iPhone / iPad iOS 17.4 Live App Changes

Update 5th March 2024: Happy days! Apple have rolled back on their decision to stop supporting Home Screen web apps in the EU. So the ability to run the Live app from the Home Screen on Apple devices should carry on as normal 👍

Original post: Due to changes being applied by Apple in version 17.4 of iOS, running the Live App from the Home Screen on an iPhone/iPad will no longer be available if you are based in the EU. If you are based outside the EU or you use an Android device for the Live app you will not be affected. Don’t worry, the Live app will still work within the browser if you install iOS 17.4.

Old iPad / Mac support. Due to changes in Google Maps and OpenLayers (map library used in Live app), some old devices will no longer be supported. See the bottom of the page for more information.

iOS version 17.4 is not yet released but will be made available to install before the 6th March 2024.

What you should do

If you are in the EU and you want to keep the Live App running from the Home Screen, the easiest thing to do is disable automatic updates to avoid installing 17.4:

Settings > General > Software Update > Automatic Updates : Off

If you then stay at version 17.3 the Live app will run in its own window, full screen, when run from the Home Screen.

What happens if my iPhone / iPad has iOS 17.4 (or later) and I’m in the EU?

Don’t worry, the Live app will still be fully functional!  When clicking the Live App icon on the home screen, the Live App will load in the Safari browser rather than in its own window.

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of people running in this way without issue. It just means you will probably also see the address bar, tab bar and toolbar resulting in slightly less space for the Live app itself. This isn’t really a problem on an iPad but can restrict the size of the waymarker list on an iPhone:

There are a couple of Safari settings that improve things:

Settings > Safari > TABS / Single Tab : SELECT

Settings > Safari > TABS / Landscape Tab Bar : Off

This will hide the tab bar. You can also hide the address/toolbar which results in the Live App almost being full screen again. You will need to do this step each time you load the Live app, but it only takes a second:

  • Press the “AA” button on the left of the address bar.
  • Press “Hide Toolbar”.

After that is done, this is how you will see the Live App on an iPhone with just the narrow, grey strip at the top being shown:

Why is this happening?

This requires getting a bit technical I’m afraid…

The change by Apple to stop supporting these Home Screen web apps (also known as Progressive Web Apps (PWA)) for EU users is due to the upcoming Digital Markets Act . This EU regulation is intended to stop companies like Apple from monopolising technology and thereby enabling fair competition. e.g. making Apple support third party app stores, so apps can be downloaded and paid for in different ways on their devices – currently everything is very restrictive so that it is channelled through Apple’s own app store.

This also affects browsers. Currently, Safari is the only native browser on iOS devices (iPhone / iPad). You can install other browsers like Chrome but actually they are just wrappers around a Safari window that lets you pull in things like your Chrome passwords and bookmarks. The webpages are actually being displayed in a Safari view within that Chrome browser. The new Digital Markets Act means that Apple will also need to allow other, full browsers to be installed on iOS.

A Home Screen web app is basically just opening a simple Safari view for the web app without any of the usual browser parts (e.g. address bar, toolbar etc).

From what I’m hearing, the Home Screen web apps will (for EU users after installing 17.4) act more like a browser bookmark, opening the web app in their browser.  That might still be useful but users could also just leave the Live app open as a tab in Safari and navigate to from there or have a normal bookmark in Safari.  The reason given by Apple is that opening the Web App in a Safari view will violate the Digital Marketing Act as the user hasn’t been given a choice of browser.

Why are we only finding out now?

This has come as a surprise to everyone, as only when the initial beta versions of the iOS 17.4 became available in the last week or two, have people discovered this new restriction. There is still a chance that Apple might make further changes before the official release comes out.

Apple has a deadline of the 6th of March to release 17.4 as that is the deadline for them imposed by Digital Marketing Act.

Some more in-depth information available on The Register and dev.to

Apple says their decision to stop support for Home Screen apps is permanent, but there are many companies that rely on this technology more heavily than us, so I can imagine a lot of push-back to Apple. Fingers crossed the option is made available again in the future.

Old iPad / Mac support

The mapping libraries used when viewing routes from the Race Hub and Live app (Google Maps and OpenLayers) have stopped supporting very old versions of browsers like Safari. I am not sure when Google Maps stopped the support but the changes required to better support the Live app in Safari have required the latest version of OpenLayers.

The oldest versions of Safari supported are:

  • iPad / iPhone – 13.4
  • Mac – 13.1

For iPads, it means that the following aren’t supported:

  • iPad Air (1st generation) – 2013
  • iPad (4th generation and earlier) – 2012 and older
  • iPad mini (3rd generation and earlier) – 2014 and older

For Macs, Safari version 13.1 was released as part of MacOS 10.15.4  If you having trouble loading routes from the Race Hub on an old Mac then try and update the operating system so it is at least 10.15.4 (Catalina).

These are all very old devices and Apple has officially stopped supporting all of those iPad’s for some time so hopefully not many of you are still using them.