Apple’s recent policy reversal on the functionality of iOS web apps in the European Union is great news for the cruise industry, particularly for lines like Cunard, P&O UK, and Marella Cruises, and others which use onboard Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as their guest apps. 

Read our summary of Apple’s initial response to the Digital Markets Act here. 

A PWA for a cruise line is a web-based application that can be accessed through a browser and does not require installation from an app store, offering some flexibility for updates over a native app. Basically, PWAs are like a website that you can have a shortcut to on your home screen, with the addition of some basic storage features. 

Initially, Apple’s restriction in the iOS 17.4 beta release would have limited these web apps from launching in their own top-level window from the Home Screen, reducing them to mere shortcuts within Safari. This move raised concerns among developers and users alike.

However, following substantial pushback from advocacy groups and scrutiny from the European Commission, Apple has decided to maintain the existing Home Screen web app functionality, leveraging WebKit. This decision means that cruise lines can continue to offer their guests an onboard app-like experience, without the need for converting the app to a native version—which is not an easy task.

Apple’s decision to retain the original web app capabilities in the EU is a relief, and means that these apps can remain a large part of the cruising experience. They offer convenience and a ton of features directly from guests’ iOS devices, even if they have some drawbacks like a lack of push notification support or off-ship experiences.

As Apple plays with the regulatory landscape in Europe, particularly with the DMA’s impending requirements for platform adjustments, this policy reversal shows that even mighty Apple can change their mind once in a while.