What the heck is an iPhone application?

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed, assuming you follow at least a few blogs, listen to podcasts, or otherwise read the press, Apples iPhone has been released.

Ever since Steve Jobs non-announcement of 3rd party iPhone applications really being web sites, there has been a rush of developers trying to move into this apparently new market. Never before have so many developers been in such a hurry to cater to a tiny percentage of the market running a closed, proprietary technology.

Ah well, let’s for a second forget the folly that is creating web applications targeting a single device, however sleek and sexy it might be, and investigate exactly what these so-called iPhone applications are.


First of all, let me start by saying that I am located in Europe, which in Apple-lingo means “Yeah, we’ll get to you eventually”. I’d definitely like an iPhone, so feel free to write this blog entry off as me being miffed that I can’t buy one. You’re probably right.

This also means that my entire iPhone experience to date has been through iPhoney, which is likely to be far from the real thing.

Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled program: Me ranting about what qualifies a web site as an iPhone application.

What makes an iPhone application?

I can use google.com just fine in an iPhone, that hardly makes it an iPhone application. When websites that are basically simulations of how a website might look and feel on a real iPhone can be qualified as a top 25 iPhone application something is seriously amiss with our definition.

I assume a bunch of people are releasing so-called iPhone applications for the simple and easy advertising that it is at this point, but if all it takes is to make sure your website can scale down to a width of 480 pixels, the whole point of claiming to have built an iPhone application becomes void.

Or perhaps I am simply missing something not having access to a real iPhone. Perhaps all the websites I visit have a secret way of detecting an iPhone and serve perfect, iPhone optimized goodness to the lucky few. Or perhaps people are grasping for straws, attempting to draw attention to their application:

  1. Serve a custom stylesheet to iPhones
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

At least, people smarter than me – and in particular, people smarter than me who own iPhones – have already tried to define some of this stuff.

And when the iPhone is eventually released here, I’m hoping development best practices will have been settled on. And hopefully people will have come to an agreement what the heck an iPhone application actually is.