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Add to Home Screen – The elephant in the room

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From iOS/iPadOS 16.4 onwards, Apple has allowed third party web browsers to implement ‘Add to Home Screen’ (ATHS) functionality.

What was once an exclusive Safari feature, is now available to any web browser that meets certain requirements.

I detailed the implications of this in a previous blog post, but in relation to this topic you may have noticed a rather large elephant in the room.

Mister Icon looking at an elephant

If third-party apps can now install icons directly to the home screen, why can't Mister Icon do that too?

Aha! If your thoughts went in that direction, I congratulate you for thinking on the same wavelength as me!

The simple answer is: although Apple now allows third-party apps to offer ATHS, it stipulates that the only type of app that can offer such a feature is a web browser.

Sad-looking Mister Icon

So Mister Icon still isn't allowed to install icons directly to the home screen.

While that makes me sad, I'm sure the folks at Apple have some sensible reasoning behind their decision to not open up ATHS functionality more widely. They're probably concerned about the potential for dodgy apps to try and install ads onto the home screen or something like that. Sadly, in the modern world in which we live, there always seems to be plenty of people willing to take advantage of others in order to make a quick buck.

But we can only deal with what we have. And I know that since my app is pretty unique, I don't think Apple is likely to change their policies on my behalf. And that's okay.

Shortcuts app icon

Apple's own Shortcuts app is the only non-browser app that I'm aware of with the ability to directly add icons to the home screen. Back when the app was a third-party app called Workflow, i.e. before the app was acquired by Apple, it used a similar ATHS procedure to Mister Icon, i.e. ATHS via a web browser. But once Apple acquired the app and renamed it ‘Shortcuts’, it soon obtained the magical direct install feature that no other non-browser app has.

I understand that Apple likes to keep some special features to itself, but this can be a little disappointing at times.

Currently, installing an icon to the home screen from my Mister Icon app requires at least 4 taps. Tap once on the icon you like (which will launch your default web browser), then tap the share Safari Share button button, then tap on ‘Add to Home Screen Add to Home Screen icon’, then finally tap ‘Add’ to confirm. (And as mentioned in my previous article, some third-party browsers require an extra step of tapping on a menu too.)

None of this is really difficult, and once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature, but a simple one-tap installation would, of course, be very nice to have.

Maybe one day in the future it will be possible. Until then, we'll just have to keep installing Mister Icons via a web browser or the Shortcuts app. In the grand scheme of things, that's no big deal.

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