No Html5 Apps For You! (iOS 4.3)

Html5 is becoming a hot topic in mobility these days as more and more software companies start to take the mobile web path into becoming device agnostic without losing too much of the user experience and offline capabilities.

There are some limitations in Html5; not everything you want to do is accessible when you are using the web: GPS for instance, is easily accessible using an API, but the camera is not, contacts are not, and so on. To bridge those gaps, many Html5 solutions are built as hybrid applications with both native and web based code leaving in harmony: the web application runs inside a web control, part a thin native application. The native code is responsible for interacting with the parts of the phone that are not accessible by the web based code, and the rest done form the web application itself.

Apple, Google, Palm (RIP… HP), and recently even RIM and Microsoft – are all pushing Html5 and promoting it. But for how long?


Recently developers have been reporting that Html5 based web apps which are configured to run directly from the iPhone's home screen*, suffer from a series of limitations which do not exist when running from within the web browser.
* in iOS any web page can also be treated as an app if you place the bookmark as a shortcut in springboard…

Strange isn't it?

According to Apple support the subject is known and there are chances it will not get fixed at all. Isn't that EXTRA strange?

Here's a theory, and I hope I'm wrong about it:
For companies like Google, promoting Html5 makes sense (most of their apps are web based!), for companies like Apple it was never so trivial. Apple will always prefer to have native apps, purchased from the AppStore, monitored of course, generating revenues to the company. Why would they want to promote Html5 apps which run with no control directly from the browser? Or even worse, directly from the home screen, just like native apps, with offline storage, fully functional in any condition!

Doesn't it contradict the closed AppStore approach?

Wasn't that one of the reasons to ban Flash?

To me it sounds as if Apple did not imagine Html5 will become such a monster when it just started. Apple promoted it and supported it was the perfect alternative to flash (especially with the "Flash to Html5" sites converting Flash videos to Html5), but now that companies are literally abandoning the path of native apps in favor of building html5 based applications – maybe Apple is not so happy anymore?

So while iOS 4.3 introduces significant improvements to the JavaScript engine inside the browser, it has a few "bugs" when using the same web apps in a "na├»ve manner" (outside of the browser); Caching doesn't work, speed is not the same, everything is magically less efficient… hmm… coincidence?

Terms you may have been looking for:
Html5 for iOS, iPhones and Html5, Html5 performance problems in iOS 4.3, Html5 caching, problems running java script outside the browser in iPhone 4.3.


every new technology has some limitations, even if it is too smart to deal with
Anonymous said…
in the latest version of iOS 4.3.3 I can confirm that my HTML5 offline app now works on the Home Screen in airplane mode (it was working on 4.2.0 but broken on 4.3.1). You need to make sure that your cache manifest file is named "cache.manifest". No other name works. I can even get it to work in full screen mode.