iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5?

Lots of iPhone application developers are frustrated with the process to get new apps into your hands. It takes about three weeks lately for an app to get approved and into the iTunes store.

Lately I’ve noticed that some developers are avoiding building apps and, instead, are building custom web pages that are designed specifically for the iPhone. I’m not the only one, Marshall Kirkpatrick, over at ReadWriteWeb is seeing the same trend and yesterday featured several services that are building iPhone web experiences but not apps.

Examples you might be already using are Twitter’s mobile site, or Techmeme’s mobile site.

But yesterday another one came along from Nextstop, which is a cool new app for sharing cool things to do near you (great for travelers to check out) and they, too, decided on HTML5 instead of doing an iPhone app. So, I visited them in their San Francisco offices and learned why they made the choices they did, got a demo of the new mobile site they built using HTML5, and also talked about what their view of what’s happening in the larger mobile industry is.

Some reasons Nextstop likes HTML5:

1. Rapid iteration. If they code a new feature tonight, you get it tonight. No waiting three weeks for you to get their latest.
2. It prepares their systems for building a native app. Why? Because apps can include a Safari browser instance inside, so all of this work is reusable, even if they do a native app.
3. It’s easier to build and debug because you don’t need to do a lot of specialized coding to make the native app work properly.
4. It fits into the greater web easier for users. In an iPhone app it can be jarring to take users out to a web browser, but if they already are in the browser they are used to going to other pages and back again using Safari’s navigation.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about the latest thinking of iPhone app developers, this is a good video to watch.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

61 thoughts on “iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5?

  1. I think firefox mobile is going to be iPhone apps biggest threat. Because of having to create an app for multiple different platforms, developers are going to just develop for that browser and save the stress/time/development/all the above. Should be interesting.

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  3. I highly recommend that you all contribute to a work in progress by O'reilly about creating phone apps without the Apple SDK. http://building-iphone-apps.labs.oreilly.com/

    I'd also like to comment on the feedback that criticizes the Apple App Store for controlling and locked down iphone apps and taking some profit for themselves. First get over it. Without the iPhone hardware, the entire market for Web 2.0 applications on a phone wouldn't even have started. I mean the web on a flip phone waisn't really the web, it's just some text and tiny images. While the App Store might have suppressed some creativity and accessibility, it also made a huge contribution to popularizing phone applications. It has provided a centralized location for finding approved (relatively bug free), secure (almost always), categorized applications. Maybe a new category should be added for applications that don't require installation (built on HTML). Wouldn't you want to be able to search for those apps and have the Apple “seal of approval”. Go ahead and try to promote your own apps through a your own website, conferences and blogs, it can't hurt, but neither can a centralized place to find approved applications. There have been a lot of great products that have been outsold by products with better distribution, at least Apple has allowed everyone to apply. Obviously, Apple knows how to make money for themselves, but they also know how to allow creativity to exist in a somewhat controlled environment, which makes for better experience for everyone.
    So I'm thrilled to see the innovation of developement without using the Apple iPhone SDK , but I've also been thrilled with the past iPhone Apps. And now I hope Apple help allow more integration between HTML and iPhone features and also helps promote non-SDK applications in the App Store.

  4. It has more to do with wireless connectivity. Most people still use their PC to access the web over a hardwired connection and therefore web apps are always available. Mobile devices don't always have connectivity and there is currently no browser war going on for the mobile device. But this is only temporary. The mobile browsers are getting more sophisticated and approaching the level of desktop browsers. All you need to do at some point is add a layer of hardware API to a mobile browser and then developers can leverage the best of both worlds. Due to these reasons, mobile device manufacturers see this as an opportunistic time to cash in on their own smartphones by providing their own app store. Eventually though, everything will be in the cloud and wireless connectivity will be the norm.

  5. It has more to do with wireless connectivity. Most people still use their PC to access the web over a hardwired connection and therefore web apps are always available. Mobile devices don't always have connectivity and there is currently no browser war going on for the mobile device. But this is only temporary. The mobile browsers are getting more sophisticated and approaching the level of desktop browsers. All you need to do at some point is add a layer of hardware API to a mobile browser and then developers can leverage the best of both worlds. Due to these reasons, mobile device manufacturers see this as an opportunistic time to cash in on their own smartphones by providing their own app store. Eventually though, everything will be in the cloud and wireless connectivity will be the norm.

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