Is Apple Crippling iPhone Web Apps?

iOS 4.3

The Register reports that websites/iPhone web apps that are launched using the Home screen icon run slower compared to when they are loaded directly in iPhone’s Mobile Safari.

The Register claims that this has been observed after the iOS 4.3 software update that was released last week.

The Register reports:

If a web app is run from the iOS 4.3 home screen – in other words, if it is saved to the screen alongside local apps downloaded from the Apple App Store – it runs roughly two to two and a half times slower than it does in the browser, according to various tests. It appears that whereas Apple has updated the iOS 4.3 Safari browser with its high-speed Nitro JavaScript engine, Nitro is not used when web apps are launched from the home screen.

“Essentially, there are two different JavaScript engines,” says Alex Kessinger, a mobile application developer and blogger who has focused on building web-standards-based apps for the iPhone. “They’re not using the new JavaScript engine with applications that launch from the home screen.”

The Sunspider Javascript tests carried out by developer Maximiliano Firtman shows that it took about 4047ms when it was loaded directly in iPhone 4’s mobile Safari but took about 10747ms when it was run from the home screen icon.

Run directly from Mobile Safari

Run from Home screen icon

The Register also points that websites launched using home screen icon also can’t use HTML5 web caching capabilities, which prevents them from running offline and they also aren’t rendered using “asynchronous mode”, which don’t look as good.

Based on these three issues, the Register speculates that it’s a conspiracy:

It’s unclear whether these are accidental bugs or issues consciously introduced by Apple. But the end result is that, at least in some ways, the iOS platform makes it harder for web apps to replace native applications distributed through the Apple App Store, where the company takes a 30 per cent cut of all applications sold. Whereas native apps can only run on Apple’s operating system, web apps – built with standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript – can potentially run on any device.

Is Apple intentionally crippling iPhone web apps? The conspiracy theory sounds quite ridiculous to us. The issues pointed out by The Register seem to be bugs in iOS 4.3, which will be fixed in future releases.

What do you think? Please share your views in the comments below.

[via The Register]