Let’s face it: America is too busy to be saddled with any extra tap of the thumb, and launching anything through mobile Safari is groan-worthy. But is Apple intentionally slowing down web apps launched directly from the home screen? According to an exclusive at The Register, that is precisely the case.
Of course web apps do not need to be downloaded through the Apple app store, where Apple garners 30% of every app sold. Herein lies the crux of some mobile web app developers’ arguments for sabotage. The Register quotes one such anonymous web app developer who says, “Apple is basically using subtle defects to make web apps appear to be low quality – even when they claim HTML5 is a fully supported platform.”
What are these purported defects? Well, it is a three-tiered problem. First, the iOS 4.3 Safari browser runs on what is called the Nitro Java-Script engine. This high-speed engine is not used when home screen web apps are launched. Second, these web apps cannot use the HTML 5 application cache like official Apple apps can. This means they cannot be used without an internet connection. Lastly, they are not rendered with Apple’s new asynchronous mode, but with the older synchronous mode. This lowers the quality of the web apps.
The Register quotes mobile app developer Alex Kessinger: “If it is conspiracy, it makes a lot of sense for Apple. If you ‘disallow’ home screen web apps, you prevent people, in a way, from bypassing the App Store.”
The conspiracy theory is not universally accepted, however. Dissenters say that Apple has absolutely no incentives for any app to run poorly. Dan Frommer at BusinessInsider reminds us that “Apple makes the vast majority of its iPhone revenue and profit from selling iPhones, not from selling apps. Therefore, Apple’s best interest is making web apps fly, not slowing them down in any way. That’s how Apple can sell more iPhones, and that is its main objective.”
If the problem does in fact exist, some say that it is a simple bug, and will be fixed. Obviously, some believe in more sinister motivations.