Did Apple Make a Mistake With 3rd Party Apps?


In an article over at Brighthand, Antoine Wright raised an interesting and thought-provoking point, that Apple should have ignored developer's wishes and maintain their web app platform. He believes that Safari, one of the most capable mobile browsers available, could have paved the way for an even better web experience by offering very polished web apps. He lists examples such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and banking sites as those who have created great web apps.

Apple, with its own browser, Safari, and a fresh mobile platform, had the opportunity to really change the game when it came to making web applications. These could have become a standard type of software platform model for mobile devices. The company chose instead to listen to developers.

His main problem with native applications is that it doesn't port as easily to different phone platforms and devices. Native applications have to be re-packaged and even re-built from the start to fit a specific device. He cites Google Gears as an example of great web applications, and wishes that the iPhone could create a similar experience.

Though we at TiPb would have loved to see Apple make some headway in Web Apps and do see a future in it, we just don't think straying away from Native Apps would have been the answer. Native Apps provide a distinct advantage, they work without an internet connection and offer a more immersive experience. Native Apps aren't trapped to the confines of Safari and theoretically, offer limitless potential. TiPb's vote goes to Native Apps FTW.

What do you guys think? Web Apps all the way? Or did Apple make the smart decision in admitting an error and allowing 3rd party native apps?


Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!


← Previously

Rebuke of the iClones: Mossberg Strikes Back!

Next up →

What if iPhone 2.0 was... 3G Exclusive?!

Reader comments

Did Apple Make a Mistake With 3rd Party Apps?


If they did not allow it then they BITCH!!!
When they did allow it they BITCH!!!! And
No matter what AAPL does its NEVER good enough...
I have 1 thing to say.
iJah420 out...

native apps all the way. i can see the writer's point, but come on. the main reason is that native apps are hard to port? Software developers have been porting apps for years and Apple has apparently provided an absolutely awesome SDK. web apps are just way too limited. they aren't the future, they are the past.

I think that Web apps have their place in the world, but native apps do too.
When you have web apps only you are stuck with having to have an internet connection to use. But when you are someplace that you have to have airport mode on web apps just don't work. When I am on an airplane I would like to be able to pull out my phone and play a game. Having one natively would be great.

The writer was way off base. We're years away from the scenario where every place on earth (including deep inside buildings, on planes, middle of deserts and jungles, etc.) has a reliable, super-fast connection 24/7. Until then, native apps have their place. Even then native apps have their place when (1) you don't want to trust the cloud with your data, (2) you don't want to waste battery power on maintaining contact with the cloud, etc.
And the argument against porting native apps is wrong because it's not like good web apps for iPhone didn't need to be ported specifically for the iPhone's UI anyway. So if you're going to port a web app, why not port a native app?
Web apps are highly useful even now and will become increasingly useful over time, but that doesn't obviate the need for native apps. Apple for sure made the right call with the iPhone SDK. Can't wait for the App Store!

I think it is a matter of what the purpose of the application is. For example, a bank's web apps is logical as it is a continually update source of information for the user and doesn't need much in the way of offline access. On the other hand, an office document editor is very complex and need offline modes. While either can access the internet, the application that uses the internet extensively, i.e. bank sites, can remain a web app while other local-date-oriented applications can go native.
Native applications generally will perform better. Games, process intense tasks, etc., are best as native.
Just my 2 cents.

If you write an app for the iPhone you (a) just wrote an app for OS X, (b) you just learned to use Apple's developer tools. I don't see how this could possibly be viewed as a mistake on Apple's part.
It may be a mistake for some developers to go native versus web-based, definitely, but in general writing apps using the tools provided by Apple is probably easier than building a web-based app anyway.

Just as desktop publishing was the killer app that made the Mac back in the day, opening up this technologically advanced mobile computing platform to rich native applications will cement iPhones place in the technology timeline.
I'm anxiously awaiting (and maybe even writing myself) the next killer app.

