TL;DR: Google finally rolled out the Stadia web client for iOS. The app, which runs through Safari or Chrome mobile browsers, reportedly works well, albeit with a few minor annoyances. Nothing that a few updates won't fix.
The Stadia web client for iOS that Google promised us last month is finally here.
The web app performs well and without any glaring issues on both iPhone and iPad. Engadget notes a small nitpick regarding the user interface. The iOS status bar—the one at the top showing the time and battery status—often remains visible. It seems to be an inconsistent issue as sometimes (but not always) it will disappear while playing a game. The browser's URL field also hangs around while you navigate through the Stadia store. These issues are by no means "deal-breakers."
Porting the Stadia web app to iOS was a super fun project, and we're really happy with how it turned out. Here's a video I recorded a few months ago demonstrating we could deliver the complete Stadia experience on Safari, even for an extremely timing-sensitive game like Thumper. pic.twitter.com/TNJEdGTwPF— Justin Uberti (@juberti) December 16, 2020
Additionally, when speaking with Google about the iOS user interface elements sticking around, a rep reminds us that the client is still in beta.
"[This is] the first phase of iOS testing," the spokesperson said. "[We will] continue to update the iOS experience with user feedback."
If having system UI elements hanging around will ruin your fun, you can still opt to use Zachary Knox's Stadium browser. With the help of other Reddit users, Knox developed and released a browser for iOS that acts as a Stadia client with a clean user interface.
Apple had removed Stadium from the App Store just as it gained some momentum, claiming that it violated guidelines. "[Stadium uses] public APIs in a way that Apple does not intend," the tech giant claimed. Knox was unthwarted by the strongarm tactic. Instead, he made some adjustments to his code, resubmitted it, and got Stadium back in the App Store.
Providing game streaming through Safari or third-party web browsers is a loophole for getting around Apple's strict App Store rules, which require platforms to submit each title on the service individually for approval. Others, including Nvidia's GeForce Now and Microsoft's xCloud (now just called Game Pass), are also using the workaround to get their platforms on to iOS.
Since using a browser to stream games does not break any of the rules as they are currently set forth, Apple has not made a concentrated effort to halt the practice other than its API excuse against Knox. Whether this changes down the road remains to be seen, but it would be hard for Cupertino to block such web-based services without creating a very negative PR nightmare revolving around web-censorship.
In the meantime, if you want to try Stadia on your iPhone or iPad, navigate to the Stadia home page using Safari or Chrome. From there, simply log in and start playing. For convenience, you can also save the page to your home screen (Safari only) by tapping the share button and then "Add to Home Screen." Doing this makes it function more like a native app since it will automatically open Safari to the Stadia client (see above gif).