The truth is, it’s understandable why devs favor iOS—for one thing, Android has so many devices that edge cases can get in the way of a clean development process, and for another, seemingly more people in their home market, the U.S., use iOS over Android. It seems like it hits the broadest swath of people.
But I think that it would be nice if there was a way for app developers to more consistently develop in a cross-device way. That answer has been around for years, actually—it’s called the Progressive Web App
, and it can do a lot thanks to HTML standardization. At the time the concept was first sold to developers, it was on the original iPhone, a device as powerful as a 386-class desktop computer, and it wasn’t really “progressive.” But now, as mobile chips are often as powerful as laptop chips, the case is much more compelling
But the problem is, the lip-service-style support Apple has given web apps over the years has not kept up with the technology, according to a Google engineer. In a recent blog post
, Alex Russell pointed out that Apple’s approach to the open web has limited innovation, and made a case that Apple has intentionally limited WebKit’s development, which has harmed the potential of the PWA in the market.
The argument, tied to the Epic Games vs. Apple legal battle
, comes at an interesting time, but it underlines one of the reasons I stuck with Android after giving the iPhone a closer look than usual this time—better browsers. (Another reason: I use USB-C for everything. Screw Lightning.) For all its power-sipping capabilities, the truth is Safari is minimalistic to a fault and I want something more functional, and Apple’s iOS rules limit other browsers from being anything more than simple front-ends for Safari.
The fact that Apple intentionally blocks, say, Vivaldi from competing with WebKit means that web standards only improve on Apple’s schedule, and given that Apple is the only major browser-maker that hasn’t moved to a more agile, multi-week development cycle, it means features simply come slower to WebKit than other devices.
And that means that developers stick with the Apple ecosystem even for apps that could be delivered entirely over the web, and well at that.
If Apple is serious about not being seen as a monopoly, it needs to open up the web browser on iOS, so the next Clubhouse isn’t an iOS exclusive. Plenty of apps will still be on the App Store, most notably games which need the platform-specific horsepower, but it will hugely benefit consumers as a whole.