Apple doesn’t care about your PWA (and a little rant about holding back the future of computing)

- Posted in apple development rant webdev - 1 comment

With PWA’s not showing up in the App Library in iOS14, it is once again super clear that Apple has no interest in investing in PWAs.

I can make a web app that runs full screen in a week, that can provide valuable information and that can run offline.

But Apple has no interest in promoting that app to be a first-class citizen. They want me to go through the arduous process of rewriting that app as a native iOS app. Of course, because any PWA can bypass the App Store, where they can make money.

When you try to make a full screen web app that runs on a phone — using a modern Javascript framework — you run into all kinds of OS-related problems.

The latest problem I have is that whenever I try to click a link in a demo app, I get to see the in-app browser. And there’s just doesn’t seem to be a way way around that. But I don’t want that – I simply want to show my apps UI.

Bug in action. Notice the in-app browser showing up once I navigate out of the first screen. Anyone knows how to fix this? 😅

Instead of going to try and fix this “bug” I am just not going to. Because I know it’s probably a rabbit hole of trying different things and then coming to the conclusion that the root problem is simply iOS. I’ve been here before. I am not going down that rabbit hole again.

This isn’t new: for years, Apple has treated web apps as a second class citizen. Why would they invest in it? They make all of their money through the App Store, taking 30% of revenue. If PWAs work too well, people would invest in that instead, providing a way for developers to bypass the App Store.

So for years Apple has spent zero attention making PWAs work well. Instead of competing with Google’s efforts to make PWA’s first-class citizens, they instead actively work against web apps being a success on mobile.

Apple is quite invested in letting you design apps for their platform using their rules and their tools. So you can then make apps that only work on their platform.

And mind you, it’s a good platform. I’ve been a loyal iOS user for years. But it’s also a big walled garden where I think it would be nice if things were a bit more open. The devices are perfectly capable to run great web apps. Why do we have to make a native iOS version of our app, when web technology can give us cross-platform apps with a much easier dev cycle?

Lately Apple’s 30% cut policy has been under heavy scrutiny and I’m quite happy about that. I think 30% is way too much for the distribution of (native) apps.

People have discussed this heavily. I am not sure if Apple is in the wrong here – it’s their platform, they can run it the way they want.

I don’t even really buy any monopoly arguments or antitrust issues. The point I want to make is that Apple should take a close look at themselves and think if they are not hindering the evolution of computing as a whole.

In their efforts to control everything they have actively made iOS worse.

Because you can’t buy books on it directly, an iPad is a worse Kindle. Because you can’t sign up for Netflix on the device itself, the UX for new users is worse. And these are just two out of countless examples where Apple doesn’t really put the user first, but rather their business.

If you think about the user, you can set an evolution in motion. Yesterday I was trying out Playstation Now (which seems to have evolved quite a bit) – and last week I was checking out Stadia. And this idea of just streaming is wonderful.

But, alas, that’s also something that Apple is not that interested in (or more likely: that they are building their own proprietary tech for).

I understand Apple’s business decisions, but as a user, and especially as a web designer/developer, they can be frustrating.

1 Comment

  • Rob Auer says:

    Good article. I am disappointed with Apple’s take on PWA’s. Twitter and Facebook use PWA’s and those work well on Apple devices. I would advise Apple to find a way to to monetize PWA’s if they are so focused on the money side of things, otherwise I think Android will out pace them.

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