What the f? Okay, I am confused... Doesn't the iPhone support BOTH? I mean come on... is everyone just out to pick on Apple here... why isn't anyone crying foul about other smartphones with their lack of ANY support for opensource software or lack of support for full blown web browsers? Come on, I think people are just looking for a crack in the perfection that the iPhone represents in this befuddled and craptacular industry where everyone is trying to leverage their own vision of "how it's supposed to be"? I vote BOTH, for obvious reasons pointed out by the posters above...

I think that while the writer of the article may have a point, from a business perspective, Apple made exactly the right move. The iPhone SDK requires a Mac. So Apple sells more Macs. Oh, and while those developers have bothered to learn to program in the iPhone SDK, the Mac SDK is also there, just as easy to use, and has much of the same foundation. Why not start writing Mac apps as well? So iPhone native apps leads to more Mac apps which, in turn, eventually leads to more Mac sales (and market share) as well.
As for the question of web apps only vs. web apps and native apps, I agree with most of the other posts - web apps are fine, but native apps will be faster and will work when I'm not online. Those are both good reasons to not rely completely on web apps.

Webapps are ok--native is better. Does Iphone even cache? Try to DL/cache a lengthy web-based article on Safari before take off i.e. airplane mode. I don't own an iPhone so maybe i am missing something, but at the applestore I could not cache a bunch of stories for later reading.

Agreed, very narrow minded to think it has to be one or the other. Games have to be native, they are to processor intensive, web apps like twitteriffic have to have access to the system functions for alerts, so in a way you have to have a native app anyway. Apple made no mistake, this post really is kind of frustrating. I didn't agree with the first posters way of communicating but I agree with his frustration.

There is no such thing as pleasing everyone....
I would like the author of that article to tell me exactly what I'm supposed to do when I don't have an internet connection. Is he as blind as the Apple haters that can't see the potential in the iPhone? The power present for amazing native apps?
Like other have said as well, it is also very narrow minded to think we can only have one or the other.

The very thing that the Brighthand writer points out to be a problem for developers, namely the difficulty in packaging and building for mobile platforms, is the thing that Apple believes gives it a strong competitive advantage with OS X and Xcode for developers. That advantage helps with user-stickiness, and even "lock-in", when customers go to replace their phones.
Apple's a business, not a charity, so the decision to go native was made with strategic foresight, not just as a response to developers. And how much better is it for them to hide that strategy behind "listening to developers" mantra.
By the way, I love Apple and am long AAPL. Just being realistic.

Native apps is the way for me although web based stuff has its place too. Some apps don't need an internet connection to function so why tie them to that requirement? Also, the Safari browser is a different app in itself and web apps are thus tied to the inherent limitations of that application.

First off, thanks for linking the article. I totally didn't expect that when I shared the link with Dieter.
I know that we are supposed to think that web applications are beneficial when connected. However, my background in web development notwithstanding, Apple did state initally that the only apps for the iPhone would be web apps and widgets. They went back on that and offered teh SDK. That was their perogative, and smart to some degree.
To say that web apps are not polished enough to be used offline is shortsighted. (1) every iPhone user who purchases one from a carrier/Apple store has has to have a data plan. US network performance notwithstanding, this guarantees an a la cate pipe to use connected apps. (2) Safari is good enough to use web apps in an offline mode now, and it will be better soon (here's proof)
I am not saying that it has to be one or the other. I am saying that Apple acquessed to very vocal developers who did not want to take the responsiblity for user experience and upkeep of applications beyond a build and deploy mentality that native apps go thru. Apple has the platform, distribution mechanism, and (at point of each iPhone release) the momentum to go the route of connected apps that are usable in offline settings and chose not to. I call it a mistake, it was an editorial and hence an opinion piece. I invite the challenge to my assertions as it gives me a better ideas as to what some users want, and what some companies see as beneficial to keep their pockets full :)

I believe both native and web apps both have their place. I really don't believe people will stop using web apps just because native apps have arrived.

The most compelling reason for me to buy one is not discussed: photo geotagging.
Nobody else has it and I want it. Plus, what else is coming down the pike that will require 3G? video, radio, etcl.

I believe both have a part to play to make a platform awesome. The important part is able to store the completed work in the cloud so that as and when it is needed it is available immediately and anywhere.