Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Other App Store

Apple's App Store is an amazing success - the thousands of free and paid apps add lots of utility and entertainment value to the iPod Touch and iPhone. In the middle of all this, its easy to forget that the first iPhone shipped without any custom app capability at all - all your apps had to be webapps accessed via Safari. With the launch of the App Store and iPhone 3G, the earlier option of installing webapps has been largely forgotten, however, the capability and the webapp directory still exist. Upon installation, webapps look surprisingly similar to normal apps
iPod Touch Webapps
However, a webapp is essentially a bookmark - clicking it opens Safari and takes you to the relevant webpage. This works fine for certain types of apps - such as Google Talk and Remember The Milk which run perfectly well in a browser in the first place. What is interesting is when someone creates an entire game (with graphics and effects) entirely as a webapp - Gravity Swarm is a good example. The amount of interactivity this app achieves using only JavaScript is really impressive, also while essentially built on an old concept, the game has been customized to make the controls intuitive with a touch interface.

Apple certainly still seems to be supporting webapps - they even have a separate section for them in the Apple Design Awards. With the iPhone/iPod Tocuch browser supporting HTML 5, this is certainly a viable option for developers - as demonstrated by Google recently.

In other news, Apple is actively pushing the iPhone/iPod Touch as a gaming platform. Some of the paid apps are amazing - I recently bought Enigmo (only $0.99!) and am really impressed with the quality of the app. Traditional gaming sites are also taking notice of the device - I guess because a lot of their writers own the device and actively play games on it! I certainly use my iPod Touch a lot more than my DS - the iPod with its multiple capabilities rarely leaves my side, while the DS rarely leaves home... Whats missing on the App Store though is deeper games that require 20-30 hours to finish, let alone stuff like the Final Fantasy games which can give more than 50 hours of gameplay each. Apple needs to launch a App Store section with "premium" games by established publishers, with a minimum quality level, if they want to really unseat Nintendo from their handheld throne.
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