Apple is opening its doors to alternative browser engines for iPhones but only for users in the European Union (EU). With the upcoming release of iOS 17.4, developers will, for the first time, have the freedom to use non-WebKit engines, breaking away from Apple’s historical reliance on WebKit.
This change is a direct response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which mandates increased user choice and the ability to uninstall preinstalled apps, including web browsers. Developers seeking to switch to non-WebKit engines will need Apple’s authorization, subject to specific criteria and ongoing privacy and security commitments.
The move introduces a new choice screen in Safari, allowing EU users to select a different default browser the first time they open it. Apple acknowledges that this modification is a result of DMA requirements and expresses frustration, noting that EU users will now face a list of default browsers, potentially disrupting their initial Safari experience.
These alterations are exclusive to iPhone users within the EU, ensuring compliance with DMA regulations. Apple asserts that European users can maintain their preferred browser engine even while traveling, restricting access to these new engines based on the account’s location.
With iOS 17.4 expected to roll out in March, the EU is poised for a significant shift in its browser landscape. Google, among others, has reportedly been working on a non-WebKit version of Chrome, signaling the onset of a browser war for iPhone users in the European Union. Apple’s concession underscores the ongoing tension between the company’s desire for control over user experience and regulatory demands for increased competition and user choice.