The first beta of iOS 16.4 has been released, bringing a major new feature in the form of push notifications for web apps.
Notifications are an everyday occurrence on mobile devices, but they normally require a traditional app to support them. Apple announced “Web Push,” a way for developers to bring push notifications to web apps, at WWDC 2022.
With the arrival of the first iOS 16.4 beta, Web Push has made an appearance. In a blog post on the WebKit site, Apple highlights the long-time importance of web apps to the iOS ecosystem:
Since the first iPhone, users could add any website to their Home Screen — whether it’s a brochure site, a blog, a newspaper, an online store, a social media platform, a streaming video site, productivity software, an application for creating artwork, or any other type of website. For the last ten years, users of Safari on iOS and iPadOS could do this by tapping the Share button to open the Share menu, and then tapping “Add to Home Screen”. The icon for that website then appears on their Home Screen, where a quick tap gets them back to the site.
Apple then goes on to tout the benefits of Web Push:
Now with iOS and iPadOS 16.4 beta 1, we are adding support for Web Push to Home Screen web apps. Web Push makes it possible for web developers to send push notifications to their users through the use of Push API, Notifications API, and Service Workers all working together.
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.
Web Push comes at a time when Apple is facing increasing pressure to open up iOS and allow third-party app stores and sideloading on its platform. By bringing web apps closer to native apps, in terms of feature parity, the company may be trying to prop them up as a viable alternative to native apps in its bid to fight regulatory attempts to crack open its walled garden.