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Explained: Apple’s new update breaks iPhone PWAs in the EU

TL;DR: Apple just announced a new iOS update that has completely changed the app industry in the span of days. With the new update, Apple has ceased support for progressive web apps (PWAs) in the EU. This blog covers the latest Apple update, explains the reason behind Apple's decision and gives a breakdown on how your app may be affected.

In late February 2024, Apple announced that they’re purposely cutting down access to home screen progressive web apps (PWAs) for users in the EU as part of their upcoming iOS update iOS 17.4 — in an effort to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE: MARCH 1, 2024: Since we first reported on this story, Apple has announced that it will no longer make changes to PWAs for users in the EU with iOS 17.4. In announcing this reversal the tech giant stated: “We have received requests to continue to offer support for Home Screen web apps in iOS, therefore we will continue to offer the existing Home Screen web apps capability in the EU. This support means Home Screen web apps continue to be built directly on WebKit and its security architecture, and align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS.” Stay tuned for more updates as we will be monitoring this situation daily and updating this article with any further news.

Before we dive into one of the hottest topics in the app development industry of late, let’s define some key terms and provide some context.

What are PWAs?

PWAs, or Progressive Web Apps, are apps delivered through the web, using web technologies including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WebAssembly. 

Despite being built with cross-platform web technologies, PWAs provide a user experience like that of a platform-specific app. On iOS, they can be “installed” by adding to the device home screen (Apple refers to this as “Home Screen web apps”).

PWAs are built to work on multiple platforms and devices given that they’re designed around common technical specifications that are supported across both desktop and mobile.

Some key features of PWAs:

  • PWAs work well across different devices and screen sizes — including desktops, mobile phones, and even tablets like iPads.
  • PWAs are built to function offline as well as with little connectivity.
  • PWAs can be configured to receive push notifications, and display even when the app is not running.
  • PWAs can be downloaded to a device home screen, just like native apps, but without the need of an app store.

Now that we’ve defined PWAs, let’s take a closer look at the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the force behind Apple’s decision to cease support for PWAs in the EU.

What is the Digital Markets Act (DMA)?

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) is an EU regulation that applies to large online platforms operating in the European marketplace.

The objective of the DMA is to create a fairer digital market environment by adding constraints to large online platforms that may otherwise act as gatekeepers and reduce competition.

The DMA also prevents abuse of power by large companies, ensures a fair position in the market, and protects users' online privacy by making the platforms accountable to ensure that data collected via their services has proper user consent.

With these facts about PWAs and the purpose of the DMA in mind, let's dive into why Apple wanted to remove the ability to install PWAs for users in the European market.

February 2024: Apple began ceasing support for PWAs in the EU — and users were noticing

Apple logo on an iPhone

Users in the EU who’ve installed the latest Apple iOS update (iOS 17.4) were reporting that their PWAs were no longer working in February 2024, and that installing new PWAs wasn’t possible. 

While this was, at first, thought to be a bug, Apple announced that this change in behavior is intentional. Apple suggested that the DMA’s complex requirement for allowing alternate browser engines (in addition to WebKit) is the reason iOS was no longer able to support PWAs.

Historically, the iOS platform supported installing PWAs as Home Screen web apps by building directly on WebKit and its security architecture — meaning they are managed within the platform’s security and privacy model for native apps on iOS

According to Apple, their decision to remove the support for Home Screen web apps in the EU came with the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps given that these apps can now use alternative browser engines.

To be able to securely support Home Screen web apps within the new DMA paradigm would require building an entirely new integration architecture. 

Apple cites this complexity, along with the very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps, as their reasons for not not investing in building a solution to continue support for these apps.

What do the PWA changes coming with iOS 17.4 mean for your Median app?

The good news is that apps built with Median were never affected by the Home Screen web app changes that were coming with iOS 17.4.

Median apps, including those powered by PWAs, are full-feature native apps that are published to the Apple App Store. They don’t rely on the “install to Home Screen” functionality that Apple will no longer support.

If you need to publish your PWA to the App Store, look no further than Our platform and expert team can help you get your app launched in a matter of days. But: note that if you continue to offer your PWA for installation to Home Screen (outside of the Apple App Store), the installation process will continue to work in other regions, but the installation will not be possible for users in the EU.

So: if you need assistance from our team in ensuring your PWA functions effectively with Median, we're here to help!

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Is this the end of PWAs for iOS in the EU?

As it turns out, no! Since their initial announcement, Apple has decided to continue supporting PWAs for iOS in future updates. 

