Apple has released a new iPhone and iPad update, in iOS 16.4.
The new version of the operating system brings a variety of changes, including new emoji and small improvements such as better voice isolation while on phone calls.
But it also includes a potentially significant change. Apple will now let users receive notifications for web apps when they are added to the Home Screen.
In the short term, that means that a weather app can be added to the phone and receive rain alerts, even if it is not properly installed. But it suggests that Apple is also looking to support ways of using apps beyond the App Store – an issue that has proven a major problem with regulators.
Apple has long said that it will only allow apps to be installed through its own store, citing the fact that doing so ensures they are vetted and that iPhones and iPads remain safe. But regulators and some developers have argued that doing so is unfair, and allows Apple to unfairly control its platform.
Allowing apps to be used in more ways by adding them from Safari could be a way for Apple to allow other ways of installing software without undermining its own App Store.
As well as those changes, Apple is adding 21 new emoji. They include new animals, foods and hand gestures.
iOS 16.4 also adds tweaks to the Photos app, new accessibility settings, and fixes for bugs. It also brings new “optimisations” for Crash Detection – a new iPhone 14 feature that is intended to detect car accidents but has been triggered by other activities such as rollercoasters and skiing.
iOS 16.4 can be installed by opening up the Settings app, clicking general and choosing “Software Update”. iPhones and iPads may also prompt their owners to install the new update.
The new update came at the same time as the release of the long-anticipated Apple Music Classical app. That must be installed separately, however, and does not require iOS 16.4.