Why is Apple making big improvements to iPhone web apps?

It seems that Apple is working on features that will make web apps more similar to native apps. But why would Apple want to do that?

by Johnny Evans

Apple seems to be working on something very interesting with Safari and its support for web apps on iPhones. It is working on features that make these apps appear to work like the original apps.

This could be good news for any app publisher looking to offer apps and services for Apple’s mobile platforms outside of the App Store.

What’s the matter

The latest changes in Safari 16.4 for iPad OS 16.4 and iOS 16.4 are available in the first beta.

Safari gets more than 135 features in this release, including exciting audio enhancements like map importing, media queries, and more. But the real improvements revolve around the web apps on the home screen.

Now iPhones can add a website icon to their home screen since the device’s debut. These icons became web apps for the home screen, so you can access the service with a tap and it works like any other app, independent of Safari.

In the first year of the iPhone’s existence, Apple took the position that all third-party apps on the device were web apps, which changed with the birth of the App Store.

What’s new?

What’s new is that web payment support is added to the web apps on the home screen. This allows developers to send push notifications to users via the push API, notification API, and service workers.

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It could work like this: You connect to a website that offers a service and you decide to make it a web app for the home screen. Now the app/website can send you personal notifications related to their service, e.g. B. when new features are added or when new products become available.

As everywhere on mobile, users can consent or deny permissions for these interactions. These permissions can be managed per capita in your notification settings and managed by Apple’s Focus tool, allowing you to block those you don’t want to hear from.

So now we have web apps that work like iOS apps.

what’s new Badging API to allow these applications to display the number of messages or notifications available to the user, e.g. B. Mail. Apple has also made it possible to host multiple instances of an app on your home screen – so you can have a favorite website called “Classic Online Games I Love” and have web apps for seven different games on your screen. Any of these various web services will be able to interact with you – even if those games use the open codec AV1, which Apple looks set to introduce support for.

This isn’t the only innovation: Apple now allows third-party browsers to add websites and web apps to the home screen via the Share menu. And there’s more – web application developers can also use Screen Orientation, User Alert, Screen Activation and the Web Encoding API.

These allow the application to understand what the screen orientation might be; It prevents the device from locking or dimming the screen when the web app is active; It monitors user interactions to ensure the application is still in use and does not need to be hibernated. And it will provide much better media handling control for web applications.

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All of these improvements mean that web apps on iOS become even more powerful.

So what does that mean?

In its simplest form, this means that web apps have the potential to become more powerful and iOS-like than before, with the ability for developers to offer more complex interactions with apps.

However, as Apple faces increasing scrutiny of its App Store business practices, it’s hard not to surmise that this could be one of the company’s key responses to these challenges.

If you can set up and interact with a web app or web service, like an iOS app, from any web browser, the only thing missing might be a payment system. we will see.