March 17, 2024
min read

PWA on iOS: from Steve Jobs to February 2024 Updates

Tetiana Maryniuk
Webflow team lead


In the changing world of mobile app development Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have emerged as an alternative, to traditional native apps. They offer the look and feel of applications while providing the convenience and accessibility of web pages ensuring a smooth user experience across different platforms.

However, the integration and performance of PWAs on Apple's iOS devices have historically been approached with caution and restrictions. As we enter February 2024, significant updates and modifications have been implemented in iOS 17.4 signaling an era in how PWAs interact with the iOS environment.

This article examines the advancements discussing the challenges, improvements, and broader impacts, for developers and businesses navigating the PWA landscape within iOS.

1. PWA on iOS: Background

The emergence of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) has revolutionized how apps are developed and engage users online. A Progressive Web App is a website that acts like a mobile app. PWAs combine the features of websites and mobile apps providing capabilities, quick loading times and a native app feel without requiring users to access an app store. Despite their increasing popularity, Apple iOS has been hesitant to embrace PWAs on platforms.

What is PWA
A progressive web application (PWA), or progressive web app, is a type of application software delivered through the web, built using common web technologies including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WebAssembly. It is intended to work on any platform with a standards-compliant browser, including desktop and mobile devices.
Source: Wikipedia

Apple's support for PWAs has historically been lukewarm with the company incorporating PWA functionalities into its OS over time. The journey began in 2007 when Steve Jobs, then Apple's CEO hinted at the potential of web apps for the iPhone. However, with the introduction of the Apple App Store Apple shifted its focus towards apps. It wasn't until 2018 that Apple started offering backing for PWAs on iOS although with noticeable limitations compared to Android and other platforms.

Steve Jobs about PWA on iOS

This background sheds light on the relationship between PWAs and iOS showcasing Apple's yet evolving approach, towards integrating these web-based applications into its ecosystem.

When we review the changes implemented in February 2024, it's essential to consider the background of this situation and the gradual changes, in Apple's approach that have brought us to the status of PWAs on iOS.

2. iOS 17.4 and PWAs: The New Developments

Apple has rolled out iOS 17.4 with some updates that directly impact how Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) function, on iOS devices. These changes are significant for developers and businesses using PWAs to enhance user experiences on iPhones and iOS gadgets.

An important tweak in iOS 17.4 is Apple's approach to supporting PWAs on iOS addressing standing limitations that have previously affected PWA performance on the platform. This move shows Apple's efforts to balance its controlled ecosystem and the rising demand for adaptable web app solutions.

For developers, the improvements in iOS PWA support bring possibilities to develop feature-packed web apps for iOS users. The update aims to enhance the integration of PWAs on iPhones making them more competitive with apps by harnessing the potential of cutting-edge web technologies.

Nevertheless, this update also imposes specific restrictions for PWAs within the European Union, as a response to regulatory pressures and compliance requirements, under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). These adjustments highlight the landscape Apple must navigate while expanding PWA capabilities on iOS.

What is DMA
The Digital Markets Act (DMA) establishes a set of clearly defined objective criteria to identify “gatekeepers”. Gatekeepers are large digital platforms providing so called core platform services, such as for example online search engines, app stores, messenger services. Gatekeepers will have to comply with the do’s (i.e. obligations) and don’ts (i.e. prohibitions) listed in the DMA.
The DMA is one of the first regulatory tools to comprehensively regulate the gatekeeper power of the largest digital companies. The DMA complements, but does not change EU competition rules, which continue to apply fully.
Source: European Commission

3. Technical Limitations and Enhancements of PWA on iOS

The evolution of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), on iOS has been influenced by a series of obstacles and improvements that have impacted their growth and features. While Apple's iOS platform is known for its support for apps the integration of PWAs—web applications designed to offer an app-like experience on iPhones—has faced various challenges.

Nevertheless, recent updates, such as those in iOS 17.4 indicate a shift towards support for PWAs on iOS despite persistent difficulties.

Technical Limitations

In the past PWAs on iOS have encountered limitations that have impacted their performance and user interaction. Key restrictions included access to the Web App Manifest, which plays a role, in defining how PWAs appear and launch on iOS devices. This limitation affected the ability of PWAs to use custom icons splash screens and function independently often necessitating coding work to achieve desired features.

What is web app manifest 
The web app manifest is a JSON file that tells the browser about your Progressive Web App and how it should behave when installed on the user's desktop or mobile device. A typical manifest file includes the app name, the icons the app should use, and the URL that should be opened when the app is launched, among other things.

Accessing native iOS components and APIs has proven to be a challenge, for Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) limiting their ability to utilize features such as ARKit, Bluetooth, and iMessage. This restriction has made it difficult for PWAs on iOS to match the functionality offered by apps impacting their popularity and usefulness.

Moreover, the support for service workers on iOS has been lacking, affecting PWAs' ability to deliver push notifications and background syncing capabilities. This limitation has hindered the user experience by hampering notifications and reliable offline functionality.

limitations of PWA on iOS


Recent improvements have started addressing these obstacles and enhancing the environment for PWAs on iOS. For instance, with the release of iOS 17.4 there have been advancements in supporting push notifications in PWAs a feature that has long been awaited and brings them closer to apps in terms of engaging users.

But with the second beta of iOS 17.4, Apple disabled much of the functionality of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the European Union. iPhone users in the European Union can access websites directly from the ‌Home Screen‌ through a bookmark, but PWA features won't be available.

