During a very intense week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and a lot of very interesting meetings, discussions and talks, one incident surprisingly stuck out. At one of the evening events, I randomly met the folks behind http://www.yourappshop.com, a platform which allows you to distribute iPhone applications through other means than the official Apple app store – you don’t need a jailbroken iPhone as you need when using alternative app stores such as Cydia. But before I explain in more detail what they are doing lets have a look at the current app store hype.

Is the app store concept flawed?

Lately I have been reading more and more articles, tweets and blogposts stating their concerns about the fact that Apple almost randomly removes applications and that people for some reason have distorted views of the mobile application and app store reality.

I am not in favor of allowing any kind of application into an app store by default, there is no reason why you should have to do that (a bakery also selects which producs it wants to sell). The problem really is though, that Apple is running the only official app store for the iPhone. One app store controlling the entire market for a device is plainly wrong!

Not only does it cripple innovation but it also shows one major flaw of Apples strategy – the factor of competence. How on earth does Apple, a hardware and software manufacturer think it has the competence to judge whether an application should be admitted or not? Maybe in these days when mobile applications don’t go further than simple games or information display/exchange – but what if applications are starting to come with real security implications?

An example:
Imagine you are writing an application reading your heartrate and writing an ECG (This is not too far fetched, look at our research project HumanApi). Is Apple seriously trying to tell that they can judge whether such an app should make it into the app store or not? They by far don’t have the competence of the medical industry, no way!

A much more interesting app store concept would be to have certified stores by companies I trust (or community driven in other application use-cases). Looking at the medical example, wouldn’t it make much more sense if companies like Siemens, Phillips, and other medical device manufacturers start an alliance and run their own store, so I can trust the apps I am using, so that as a developer, I know that qualified people are judging my application? Not only would this guarantee much higher quality but it also would foster competition which we are lacking here.

Companies == lemmings?

Where does this “I need an app as well” come from? Why do people care so much when their application gets rejected by the Apple app store?

An example:
On february 23rd, large German online publisher Spiegel Online wrote an article about the fact that Apple might disapprove an application of the famous yellow press publisher “Bild“. On february 24th they posted another front-page article questioning whether legal means would be the only way to go?!?

Now that is insane, not only will it cost those folks a lot of money to run law suits against Apple, on top of that they are forcing their way into technology without future – already today, the Apple app store is not the only way to legally distribute your applications to the iPhone! Apple is a new player in the mobile industry and albeit its amazing achievements, never forget looking at marketshares.

To summarize: For whatever kind of reason, one of the biggest German online newspaper sees Apple rejecting applications as being threatening enough to write an article – how more blatantly can the reality be distorted?

What can and should we do?

Back to the surprising incident I was mentioning earlier: When the folks behind http://www.yourappshop.com showed me their application store – for the iPhone! – one thought came to my mind “Does the Adult Industry point the way (again)?” (whether you and I approve adult content or not is a different discussion, what we need to take out of this is the fact that they are showing a very viable way to go).

YourAppShop developed an app store entirely based on web technologies (lots of HTML5 which is supported by the iPhone browser and many many more devices) – which allows you to download web based applications to your homescreen, watch image slideshows, even videos. Everything works off- and online. To the well traveled mobile web developer all of this is nothing new, it is all part of HTML5. The folks of YourAppStore though were creative enough to build it so that the end-user does not feel the difference between a real native app (from the Apple store) and an application based on web technologies, payment for the service included!

Why don’t people (especially the folks in decision making positions) see that you can write amazing applications for the iPhone based on technology which also will work on other phones and which does not have to pass the QA of Apple?

If you are not too bothered about adult content (NSFW) take a look at http://www.yourappshop.com from within your iPhone browser and visit one of their stores – the way they have set up a viable ecosystem using web technologies will give you a new impression of what we actually are able to do today.

As much as people might have concerns with the adult industry, they are showing us how we can get out of the app store restrictions – technology of today can be used to write successful applications and you can be monetizing the potential (more than 8.000.000 downloads for YourAppShop should say enough), Now that sounds great doesn’t it @Bild.de and @Spiegel.de?

And as if its not enough, Apple itself is showing a great example of the potential of web applications running on the iPhone with their online help: http://help.apple.com/iphone – go visit their site, and add the application to your homescreen by clicking on the “+” button in the bottom toolbar (Not to mention the fact that iPhone applications where meant to be build using the web stack in the first place).

As an application developer/creator, your goal should not be to only run on one platform, unless you don’t care about having sustainable and solid business case or unless your target-group is only the group of iPhone users (which I can’t believe is ever true).

We showed that there is technology which allows you to write applications for more than one platform, technology which works whether there is an app store in between or not, technology which has a future, technology the web is built with – HTML/JavaScript/CSS or better, HTML5 apps. Use it and stop wasting time being afraid that Apple will ruin your business because they are rejecting an application – you shouldn’t have to care less!!


Jumping into the “We need to have an iPhone app” mantra without any second thought is very dangerous, its not good for your business. Analyze your requirements and check carefully if you can’t cover your needs with an application based on web technologies (which as we proved still can make it into the Apple store if they approve of your content). The advantage of applications based on web technology is overwhelming:

  • Standardized technology stack (HTML5)
  • HTML5 apps work in mobile browsers, can be distributed over app stores or even can be integrated into traditional websites.
  • Much lower development costs.
  • Huge amount of target platforms

Of course there are application cases where you need to access the devices hardware in ways the browser doesn’t yet allow you to (games or applications with extreme performance requirements for example) – but especially publishers and content driven apps should think twice.

If you are looking into building a mobile application and are not sure whether you should go for the native iPhone, native Android or any other native platform (and spend tons of money on it) or whether you should build on top of the much more open technology stack of the web, feel free to contact us and we can take a closer look at your requirements.

Back to the folks who are planning to sue Apple (VDZ) – start putting your apples into the right basket, build a web based application store as you can see with YourAppShop and you will have complete freedom over what you want to sell and what not. Your customers won’t feel the difference, they might even like it more because you can offer better prices (no profit sharing with Apple). Sueing Apple won’t help a thing, don’t waste your money and time.