Apple has made a change to the handling of Smart App Banners that points users to the Apple News app instead of a third-party app when they open a webpage hosted by a News+ publisher.
Specifically, Smart App Banners now prompt users to open stories in the Apple News app, at least for News+ partners currently using the API. As implemented in iOS 13, the Smart App Banner framework allows developers to prompt users to download their third-party apps from the App Store, or to open a corresponding link from Safari.
The change was made in the latest iOS 14 beta, which was released on Sept. 3.
In the most up-to-date iOS 14 beta, the Smart App Banner API or Safari appears to detect News+ partner web domains, which triggers display of the modified promotional banner. Smart App Banner code on affected pages is unchanged, suggesting that it’s a change to the way Safari handles publisher URLs.
As mentioned, the new banner only shows up for publications that participate in Apple News+. Developers may be able to control which banner appears to users — Apple News or App Store download — though that isn’t clear at this point.
The banner behavior is in addition to a new feature in iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur that automatically redirects users to the Apple News app when they click on a News+ publisher link. Apple says the feature is designed for user convenience, since an Apple News+ subscription doesn’t allow users to bypass publisher website paywalls. Some publishers have called the new direction “shady,” however.