the RC also includes the same release notes, giving us a heads-up of what we can expect when iOS 17.4 lands in everyone’s hands next week.

We already know that iOS 17.4 will include significant changes in how apps are distributed in Europe. That’s why this particular update, unlike most iOS versions, has a hard deadline attached to it. The Digital Markets Act (DMA) comes into force on March 6, 2024, so Apple has to ensure the iPhone is ready to support the limited form of app sideloading required by the new European laws, which translates to support for third-party app marketplaces in this case. While we don’t know how many app marketplaces will be available at launch, Epic Games reportedly already has one in the works.

Nevertheless, those changes will be exclusive to the 27 countries that are members of the EU and won’t make much difference to those of us who live elsewhere. Thankfully, there’s more coming in iOS 17.4 than just app sideloading and support for third-party web browsers.

What’s Coming in iOS 17.4

Although previous iOS 17.4 betas have given us a pretty good idea of what to expect, we never know for sure what Apple is going to leave in there until we see the release notes. Plus, we sometimes get a few surprises that Apple either added at the last moment or weren’t as obvious in the betas.

For example, early betas of iOS 17.2 included support for Collaborative Playlists in Apple Music, a feature that had been promised to arrive sometime in iOS 17. However, this was pulled before the final release, reportedly so Apple could polish up its security, only to return in iOS 17.3.

Similarly, the first iOS 17.4 beta added a new SharePlay feature for HomePods and Apple TVs, only to see it vanish in the second beta. Unsurprisingly, there’s no sign of it in the iOS 17.4 RC. While it’s possible Apple abandoned it entirely, it’s more likely that it simply needs a bit more time in the oven, in which case it will likely return in iOS 17.5 — the first betas of which will probably show up in early March.

So, what does the iOS 17.4 RC include? Here’s the rundown, according to Apple’s release notes:

  1. New Emoji: As we reported last month, iOS 17.4 will embrace the latest Unicode Emoji standard, adding new mushroom, phoenix, lime, and broken chain emojis, plus shaking heads and six new people emojis. That last group has three gender options and five skin tone modifiers for each, resulting in a total of 108 “new” emojis. In the release notes, Apple describes this as “18 people and body emojis,” as it considers the three gender options as distinct emojis.
  2. Transcripts in Apple Podcasts: Apple’s servers have been hard at work adding AI-generated transcripts to its vast catalog of podcasts, and these will be unlocked in iOS 17.4. New and recent episodes already have the transcripts, while older ones will have them added over time. Transcripts are available in English, Spanish, French, and German and are also fully searchable. It shows up just like lyrics in Apple Music, even allowing you to tap on a specific section to jump to that part of a podcast episode.
  3. Messaging with Siri: A new section in Settings > Siri & Search can now announce messages you receive in any supported language.
  4. Stolen Device Protection: Added in iOS 17.3, this new option increases the security of your iPhone by requiring biometric authentication (Face ID or Touch ID) before you can change any critical information such as your Apple ID password or Find My settings. iOS 17.4 adds an option for “increased security in all locations” by enforcing the one-hour delay required to change sensitive information whether you’re in a trusted location or not.
  5. Music Recognition: When recognizing a song using the iPhone’s built-in Shazam feature, you can now add it to an Apple Music Playlist immediately or even to an Apple Music Classical collection.
  6. Battery Health: iPhone 15 owners can now see their battery cycle count, manufacture date, and date of first use in Settings > Battery.
  7. Apple Cash gains support for virtual card numbers, allowing users to pay with Apple Cash at merchants that don’t accept Apple Pay.
  8. Call Identification displays Apple-verified business name, logo, and department name for incoming calls when available.
  9. Messages for Business can now provide trusted information for order status, flight notifications, fraud alerts, or other transactions you opt into.

Apple also notes that iOS 17.4 fixes two bugs, one where contact pictures appear blank in Find My and another for Dual SIM users where the phone numbers automatically change and may be exposed to a messaging group.

There are also likely some security fixes in iOS 17.4, although Apple doesn’t typically publish details of those until after the final public release, which will probably happen early next week.

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