January 28th 2010
Earlier this week Google released Google Voice as a web application. It’s a toned down version of the application that originally got submitted to the App Store but stirred controversy.
If you never heard of it before, the application got pulled down from the App Store for “unknown” reasons, Google complained to the FCC, then Apple said they were investigating the app. Someone somewhere obviously doesn’t want that app on the iPhone.
What they did this week is a straight hit in Apple’s face,. They modified their original App to be available as a web app, so unless Apple block access to the Google Voice website, there’s really nothing they can do about it and that’s a good thing.
Mobile Browsers are really powerful.
This got me thinking about the relevance of developing an App for the App Store. It’s true that the browser can’t access some core features like the camera or the gps, but some apps could actually be quite easily converted to a browser based equivalent. Just think about website specific apps that really are only RSS readers (Engadget,TUAW,CyberPresse), notes apps, even Instapaper could be converted using Safari client-side database.
It’s true the App Store can potentially give you a lot of visibility, but the truth is that with over 140 000 apps yours can easily be far down the list. As if you publish it as a web app you can actually promote it not only for the iPhone but for many more platforms as it is browser based.
Open is epic win
Developing a web app aimed at the iPhone makes a lot of sense, you don’t have to go through the approval process when you launch or when you want to update your app. Your market could also be a lot broader as the app could be easily adapted for Android and Pre, much easier than re-coding the equivalent in their native language.
You can even add web pages to your home screen on the iPhone so it feels more like an app from the App store.
Last time I checked there were not many people in my area developing for the iPhone, while there were plenty of web developer. It would be a lot easier to maintain and to find support in the event you lose one of your programmer. And as with everything, if demand is up, prices will follow so an Objective C programmer ain’t cheap.
If I had to develop and app for the iPhone today, I’d strongly consider the web app avenue unless the app rely on core features that are only available in the iPhone SDK.
What’s your view?