How Different Would iOS Development Be If Apple Hadn’t Given In To Native Apps?

Steve Jobs, in 2007, stood on stage and announced the iPhone. Developers everywhere drooled. We all wanted to write apps for this thing. After all it was the smartphone we had all dreamed of. But there was no discussion at all of a developer toolkit. Afterward someone must have asked. I remember the shockwaves reverberating through the developer community when it was announced there wouldn’t be one.

Well, less than a year later, we had a developer toolkit and the race to develop native apps was on. Even I recognized, someone who had done very little web development, that in some ways that was a huge step backward. Of course few of us discussed it at the time. We were too busy rushing to get our apps in the App Store.

As I now dig into HTML5 — and am loving every second of it — I can’t help but wonder what would have been different if Apple had stuck to their guns. What if Apple had stuck with that initial proclamation? What if the only tools we had, as developers, was web apps? What would be different today?

I started a list.

  • Access to a wider array of sensors via JS
  • Other devices would be more standards compliant to keep up with Apple
  • Extra JS libraries to bridge to Apple’s graphics packages
  • No App Store, possibly better ways to market our apps?
  • More websites that have pretty icons when you save them to your home screen
  • Monetization provided by Apple like Stripe or Braintree, leaving us to have an actual customer relationship
  • Universal logins
  • More developers doing web (meaning open) development, able to develop both local and server solutions
  • Native code (C/C++) in more browsers
  • Much of the same code (responsive) would run on Mac, Windows and mobile
  • Better usage analytics
  • Much better JS animations

Have any to add?

2 thoughts on “How Different Would iOS Development Be If Apple Hadn’t Given In To Native Apps?

  1. I’d add one point
    * less stovepiping: native app -> one OS -> vendor’s app store -> vendor’s online services

    Choice of OS should not constrain what photo sharing service or email provider I use.

    FWIW, that’s nearly Mozilla’s list of advantages for Firefox OS ( aside from native code execution and analytics.

    If you’re interested, the slides from my talk on HTML 5 web apps are at

    • Tizen is the same although they did a native C environment, too. I wish they would have integrated the two better. Will check out the talk, Doug. Thanks.

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