Apple releases beta version of new iPhone software with dramatic changes in how apps work

(AFP via Getty Images)

Apple has released a beta version of its new iPhone software, with a dramatic change in how apps work.

The company now allows web apps to send push notifications that show up on phone lock screens, as well as other places like the Apple Watch.

The new update also makes a number of other changes, including the ability to add web apps to the iPhone home screen using alternative browsers, as well as a bunch of new emojis.

Ever since the very first iPhone, Apple has allowed its users to add websites to the iPhone’s home screen. There, they appear like regular iPhone apps, but function more like a shortcut to the website itself.

In the beginning it represented a way for users to have something like the app experience without having to go through the app store. Even now, web apps like this are being used to provide another way of getting things onto the iPhone without having to go through the App Store process, which requires separate development, approval from Apple, and a requirement that the company all payments made in it cuts these apps.

However, such web apps have always been limited. They can’t send notifications like regular apps, and other browsers like Google Chrome can’t be used to create them.

Now these two limitations have been lifted in the iOS 16.4 beta software now available for iPhone and iPad. The full version of the update is expected to be rolled out to users in the coming weeks.

Apps can now send their own notifications and display them on the lock screen as well as display them with badge counts just like regular apps. They will also support the recently added “Focus” feature on iPhone, which allows users to choose which notifications are shown at specific times.

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Apple has been criticized in recent years for its App Store, which is the only way to get full applications on the iPhone or iPad and is fully controlled by Apple. Some other companies and regulators have argued that Apple’s control has been unfairly abused, which in turn has led to court cases and regulatory investigations in a number of countries.

Apple gave no indication that the web app updates were in any way related to these ongoing requests. But it could be a way to address long-standing criticism of the way apps are delivered on the iPhone.

Apple also added 21 new emoji with the update. These include a new trembling and shocked face, a high-five, and animals like a moose and a goose.