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Apple is the new Microsoft. Evil. At least when it comes to iPhone apps and the App Store. From delays to questionable rejections, there are plenty of reasons some developers get mad if you mutter the words 'App Store'.

So it's not surprising that some are suggesting we're starting to see (or will be seeing) a 'trend' of developers who are moving away from native apps that are distributed through the App Store and are instead building web applications that can be accessed freely through the iPhone's web browser.

Let's put this to rest: developers aren't ditching the App Store in droves, and they're not going to. Here are five reasons why.

  • Web apps didn't fly before. Early on, Apple bet on web apps. And it didn't pay off. Sure, you can make the 'HTML5 changes everything argument' but the early failure of web apps on the iPhone wasn't about technology. It was about experience. The results speak for themselves: consumers clearly prefer native apps, as well as the convenience of having a single store in which they can be found and purchased.
  • Web apps are harder to distribute. One of the reasons web apps flopped is that marketing a web app is like marketing a website. If you build it they will not come. The App Store offers developers an established and efficient distribution channel of large size. The only distribution channel that many iPhone owners know about, and a channel that most of them seem satisfied with. Getting into the App Store requires approval, which, once obtained, makes an app 'official'. Developers who don't have Apple's explicit blessing will always have to actively promote their availability to consumers and fight the consumer perception that they're competing in an inferior market.
  • The App Store comes with built-in monetization. Want to charge for your app? Apple takes care of that. Want to sell in-app content or subscriptions? Apple takes care of that too. These things are really important since most serious developers are actually looking to make money. Apple's advantage, however, is not simply that it handles payments. That's the easy part. The real advantage: consumers trust Apple and that means apps available in the App Store are far more likely to sell than apps sold on a standalone, pay-for-access basis.
  • Web apps can't access the iPhone hardware and APIs. Can HTML5, for instance, be used to build slick web apps for the iPhone? Sure. But what about hardware access? What about the 3D libraries available through the iPhone APIs? In short, there are plenty of important things you can't do with web apps.
  • Developers chase success. While the number of developers who have hit the jackpot in the App Store is pretty small, such developers do exist, and the ranks of the App Store millionaires are always growing. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's wise to join in on the App Store gold rush but so long as the App Store maintains its image as one of the best places for developers to strike it rich, the majority of developers will keep developing native apps for the iPhone.

In short, the App Store is sort of like a trendy nightclub. If you're not able to get in, you might resort to a Saturday night at the local dive bar. But deep down, you know that you'd have a much better time at the nightclub, even if the bouncer is a jerk.

Photo credit: Kaloozer via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 21 December, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2407 more posts from this author

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kid english

Who cares.

Web apps are already out there, but they're in flash. HTML5 won't particularly change that, Apple doesn't have flash, ergo iphone dev's won't suddenly run to webapps.

The app store isn't a trendy nightclub, it's more like a massively overpopulated masonic hall. If you don't get in you won't know why, ever, but ultimately who cares apart from you.

I got fed up of searching for apps in the store, just can't be arsed with it anymore. Then I got Android and found out I could use flash, and now I'm happy. The android app stores isn't great either, but who cares when you've got flash.

almost 7 years ago

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Mike Rundle

@kid english: I disable Flash on my *Mac*, why the hell would I want it to slow down and screw up my phone? Android phones can play Flash but they still can't scroll smooth as glass like my iPhone. I just tried a new Droid & Eris last night and they still can't scroll like my ORIGINAL iPhone did. 2 years later and they're still playing catchup. Astounding.

almost 7 years ago

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George

Good reasons to stay away from iPhone application development. Android is getting more popular among mobile application developers.

almost 7 years ago

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Brendan

1) "Web apps didn't fly before". Consumers liked the web-redux experience AOL offered in the mid-1990s, but outgrew it as they became familiar with the medium. Past consumer preferences are not necessarily an indication of the future.

2) "Web apps are harder to distribute". There seems to be a paradox here. The approval process is an additional step which is not necessary in the distribution of a web app. And besides, there are over 100,000 approved iPhone apps today. As that number increases the findability of each app in the store correspondingly drops.

3) "The App store comes with built-in monetisation". Yes it does and that's one of the most compelling things from a developer's perspective. People like Remember the Milk have a good model - premium customers pay for the service rather than a specific app - but it's still an emerging one.

4) "Web apps can't access hardware/APIs". That's true, and while that's the case any app that requires access to those APIs will need to the use the native OS. But not every app falls into this category. 

5) "Developers chase success". As the "gold rush" continues the app market will become saturated, and it will be difficult for quality apps to stand out among the mass of opportunistic, shoddily built material in the store. When this happens other platforms will look much more tempting.

almost 7 years ago

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Patrick Clarkson, offical at new york post

Thank you for this article. It answers many questions I've had about behind the scenes of the iTunes/app store and current issues. My general benchmark for determining if a paid app is worth getting are the extensive, detailed reviews by users. While I know only that free apps are related to piracy, I have become conditioned to having the affordable priced apps (generally under $3). The iPod is like a trip into the future: it's more advanced than my eMac, and I can take it with me everywhere. It's helping me be creative again. But I would hate to have to pay substantially more for apps than I do now. Partly because the iPod is both an essential tool and my toy.

http://www.topnflnews.com/

almost 7 years ago

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veiko herne

Thanks to Apple, good times are coming back to developers. Meanwhile when some idiot or communist declared that "all the software must be free and open source" all the idiots started to be programmers. I left this business because it wasn't anymore viable option to earn living. Even those technologies went back 20 years (php, C++) from 4GL what I was using to justify higher spendings in employement costs, quality issues to recruit team of testers, etc was a nighmare.

Thanks to Apple, you can now write again decent programs, hope that customers will find them useful and get your living out of it.

Let's kill free open source, advertisment based business models (Google) and SAAS to make customers to pay for the talent again!!!

almost 7 years ago

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iphone developer

I just hope that the Android app market takes off and shows as much promise as the iphone app market has. Right now Apple has some sort of monopoly over developers who are trying to make games and apps for mobile phones. The iPhone has the clear market advantage. The future has a lot to offer!

almost 7 years ago

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Trevor Cape

Agreed, Apple simply just has the infrastructure to run this sort of thing that would not be possible in something as overcrowded as the web.

Mobile apps rock, and now anyone can develop one, well anyone that knows HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Titanium allows for the rapid development of cross platform iPhone/Android apps with full native functionality, its open source and free! no Objective-C, no Java, no pain.

Check it out:

http://www.appcelerator.com/appcelerator-platform/titanium-architecture/

over 6 years ago

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m65

haha they are making too much money for them to even think about leaving

over 6 years ago

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