One common complaint that comes up with iOS is that you can’t change the default web browser—even though there are plenty of third-party browsers out there, you’re stuck with Safari as the default way to open links. But with iOS’s custom URL schemes, who cares?
Why change the default browser?
There are lots of reasons why people choose different browsers. In the mobile app management world, third-party browser apps give companies a way provide access to internal web apps and intranet pages, and they can have VPNs built right into the app, so there’s no need use MDM to set up a device-level VPN.
But since you can’t change the default browser for iOS, how do you make sure that links for work-related browsing are opened up in the corporate browser? One answer lies in custom URL schemes, which are a way for apps to launch and pass information to other apps.
Using custom URL schemes means that if you have multiple corporate apps that are built to work together, you can completely bypass the built-in Safari. So for example if you have a corporate email client, it can be made so that when users tap on a link, it’s passed directly to your corporate browser of choice.
There are examples of this in the consumer app world, too. Some of Google’s iOS apps have been working this way for a couple of months now. When I click on a link in the Gmail iOS app, it opens directly in the Chrome iOS app. I think this is great—it keeps everything in my preferred browser, so my bookmarks and history are contained in one place, whereas if I had been using the built-in mail client, the link would have opened in Safari.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the exact same thing that’s going on with dual persona mobile app management! In fact, this Gmail/Chrome analogy is a great way to explain dual persona MAM to non-technical folks.
Of course this is only one example of how custom URLs can be used. Managed corporate apps can be built so that mailto links open in the corporate email client, phone calls are dialed from a corporate unified communications app, or other more specialized forms of data can be passed back and forth.
The point of all of this is that if you’re doing mobile app management, it doesn’t matter that some of the default iOS apps can’t be changed. Third-party apps can be built to work together to form their own ecosystem and completely bypass the Apple defaults.