September 30, 2023

Web Apps Will Get a Big Upgrade on iPhone and iPad

Apple’s Safari web browser is missing some advanced features compared to Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers. Thankfully, one major shortcoming is being fixed: push notifications.

Apple confirmed last year that it was working on standard web push notification support for Safari on all platforms, including Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Before that point, Safari was only compatible with Apple’s proprietary push technology, which few websites ever supported. The new feature works with standard web push notifications — the same ones sites already use to send alerts through Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. It already arrived in macOS Ventura, and now Apple is testing iOS 16.4 beta and iPadOS 16.4 beta, which finally brings the functionality to iPhones and iPads.

Web notifications are useful for web applications, but they are incredibly unpopular everywhere else. Mozilla said in 2019 that requests to allow push notifications from sites were rejected more than 97% of the time by Firefox users. That’s likely why Apple is implementing the feature differently than most mobile browsers on Android devices — sites cannot request to send notifications unless they are bookmarked to the home screen. Presumably, if you like a site or web app so much that you’d add it to your home screen, chances are you’d be open to the idea of receiving push notifications.

Apple said in a blog post today, “A web app that has been added to the Home Screen can request permission to receive push notifications as long as that request is in response to direct user interaction — such as tapping on a ‘subscribe’ button provided by the web app. iOS or iPadOS will prompt the user to give the web app permission to send notifications. The user can then manage those permissions per web app in Notifications Settings — just like any other app on iPhone and iPad. The notifications from web apps work exactly like notifications from other apps. They show on the Lock Screen, in Notification Center, and on a paired Apple Watch.”

That’s not all the improvements coming to Safari on iPhone and iPad, though. Web apps on the home screen can now set a badge on the icon, just like native apps, and use more advanced video and screen APIs. Finally, if you add a site to the home screen that hasn’t created a special icon, Safari will now generate one from the site’s name and colors instead of using a simple screenshot.

The new features are available in Safari 16.4, which is currently only in the beta versions of iOS 16.4 and iPadOS 16.4, but should roll out to everyone soon.

Source: WebKit Blog

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