iOS 15.4 paves the way for web apps to deliver push notifications

iOS 15.4 paves the way for web apps to deliver push notifications

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2021 iPad mini packs 5G
A big improvement for mobile apps on the web.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s first iOS 15.4 beta, rolled out to registered developers last week, lays the groundwork for web apps to deliver push notifications.

The feature, long available in Safari for macOS, always stood out as a notable omission on iPhone and iPad. Fortunately for those who use mobile web apps frequently, that looks set to change in the near future.

iOS 15.4 packs new ‘Push API’ toggle for Safari

Apple keeps touting the web as a viable alternative to the App Store for developers whose apps do not comply with Cupertino’s rules. That includes popular cloud gaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming, Google Stadia and GeForce Now.

The problem with that argument is that web apps, particularly on mobile, can’t take advantage of native technologies. But one key feature — push notifications — looks set to finally roll out inside Safari for iPhone and iPad.

Apple added a “Push API” toggle to the “Experimental” settings page for Safari inside the first iOS 15.4 beta. It doesn’t do anything yet because the Push API itself isn’t yet enabled. However, it suggests Apple is working to change that.

We likely will see the Push API activated in a future iOS 15.4 beta before it make its public debut. That is assuming, of course, that Apple doesn’t run into any major issues with the feature during its development.

Push notifications coming to mobile web apps

As developer Maximiliano Firtman notes, push notifications for web apps has been “the most requested feature” among developers for a long time. So, it’s great to see Apple listened and is now working to implement it.

This, coupled with all the other improvements made to web apps in previous iOS upgrades, will enable an even greater mobile web app experience. The downside is that Apple will push the web as an App Store alternative even harder when defending its strict and often bemusing rules and restrictions.

In fact, it could be those App Store battles Apple is involved in that encouraged this upgrade. One of the (many) arguments made by Fortnite developer Epic Games in its lawsuit against Apple is that Apple does not allow web app developers to send push notifications on mobile, and that its WebKit framework is too limited.