|By Kevin Hoffman||
|November 10, 2007 10:45 AM EST||
So where are we now? Does the announcement of the native, Cocoa-based SDK mean that web development for the iPhone and iPod touch are dead? Absolutely not. There are still a truckload of advantages to doing iPhone web development. To me, there is a clear dividing line between the types of apps you want as web apps, and the types of apps you need to be native.
Why Build Web Applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch?
- No certification required. Though nothing has been set in stone or disclosed publicly, it's a pretty widely held belief that native iPhone applications will require a certification process that could be extremely cost-prohibitive for hobbyist developers and small businesses.
- No device deployment. This makes it very easy for you to get your application into the hands of iPhone / iPod touch users. The only deployment necessary is navigating to the application's URL.
- Server-controlled infrastructure.
- Rapid development. Time to build a web application that supports the iPhone will probably be far less time consuming than building a native application.
- Larger resources - A web application sitting on a server has access to far more data than can be stored locally on an iPhone. This may or may not be an issue for you depending on the kind of app you want to build.
- Ease of maintenance - if you need to push a patch, you push it to your server.
Why Build Native Applications for the iPhone / iPod Touch?
- Application might be able to run even when the phone is locked. Many native iPhone apps do this now such as e-mail and calendar. Your application might be able to do the same (note: this is totally unconfirmed and may not be possible)
- Complete control over look and feel - Rather than resorting to tricks and sneaky techniques to make your web application look as though it is not inside a browser, you can do whatever you like and make your app look however you like.
- Graphics and animation. While you can certainly do some basic animation within a browser, I'm fairly certain that we'll have access to some variation or subset of Core Animation on the iPhone. That's huge.
- Decent network access. More than likely native apps will be able to make network calls without fear of cross-boundary problems and browser sandboxing, enabling truly powerful networking apps. This includes the potential for a native IM client on the phone if Apple hasn't released iChat for the phone by then.
- Synchronization. Hopefully we'll be able to tap into the iTunes synchronization somehow and funnel application data from the iPhone to applications residing on the desktop ala ActiveSync for Windows Mobile.
There's also a really big opportunity for productivity enhancement applications that I can't even fathom. I'm really excited to see what comes out of the development community in this area. I'm always amazed by the apps I see floating around for smart phones.
So, it seems as though every time I say "to keep it short", I run on for another couple paragraphs. Developing web applications for the iPhone provides you with an insanely easy deployment scenario, gives you complete control over the reliability and stability of the environment, gives you complete control over patching and updating your application, and has a lot more going for it. For what I think is the minority of app dev needs, that remaining gap will be filled by the upcoming SDK. If you don't need the strong level of OS integration that you get with the SDK, then developing an iPhone web app is still the way to go.
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