This quick reversal comes after The European Commission sent Apple and app developers inquiries regarding the new policy and impact thereof. It was confirmed these requests are associated with an official investigation into Apple’s change for PWAs coming with iOS 17.4+.

The European Commision also confirmed that they were looking into the compliance packages of all gatekeepers, including Apple. The outcome of these reviews could possibly have been a directive ordering Apple to make further changes to their policies.

Frequently asked questions

Does Apple support PWAs?

Yes, Apple supports installing PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) on iOS devices, albeit with limited functionality for users in the EU. 

Outside of the EU a PWA can be installed on an iOS device as a Home Screen web app which runs using the WebKit browser engine. Open a PWA URL within mobile Safari, press the “Share” button found in the bottom menu bar, then select “Add to home screen.” PWAs installed in this manner will launch in a full screen window and be provided access to functionality such as local storage and push notifications. 

Inside the EU, for devices running iOS  iOS 17.4+, adding a PWA to the Home Screen will only add a web bookmark that when opened launches the URL in the default browser. Therefore for users in the EU advanced PWA functionality, including a full screen app experience,  is not available.

Why was Apple not going to support PWAs in the EU?

While Apple will support PWAs in the EU, they had initially announced that they would not be.

Why? As part of Apple’s response to the DMA, they’re adding support in the EU for alternate browser engines (beyond WebKit). This opens up potential vulnerabilities for malicious web apps to access data and device functionality such as camera, microphone, and location from other web apps — but without explicit user consent.

Addressing these privacy concerns would require Apple to implement extensive new capabilities to their security architecture. They would need to add storage isolation and permission prompts on a per-website basis.

Apple had initially made a business decision that the relatively low adoption and usage of PWAs on iOS did not warrant the effort and complexity required to make PWAs safe. That’s why, beginning with iOS 17.4 in the EU, PWAs will only be able to be added to a device home screen as a bookmark. 

The website within the PWA will then be opened in a browser rather than a dedicated app window, and app functionality such as offline data and push notifications will not be available.

However, they quickly reversed this decision, and will be offering support for PWAs in the EU after all (as of Mar 1, 2024).

How do I install a PWA on an iPhone?

To install PWAs, here are some high-level steps to follow:

  1. First, open a website that offers a PWA in Safari. 
  2. Then, press the “Share” button on the center bottom of your screen. At this point, you will see a popup menu, scroll down and select the “Add to Home Screen” open. 
  3. Finally, in the window that you now displayed tap “Add” in the top right corner to install the PWA. 

Once you're done installing, you can find the PWA on your home screen. You’ll know you are viewing a PWA if the web app opens in a dedicated window without a browser address bar and other buttons. And, if the PWA supports it, you’ll benefit from offline capabilities and push notifications.

How do I turn my website into a PWA?

Any website can serve as a foundation for developing a basic PWA that users can install on their devices. The initial step involves ensuring your website's responsiveness across various mobile devices, including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Subsequently, you need to generate and host a Web App Manifest, a JSON file that delineates your app's metadata such as its name, icons, and start URL. This enables users to seamlessly "install" your PWA on their home screens.

To develop an advanced PWA with features like offline functionality, push notifications, and background syncing, you must incorporate JavaScript and a Service Worker. It’s crucial to employ HTTPS for your PWA to bolster security measures and safeguard user data. Implementing an App Shell architecture is important too; this separates your UI from content, thus augmenting overall PWA performance.

To optimize your PWA, use tools like Lighthouse to ensure it meets all necessary requirements and standards. Lastly, update your website's UI/UX to deliver a seamless, app-like user experience within your PWA. These steps collectively contribute to the development of a robust and user-friendly Progressive Web App.

How do I publish my PWA to the Apple App Store?

To publish your PWA to the App Store the content and functionality should first meet Apple’s review guidelines for apps. You can use a mobile app development platform such as to convert your PWA into a native app that can be published to the App Store and downloaded by users onto their iOS devices. Median uses WKWebView technology combined with a range of native features to build incredible mobile apps powered by web content. Since you’ve likely already created a high quality PWA, stepping up to an exceptional native app will be a breeze with Median’s powerful App Studio.

*DISCLAIMER: This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not exhaustive and may not be relevant for your requirements. While we have obtained and compiled this information from sources we believe to be reliable, we cannot and do not guarantee its accuracy. This content is not to be considered professional advice and does not form a professional relationship of any kind between you and LLC or its affiliates. is the industry-leading end-to-end solution for developing, publishing, and maintaining native mobile apps for iOS and Android powered by web content. When considering any technology vendor we recommend that you conduct detailed research and “read the fine print” before using their services.*
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