Applications on iPhone

by Tom Bridge

Everything we're seeing today suggests that the iPhone will be a closed platform, unable to install new applications. I've heard rumors that it will be upwards of 18 months before developers are allowed to make applications for the iPhone, and that may send a susurrus through the developer community as the ideas for mobile applications are back-burnered. This may send a wave of frustration through many potential customers as they see the iPhone as a dead-end.

This is probably not as bad as many people thing it will be.

For one, you have a fully capable web browser. It's Safari, afterall, built to be fully operable much like the Safari you'd normally use to upload photos to Flickr, or work with BaseCamp & Backpack, or operate any of a nearly infinite number of CMS systems and other blog-like interfaces. Filemaker Pro is extensible via the web, and you can make that a secure interaction in Safari. Since it's got the web, you're not tied into Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or any other Lazy-Sunday-mentioned mapping client will be fully operable on the new iPhone.

So, in that there aren't, or won't initially be, standalone applications for the iPhone, yes, many developers are currently feeling disappointed. But think of it this way: if you can encapsulate that application in HTML or AJAX or any number of other web technologies, your users will be able to use it on the iPhone. Not shabby.


2007-01-10 11:56:31
Yeah, I was thinking that the browser is the route for getting apps on the iPhone. Not sure just how useful they can be stuck there though. The Google Maps widget knows where you are. I'm guessing that information can't be accessed from the browser. A great shame.
Chris Hauser
2007-01-10 12:07:43
I've heard, the widget developement will be opened for third-party-developers. These Widgets shall be deployed via an seperate itunes-channel, like the podcasts. - ... maybe even that was a reason for the early dashcode deployment.
Chris Hauser
2007-01-10 12:09:40
Maybe one Day iTunes will be the Replacment for the Finder.
2007-01-10 12:30:40
I'm thinking the lack of 3rd party apps is to keep the phone VoIP-free for a certain amount of time. Sort of a bone thrown to Cingular. I'm reading that you can't make iTunes purchases from the phone and that you will have limited ability to connect with your computer over wifi. Sounds like they want to limit wifi to web-browsing. I'd expect VoIP and 802.11n-streaming-to-AppleTV in later revs of the product.
chris g
2007-01-10 12:53:35
I'm also betting they will follow the open mac widget model, Since mac widgets are javascript/html/image based (i.e. platform neutral), and yet can do almost anything you would need (except perhaps local database-like apps).
Jack Foster Mancilla
2007-01-10 13:02:36
Absolutely! ...

It does make stand alone aps difficult, but if you have a server, and provide a chareable service, here is a perfect tool for you to make some money.

Barry S
2007-01-10 13:50:52
Unfortunately, deploying applications via Web pages prevents us from using the iPhone's camera, the telephony capabilities, or just about any other of the innovations present on the device.
2007-01-10 17:55:36
Hosted applications will incur data charges for every action the user makes. Not the best way to go from the customer's point of view. Users also dislike phones that they can't install apps on themselves. They resent having to pay the carrier to download apps.
Tom Bridge
2007-01-10 18:03:41
Thanks for the comments everyone.

Barry - I understand that, and yeah, it's frustrating, but it's not going to be entirely unextensible.

vastheman - Anyone who doesn't get an unlimited data plan with a phone like this...yeah, they don't get to complain.

Jonathan Dodds
2007-01-10 18:49:39
You know that screenshot of the iPhone's home screen? The one with the icons for different apps? Looks like Dashboard widgets to me. Do you suppose Dashboard was intended for the iPhone all along?

Safari can auto-install a Dashboard widget. What if that's not disabled on the iPhone?

A widget is a bundle and can contain native code. So if a Dashboard widget could be installed, it could possibly access the iPhone's unique features.

Chris P
2007-01-11 05:22:47
Keeping this platform closed will slow its growth. e.g., when does the blackberry client ship for this device? Maybe people will not look at those devices the same way from now on, as Jobs suggests, but they wont replace them if Apple makes it impossible.
2007-01-11 05:25:14
I run marketing for a commerical software company and want to support iPhone ASAP. How could preventing me from doing this serve Apple's interests?
Kevin Buterbaugh
2007-01-11 06:36:29
Just in case anyone from Apple is listening ... there are two things you must do before I will even consider buying the product that is currently known as iPhone (BTW, what are you going to call it after you lose to Cisco???): 1) you must provide a Terminal application. If I can't ssh with it, I won't buy it. 2) you must allow 3rd party applications. Apple's Mail client has the worst spam filtering I've ever seen - in fact, I think it's a stretch to say that Mail does spam filtering. If I can't download Thunderbird for the iPhone, I won't buy it.

Now, I don't want to come across as totally down on the iPhone. I'm not. It's got a lot of cool features and I think it's going to be a big success. But as it exists right now, it's a "no go" for me...


Steve Youngblood
2007-01-19 03:25:08
I really want a SIP client like Gizmo. But, you know Cingular isn't going to allow that.
2007-06-29 08:32:00
Dear Kevin Buterbaugh,

I wish I could've been there to watch you eat your words about "losing to Cisco". Have a nice whiny life.

2007-07-05 07:18:45
Here is a site that has the largest database of iPhone related applications around.

one can add its own URL to the engine.

Axel Roest
2008-05-28 23:11:26
18 months... Pretty accurate rumor!