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Apple has disregarded W3C standards by replacing the HTML5 video player with their own full-screen only video player in all iPhone browsers. Apple even went as far as to make it impossible to circumvent this behavior (with the exception of methods that would fry an iPhone CPU) by rendering video on HTML5 canvas as a work-around. Because of this, web applications which involve a user interface to be overlayed over the video player are broken on iPhone. There is no viable workaround. We explored all available routes. This behavior is present on all iPhone browsers, not just mobile safari.

So, because of this, I need to inform iPhone users that (even though our application has excellent mobile design and is developed to be highly performant on mobile devices) we cannot support iPhone with our web application. So I plan to handle this by displaying a page featuring an brief explanation. I can use graphics if that helps.

How can I explain this properly? (while):

  • Not confusing the typical non tech-savvy user.
  • Ensuring that the user understands this is not a failure on the part of our application development, but a failure on the part of Apple to support W3C specs (but the user doesn't necessarily understand what W3C standards are).
  • Keeping the explanation brief.
  • 1
    Trying to understand your context a little more. What functionality are you trying to provide that must be performed on top of a video? Can you modify the workflow so iphone users can still perform a version of the action? You might get a lot of sad iphone users. – nightning Sep 4 '15 at 18:44
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    @nightning unfortunately, the functionality of the interface running over the video is so vital to the application, that it would be useless without the feature. Is that enough info? I'm trying to give as much info as is needed without exposing IP which isn't yet protected legally. – Viziionary Sep 4 '15 at 18:46
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    (maybe this is a dumb question) Would it be easier for you to create a standalone app instead of having a mobile web site ? – Max Sep 4 '15 at 19:00
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft - No, Apple requires that every web-browser on an iPhone use the built-in rendering engine, which is where the restriction in question is implemented. Chrome and all the other browsers are effectively just skins/alternate UIs for the same functionality. I don't know if that extends to apps which render HTML internally, but it definitely covers all the major browsers. – Bobson Sep 6 '15 at 19:18
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    I remember someone whose error message if his drivers weren't compatible with a particular machine was 'Wrong computer purchased'. – chasly from UK Sep 6 '15 at 21:52
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I would keep the message short and simple,

"Unfortunately, iPhone devices do not support W3C standard HTML video"

This still allows you to shift the blame "devices don't support our application" as opposed to "we don't support your device".

Why not longer?

  1. If you go in to details about how Apple refuses to follow standards and how you guys have tried everything to fix it but can't it will make it sound like you are whining, disgruntled, and playing the blame game which comes off as unprofessional.

  2. Users don't care. As soon as you say that a user can't use your application they have no reason to continue. They will not stick around to read reasons why they can't use it (that as you said, they won't understand anyway) they will simply move on.

What can you do?

Other than simply telling the user that they can't use your application you can try to help mitigate your loss by directing them to an alternative. For example you can say "Still want to use our app? Click here to email yourself the link for later!" (if there is a desktop version) or point them to an iOS based version with less features if possible.

  • 2
    @MediaWebDev Ah I see, very strange standards by Apple indeed. Quite a few design decisions they have made have put me in situations similar to this. – DasBeasto Sep 4 '15 at 19:20
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    I would maybe replace "our application" with "HTML5 video" or something similar. This makes it clear that it's not just your application, but anything that uses the standard. Without going into too much detail, it still gives enough information for the user that wants to do additional research. Otherwise, I can see a user interpreting the message as "we chose not to make our application work on iPhones", which obviously ins't the case. – Dan Henderson Sep 4 '15 at 23:57
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    is not supported by reads to the user like you are trying not to say does not work with, so you still take the blame – njzk2 Sep 5 '15 at 4:17
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    Why not flip the phrase and say Unfortunately, iPhone devices do not support our application? I think this more clearly puts blame on the iPhone. (anecdote: I told my wife the first phrase and asked her who was to blame, and she said "The makers of the app." I then told her my alternate phrase and asked her who was to blame, and she said "Apple.") – Cornstalks Sep 5 '15 at 20:11
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    While this brief message is all that is required in app, it would be well complemented by a blog post on why. This post would be picked up by people searching "<appname> iPhone" and provide information for the genuinely curious while not getting in the way of uninterested users. – Kelly Thomas Sep 6 '15 at 4:50
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If truly nothing can be done to make something work for iPhone users. Then be honest as possible in your notice saying the app is not supported, and succinctly provide the reason why, and how the user can get around it.

Here's a quote from an article on medium about error messages that applies equally well for your use case.

Write an alert message that describes the alert situation clearly and succinctly. An alert message such as “An error occurred” is mystifying to all users and is likely to annoy experienced users. (…) Write informative text that elaborates on the consequences and suggests a solution or alternative. Give as much information as necessary to explain why the user should care about the situation. (…) Informative text is best when it includes a suggestion for fixing the problem. (…) Express everything in the user’s vocabulary.


Example from Hulu: enter image description here

Note: They don't provide a suggestion for fixing the problem because it's due to legal issues where there's nothing the user can do about it.


Possible wording for your message:

Sorry, our app is currently not supported by iPhones

Our application allows you to ______________ on your videos. This feature is currently not supported by iPhone browsers. To use the app, please use a computer, an iPad or an android device.

I would recommend emphasizing why your app is useful in order to encourage folks to take the extra step and try it on a different platform. It might give you slightly better results than a 100% drop-off wall for your target audience who uses iPhones.

  • 1
    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft I updated the wording based on the OP's comments on the other answer that it's only on iPhone. I actually have no idea. – nightning Sep 4 '15 at 23:48
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    Yes, based on that comment indicating that iPad does support the standard, it should definitely be included in the message, so that iPhone users know it's not some type of anti-Apple propaganda. – Dan Henderson Sep 5 '15 at 5:46
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    @DasBeasto The terms „worldwide”, „legal”, „streaming rights”, „international background” and „professional and personal interest” are likely to be dismissed as buzzwords with no grounding in the technical reality – kinokijuf Sep 5 '15 at 14:40
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    @kinokijuf While I agree with your comment, nonetheless, the route that Hulu took is a good example of how to present it in the OP's case layout-wise, provided they word it properly. As such, I think this is a good answer. – Ruslan Sep 6 '15 at 3:55
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    Including a long List of supported Devices will also probably shift the perception from "Lazy software not supporting IPhone" to "this runs on 100 devices and just IPhones cannot do it" – Falco Sep 7 '15 at 9:27
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If it makes sense in your case, you could use informal wording, like Trello does.

Also, while average user won't know what W3C or standards are, they usually have heard of HTML5 and/or it's video.

Sadly, we're not allowed to make nice things with HTML5 video on iPhone

It works fine on iPad or many other devices, though!

  • I'm not sure about the last message, it's not like people have two phones from both brands each. – Pierre Arlaud Sep 7 '15 at 7:39
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    @PierreArlaud: it comes across snarky, "consider getting an Android instead of an iPhone". Which is fine if you want to come across snarky, but a poor choice of words if you don't. – Steve Jessop Sep 7 '15 at 12:44
  • @PierreArlaud hmm, it sounded fair when I first worded it. I'll try to improve it. – transistor09 Sep 8 '15 at 15:16

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