4. The Impact on Developers and Businesses

The changing landscape of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on iOS brings implications, for developers and businesses using this technology to connect with iOS users. As Apple refines its support for iOS PWAs it's crucial for those in creating or investing in web app solutions for iOS to grasp the significance of these developments.

For developers

Developers have encountered a range of challenges and opportunities when incorporating PWAs into the iOS environment. They've had to navigate hurdles like access to native features and service worker capabilities, which historically made it challenging to match the functionality of Android PWAs on iOS. However with the improvements in iOS PWA support, including better push notification functions and enhanced storage access developers now have avenues to build robust and engaging PWAs for iPhone users.

Adapting to Apple's requirements for PWAs involves coding for web app manifests and understanding the intricacies of how iOS web apps behave. This demands that developers possess an understanding of both the platform's limitations and capabilities to optimize PWA performance and user experience on iOS devices.

For business

For businesses, the evolving integration of PWAs on iPhones presents both obstacles and chances, for growth.

While PWAs face constraints, on iOS that may hinder providing an app-like experience to users, this could impact user interaction and loyalty. Conversely, the increasing acceptance of PWAs, on iOS creates opportunities for companies to connect with their target market without investing in native app creation and distribution via the App Store.

You can read more about the benefits of PWA in this article.

5. An Alternative to PWA on iOS

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) serve as a link, between web experiences and native app functions on iOS devices. They do have their limitations and obstacles especially when it comes to iOS PWA support, access to native features and providing a seamless user experience.

For companies and developers wanting to tap into the potential of the iOS platform without being restricted by PWA drawbacks there is an alternative available; transforming websites into native iOS applications using services like Natively.


Natively offers an approach to app development within the iOS environment. This service facilitates the conversion of existing websites and web apps into native iOS applications in just a few hours bypassing the extensive time and resources typically needed for starting from scratch with native app development. This approach not only speeds up the app development process. Also unlocks a wide range of native features and capabilities that iOS provides enriching the overall user experience.

Seamless Integration of Native Features

A notable advantage of utilizing is the capability to integrate native iOS features into the applications. This integration empowers developers to provide functionalities like push notifications, and access to device hardware such as camera, HealthKit, and GPS along, with specific features that PWAs do not fully support.

By leveraging these capabilities companies can enhance the user experience of their apps by making them more interactive and tailored ultimately leading to increased engagement and user retention rates.

Seamless App Store Submission Process

A benefit of transforming web applications into iOS apps using Natively is the simplified publishing process on the App Store. Natively manages the complexities of adhering to Apple's app submission criteria ensuring that the converted apps meet all standards and requirements. This service streamlines the transition, from web to app store facilitating businesses in reaching an audience through the iOS marketplace.

Instant Content Updates Without Requiring Rebuilds

One feature of Natively is its capability to update app content in time without necessitating rebuilds or resubmissions to the App Store. Modifications made on the web application or website are promptly reflected in the iOS app guaranteeing users access to up-to-date content and functionalities at all times. This dynamic updating process significantly reduces maintenance responsibilities for developers and companies enabling them to concentrate on improving their offerings than managing app updates.

App examples

Examples of applications (over 1000) created in this way can be viewed here. One of such apps is Dyvo Headshots, which allows AI generation of business portraits for LinkedIn, websites, CVs using AI. Another interesting example is the integration of Apple Health Kit into a fitness app Fitside.

PWA on iOS - Dyvo headshots app example

Looking Forward: The Future Landscape of PWAs on iOS

The evolution of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), on iOS presents a scenario. 

As we explore the future of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), there are emerging trends and advancements on Apple's platform that point towards a future for these hybrid applications. The progress in iOS PWA support and the growing desire for app experiences on iPhones is pushing Apple and developers towards more innovative solutions in the realm of iOS web apps.

Improved Integration and Performance

The outlook for PWAs on iOS appears promising, with expected enhancements in integration and performance. Apple's gradual improvements in supporting PWAs on iOS demonstrate a dedication to bridging the divide between web apps and iOS applications. This development is anticipated to lead to feature-packed PWAs that provide users with an experience comparable to that of native iPhone apps.

Broader Access to Native Features

An important focus area for PWAs on iOS involves broadening access to features. With Apple expanding its PWA capabilities developers are likely to receive tools and APIs that allow them to utilize iPhone hardware and software features within their web applications. This expanded access will empower PWAs on iOS to offer functionalities that were previously reserved for apps, such as camera functions, deeper integration, with iOS services, and enhanced handling of push notifications.

Improving the App Store Experience

The emergence of PWAs, in the App Store is an opportunity for growth. As PWAs gain acceptance on iOS, there is potential for Apple to introduce methods for users to find and install PWA iPhone apps directly, from the App Store. This change could not boost the presence of PWAs. Also, makes it easier for users to discover and install them ultimately increasing the use of PWAs on iOS.

Continuous Updates and Real-time Content

The future of PWAs, on iOS is also marked by the capability for updates and immediate content delivery. Unlike the app development process PWAs offer the benefit of updating content and features seamlessly without requiring user involvement or App Store approvals. This flexibility enables businesses to keep their iOS web apps up-to-date and captivating ensuring that users always have access to the offerings.

For developers and businesses seeking these functionalities now Natively presents a solution. By swiftly and effectively converting websites into iOS apps incorporating features and simplifying the publishing process on the App Store Natively offers a path to leveraging the full potential of the iOS platform.

This method not only saves development time and resources but also unlocks all the benefits of native mobile apps establishing a new standard, for engaging with iOS users.

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