Browser-based mobile apps need to get better in a hurry

Summary:Apple has pulled Google Voice-based apps from its App Store, notably GV Mobile, in a move that highlights quite a mobile conundrum. Native apps are way better on mobile phones, but browser-based apps may be the only way to circumvent all of the carrier-device maker deals, store approval processes and other hijinx.

Apple has pulled Google Voice-based apps from its App Store, notably GV Mobile, in a move that highlights quite a mobile conundrum. Native apps are way better on mobile phones, but browser-based apps may be the only way to circumvent all of the carrier-device maker deals, store approval processes and other hijinx.

As reported by TechCrunch, Apple cut GV Mobile from the App Store and if you check it out you get this (Techmeme):

iPhone app developer Sean Kovacs wrote on his post:

Richard Chipman from Apple just called - he told me they’re removing GV Mobile from the App Store due to it duplicating features that the iPhone comes with (Dialer, SMS, etc). He didn’t actually specify which features, although I assume the whole app in general. He wouldn’t send a confirmation email either - too scared I would post it.  I’ll see what I can do to get it back up there gang…

Kovacs' Twitter feed serves up additional details.

Add it up and you can kick Apple and/or AT&T around on this one. Perhaps Apple doesn't want its iPhone features being usurped by apps. AT&T may not be thrilled with folks using Google Voice.

As for the real Google Voice, which has an official app for BlackBerry and Android phones, the message is clear. The App Store process may mean that Google---and any other developer---has to develop more browser-based applications if it wants to avoid all of these mobile business machinations.

The problem? Native applications are infinitely better than browser based ones. Google's Latitude app for the iPhone highlights the issue. I flagged that the native vs. browser app issue will become more prevalent a few days ago.

One of the talkbackers noted:

Web apps stink on ice. Even heavily web enabled apps are not so good. Take Evernote for example (I'm a heavy Evernote user). The way is should be written is the notes should live on the device and be synced (changes only) to the web. The way it works is that the notes live on the web and headers only are synced on the device. Passable, but still not very fast if you are on WiFi, slow but usable on 3G, unusable in all but perfect conditions on E, and fail when there is no service (except notes you've marked as favorites). Searching your notes, which should be done locally (and which is much improved in the current version over prior versions) requires hitting the web. Insanity.

And Evernote is a hybrid app. Full web apps on mobile devices are total fail. Take Google tasks. Takes almost 8 seconds to load on my 3GS on WiFi, longer on 3G, longer yet on E and not available without a network connection. The Gmail web app takes 15 - 20 seconds to load on WiFi. Not only that but web apps can't interact with other apps on your device, not that Apple will let any apps interact with each other on the iPhone.

So to web applications on mobile devices I say, bah humbug. Give me the real thing.

And then there's...

I agree, until we get 100% fast coverage, web apps aren't the real answer.

Flying a lot means using my WM phone or iPod Touch off-line. If the apps are only online, that isn't good.

Likewise, roaming in foreign lands is very expensive on calls, let alone data (in some cases several Euros per MB), so local apps are still a necessity.

Give me a global flat-rate data plan, at reasonable cost, with decent speed and full coverage, then we can talk about mobile web apps... Until then, I'll stick with local apps synching with the cloud when they can.

I think we will slowly see more and more hybrid apps, which automatically synch their data to the cloud, whilst on the move, but allow the user to work offline.

The only way to elude these conundrums is to develop more browser based apps. The problem is that browser based apps require better connections. It's quite a chicken and egg problem. The solution for now is to develop better browser based apps and that means hybrids that can rise above all of the device-carrier-app-approval shenanigans.

Topics: Apps, Browser, Cloud, Mobility

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.