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GraphQL supports subscriptions to allow clients to be immediately updated when the data changes on a server.

GraphQL subscriptions are distinct from watching queries. A query watcher is only updated when new data is written to the local cache (usually by another network operation). A GraphQL subscription is a long-lived request that may receive updated data from the server continuously. Apollo iOS implements subscriptions using a web socket connection.

Apollo iOS requires subscription support to be enabled on your ApolloClient using the ApolloWebSocket library to work. See the Enabling GraphQL subscription support section for instructions on how your application can support GraphQL subscriptions.

Performing mutations

Apollo iOS Subscriptions are also supported through code generation. Similar to queries, subscriptions are represented by instances of generated classes, conforming to the GraphQLSubscription protocol.

subscription ReviewAdded {
reviewAdded {

Once those operations are generated, you can use a ApolloClient.subscribe(subscription:) using a subscription-supporting network transport to subscribe, and continue to receive updates about changes until the subscription is cancelled.

let subscription = client.subscribe(subscription: ReviewAddedSubscription()) { result in
guard let data = try? result.get().data else { return }
print( { $0.stars })

Cancelling a subscription

It is important that all subscription connections are canceled when you are done with them. As long as a subscription is active, it will maintain a connection to the server and it's resultHandler completion block is retained. This can create memory leaks and reduce your application's performance.

When you call ApolloClient.subscribe(subscription:) an opaque Cancellable is returned. You can cancel the subscription by calling cancel() on the returned Cancellable. This will terminate the connection to the server and release the resultHandler completion block.

A subscription's cancellation object does not cancel itself when it is deallocated, so you must be sure to cancel() it yourself. A class can ensure any subscriptions it manages are cancelled when it is released by using its deinitializer.

class ReviewViewController {
let client: ApolloClient!
private var subscription: Cancellable?
func subscribeToReviews() {
// Keep a reference to the subscription's cancellation object.
self.subscription = client.subscribe(subscription: ReviewAddedSubscription()) { [weak self] result in
// Handle each update from the subscription.
deinit {
// Make sure the subscription is cancelled, if it exists, when this object is deallocated.

Enabling GraphQL subscription support

The Apollo iOS library supports the use of subscriptions via ApolloWebSocket, an optional additional library. ApolloWebSocket allows you to use web sockets to connect to your GraphQL server, enabling GraphQL subscriptions. To include ApolloWebSocket, add it as a dependency following the instructions in the Getting Started guide.

Creating an ApolloClient with subscription support

In order to support GraphQL subscriptions, your ApolloClient must be initialized with a NetworkTransport that supports creating a web socket connection.

Within the ApolloWebSocket library, there are two classes which conform to the NetworkTransport protocol:

Typically, you'll want to use SplitNetworkTransport, since this allows you to retain the single NetworkTransport setup and avoids any potential issues of using multiple client objects.

Here is an example of setting up an ApolloClient which uses a SplitNetworkTransport to support both subscriptions and queries:

/// A common store to use for `httpTransport` and `webSocketTransport`.
let store = ApolloStore()
/// A web socket transport to use for subscriptions
let webSocketTransport: WebSocketTransport = {
let url = URL(string: "ws://localhost:8080/websocket")!
let webSocketClient = WebSocket(url: url, protocol: .graphql_transport_ws)
return WebSocketTransport(websocket: webSocketClient)
/// An HTTP transport to use for queries and mutations
let httpTransport: RequestChainNetworkTransport = {
let url = URL(string: "http://localhost:8080/graphql")!
return RequestChainNetworkTransport(interceptorProvider: DefaultInterceptorProvider(store: store), endpointURL: url)
/// A split network transport to allow the use of both of the above
/// transports through a single `NetworkTransport` instance.
let splitNetworkTransport = SplitNetworkTransport(
uploadingNetworkTransport: httpTransport,
webSocketNetworkTransport: webSocketTransport
/// Create a client using the `SplitNetworkTransport`.
let client = ApolloClient(networkTransport: splitNetworkTransport, store: store)

GraphQL over WebSocket protocols

There are two protocols supported by apollo-ios:

  1. graphql-ws protocol which is implemented in the subscriptions-transport-ws and AWS AppSync libraries.
  2. graphql-transport-ws protocol which is implemented in the graphql-ws library.

It is important to note that the protocols are not cross-compatible and you will need to know which is implemented in the service you're connecting to. All WebSocket initializers allow you to specify which GraphQL over WebSocket protocol should be used.

Providing authorization tokens

In a standard HTTP operation, if authentication is necessary an Authorization header is often sent with requests. However, with a web socket, this can't be sent with every payload since a persistent connection is required.

For web sockets, the connectingPayload provides those parameters you would traditionally specify as part of the headers of your request.

Note that this must be set when the WebSocketTransport is created. If you need to update the connectingPayload, you will need to recreate the client using a new webSocketTransport.

let webSocketTransport: WebSocketTransport = {
let url = URL(string: "ws://localhost:8080/websocket")!
let webSocketClient = WebSocket(url: url, protocol: .graphql_transport_ws)
let authPayload = ["authToken": myAuthToken]
return WebSocketTransport(websocket: webSocketClient, connectingPayload: authPayload)
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