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iPhone web apps aren't that bad

Dan Pourhadi

I have a Treo 650 on AT&Tingular. I use the web lots. (So much, actually, that my phone bill came out to $175 last month because I downloaded so much data. Damn you, Google Maps!) The included browser isn't all that bad: especially when I can tap to mobile versions of my most-frequented sites (m.facebook, or m.twitter, for example).

Even with mobile sites, though, and particularly when browsing any-ol' page...well, it's slow.

Crowd: How slow is it?

So slow, OS X's spinning beach ball of death would tire out half way through loading!

(Ba dum kish!...?)

Sure, there's a lot of disappointment surrounding Jobs' non-announcement announcement that developers can produce Web 2.0 apps for the iPhone, in place of actual, honest-to-goodness integrated apps a la Apple's own offerings. But Apple's emphasis on the optimization of the web for the iPhone is exactly what the forthcoming iPhone World needs: on AT&Ts paltry EDGE network, how could Apple expect us to fully make use of the full-blown internet via Safari if pages take ages to load?

On stage, Jobs demoed finding showtimes, Googling, and browsing NYT in Safari, but that was on a WiFi network. I want to be able to do all that stuff, quick, on the train, in a waiting room, or in my car (parked...of course), without missing out on the best years of my life. iPhone-specialized web apps are perfect: streamlined, theoretically small, to-the-point taskers designed for quick info-grabbing or management. EDGE-based load-times practically becomes a non-issue. If developers -- big and small -- embrace this, and build apps (like this Digg aggregator, for example) that make the web experience bearable, then gosh-darnit, I'll be satisfied.

And I know: full-blown iPhone apps would've been able to do that, too -- more efficiently, even, eliminating the need to download the interface with each and every load. But then there's the hassle: installing and removing apps; crowding the home screen with small little tools that do little things, that you may use once and never again. And let's not forget -- it wouldn't only be the quality-oriented Mac coders writing apps for the iPhone. We'd see an onslaught of complicated crap, written by amateurs, ruining the beauty of the iPhone experience. Not to mention most developers would rely on the SDK, and the mobile web would be nothing more than an afterthought.

Now we have a slew of widget-like iPhone apps, even major sites jumping on the bandwagon, easily-accessible, bookmarkable, clean, efficient, and perfect for the mobile experience.

How many users in the iPhone target-demographic actually install and use third-party apps on their handsets, smartphone or otherwise? How many of those apps aren't already on the iPhone, and how many are really that important? I rarely bother installing apps -- aside from biggies like Google Maps -- on my Treo, just because most of them wind up useless, clogging space, cluttering the device, and complicating things. No doubt Apple could rectify a lot of that, as it usually does with such problems: but trust of the third-party isn't a Jobsian characteristic -- look at the iPod -- and it's just not reasonable to expect it from Apple right out of the gate.

The idea of web-based apps isn't "perfect," and it certainly limits the phone's true potential. But for the end user it's useful, it's workable, and -- curse these damning words -- it's good enough.

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