Fri, 5:35 p.m. Software: iPhone imjProgressive Web Apps (PWA) position themselves between independent apps and browser windows. You don’t need to install it – just go to a URL and tap “Go to Home Screen” in the share menu. A website that is correctly configured as a PWA starts using this icon in a separate browser window, independent of the actual Safari app. This comes with some privileges: PWAs started in this way could remain active in the background, for example to play music or audio books. You can send notifications to the Home screen to alert you to new messages or events. The operating system also provides you with a dedicated storage space of a maximum of 50 MB to temporarily store content. At least that’s what iOS versions did up to version 17.3.
The current developer versions of iOS 17.4 now change a lot, exclusively for users in the European Union. If an EU citizen taps a PWA icon in the beta versions, the corresponding content opens as a tab in the Safari browser. Notifications don’t reach the home screen, and after installing the second beta, the web apps’ memory cache appears to be reset.
EU-wide restriction or interim step towards opening?
While some web developers are worried that they will permanently lose the limited concessions offered by PWAs, others are reassuring and point to the beta status AppleInsider the current status of the discussion. In fact, the permissions of Safari and the browser engine WebKit are a focus of development in iOS 17.4. To date, all browsers must use WebKit if they are to be approved on iOS. Apple wants to allow users in the EU to use alternative web engines under iOS in the future. The company wants to comply with the requirements of the “Digital Markets Act”. It is therefore possible that the current unreliable behavior of the PWAs is just a snapshot – and the observed behavior is an expression of programming errors that still need to be corrected. On the other hand, Apple could also revoke the privileges of PWAs across the EU in order to avoid the accusation of continuing to give WebKit preferential treatment.
And how important are PWAs?
Then the question remains as to who will be significantly affected by the restrictions on PWAs. They offer providers of online portals some advantages, as they do not have to have separate apps for Android and iOS, but can refer to their browser view. This is then consistent on every operating system platform and independent of app store controls. On the other hand, you have to search quite a bit until you find a relevant application on iOS that could be worth using as a PWA: you could listen to Spotify and browse the news aggregator Flipboard.