Is the future of the mobile internet apps or web browsers?
Despite the current popularity of apps, particularly those offered through Apple's App Store and Google's Android platform, many believe that eventually we'll interact far more with the mobile internet through the web browser than we do with individual apps.
For that to belief to become reality, however, mobile web browsers are going to have to have to become far more capable. The popularity of mobile apps is borne of a simple fact: in many cases, developers can only develop compelling mobile experiences through apps.
But if the new features in the Safari mobile web browser shipping with the newly-released iOS 4.2 are any indication, that might start changing. These features include browser-based support for the accelerometer and gyroscope, the WebSockets API, AJAX 2 and HTML5 form attributes, amongst other things. What this means: developers can do things in the browser that they weren't able to do before. In theory, for instance, a developer could build a web-based game that uses the iPhone's accelerometer and gyroscope. Previously, access to the accelerometer and gyroscope was limited to apps.
Of course, it's unlikely Safari's new iOS 4.2 features will have an immediate impact on the market. This is still very early on and these additions in no way turn the Safari browser into a substitute for the iOS SDK. There will be a lot of functionality that can only be implemented with an app for a long while, and even if the browser eventually reaches some level of parity with app development platforms for all but the most sophisticated applications, app stores will still be attractive for a number of reasons, such as built-in monetization.
But the mobile web is evolving and as it does, developers and consumers will have more options. And that's always a good thing.
Photo credit: Emrys.Roberts via Flickr.