Are PWAs No Longer Considered First-Class Citizens On iOS 17.4?
A serious problem we could have already in March 2024 for PWAs
Are PWAs in danger? 🤔
I have been asking myself this question frequently in the last few days. On Friday, I went live on stream, discussing the current situation with the iOS 17.4 Beta 2 version. After that, I received several messages from business owners who build PWAs, depend on this technology, and fear losing everything by March 2024. Do we need to take the concerns seriously?
Yes, we should, but we should not panic – and here is why:
Problem: iOS Devices with EU SIM-Locks Don’t Open PWAs anymore
And that’s what everyone is afraid of. If we cannot open PWAs as such anymore, we will lose all specific capabilities granted after we have added the app to the home screen (A2HS). For example:
Extended, Persistent Storage
API access, like Push Notifications
Fullscreen Standalone mode
❌ Another important thing on Apple devices is that the browser-based app does have another local storage than the A2HS version. If we update iOS 17.4 and the problem is not solved, we won’t be able to access the previously installed app anymore!
The possible root cause, in one way or another, is the European Union's “Digital Markets Act” (DMA) 1. It impacts iOS by mandating greater openness and interoperability, which challenges Apple's traditionally closed ecosystem, particularly around app distribution and browser functionalities. The actual problem lies in balancing regulatory compliance with maintaining a secure, user-friendly platform, as these changes could potentially disrupt the seamless integration and performance of iOS features, including those critical for Progressive Web Apps, thereby affecting developers, businesses, and users who rely on the iOS platform for their digital experiences.
Current Evidence: On Purpose Or By Accident?
There are several videos on the internet where people demonstrate the A2HS process, and right after that, the app opens still in the default browser.
This is new. We have default browsers and other browsers installed. That means the PWA would always be opened with the current default browser.
It's unpleasant and not ideal because I would like to be able to open the PWA in the browser version I installed beforehand. But honestly, that would be a lesser problem, and I could live with it.
Does the problem only happen if you have multiple browsers installed?
Additionally, I cannot reproduce that problem with an iOS 17.4 Beta 2 simulator, but I cannot install new browsers since I have no app store. I need to add that I cannot make any SIM-Lock simulations, but I have set the Geo-Location to a fixed position in Germany, an EU country.
👉 This could lead to the conclusion that there is a bug with a new abstraction that handles the default browser.
An Inconsistency: Is the A2HS just broken in Beta?
The videos don’t show previously installed apps in older versions like iOS 17.2; they only show the installation (A2HS) right after the PWA opened as a bookmarked website.
🍀 This could mean that the “Add to Home Screen” is not working as expected anymore while opening the ecosystem for another browser provider like Google, Microsoft, etc. That means a PWA is still a thing for Apple, but the installation process is broken. Which gives me hope for a fix.
I haven’t seen an example after a real update. If you have an example, please let me know! That would be highly appreciated.
In simulators, everything works fine.
I could not reproduce the problem with the iOS 17.4 Beta 2 simulator, with a Geo-Location in Germany and installed on Mac Pro in Germany.
🍪 If Apple wants to eliminate PWAs, why are PWAs still available outside EU SIM-locked devices? That doesn’t make any sense to me. It adds to the conclusion that we experienced a technical problem that had not yet been communicated.
What about you?
The same PWA is installed on iOS 17.2 and iOS 17.4 Beta 2
Conclusion – What Do I Think Will Happen?
For me, it looks like a bug, a technical problem due to the short time and huge complexity effort Apple needs to go through and solve.
Considering the issues with Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on iOS, it seems more like Apple is dealing with technical glitches rather than purposely making things tough for web apps. In the past, Apple has had a bit of a back-and-forth with web technology support, which shows they're trying to improve things, even if it doesn't always go smoothly. With new rules from the Digital Markets Act pushing for more openness, it wouldn't make sense for Apple to intentionally block PWAs, as it would just attract unwanted attention from regulators.
Also, there's been no word from Apple about these changes, which might mean they're still figuring things out or didn't expect these problems to happen. Plus, the fact that the rumored SIM-Lock issue only hits certain devices, and many others work fine, doesn't seem like Apple planned this.
It looks more like a mishap that affects some users but not all, which isn't what you'd expect from a big move by Apple. So, I think these PWA troubles are likely just bumps in the road that Apple will smooth out soon, not a sign that they're trying to push away web apps on purpose.
The issues with Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on iOS seem more like technical glitches than intentional actions by Apple.
Apple's history of fluctuating support for web technologies suggests they are trying to improve despite occasional setbacks.
With the Digital Markets Act calling for more openness, intentionally blocking PWAs would likely draw negative attention from regulators, which Apple would want to avoid.
Apple's lack of official communication about these changes might mean they're unexpected or still being worked on.
The rumored SIM-Lock problem affecting only certain devices suggests this isn't a broad strategy by Apple; many devices remain unaffected.
These PWA issues are likely temporary technical challenges that Apple will resolve, not a deliberate effort to undermine web apps.
Bonus–The entire Episode:
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