Chrome Walker has a post on some of the new phones coming out in Europe for 2008. One of the trends that seems to be emerging is the “real web.” This was kicked off by Apple with the iPhone, and its the idea that you can view the Internet on your cell phone with a reasonable interface. In other words, its formatted the same way as it would be on your computer.
In and of itself, this is a good thing for everyone: the cell phone industry (they sell more phones), the carriers (people use their data plans), web sites (more hits), and of course you (its pretty cool, after all). And, the hype seems to be true: people really are using their “Real Web” browsers.
However, like Apple tried with the iPhone, some manufacturers seem to think that providing a full AJAX web environment is an alternative to allowing people to install local applications. After all, the apps already exist, and they are standardized. What’s not to like?
Unfortunately, there are a couple of holes in that logic. They are significant, although even the iPhone tried to get around them and found that it couldn’t.
First, the performance of a web-based program is significantly slower than a native one. For the iPhone, for example (the only phone so far with a full web browser), a web-based AJAX game is known to be around 100x slower than a comparable native version of the same program. That’s really slow. So slow, in fact, that almost any sort of game is pretty much out of the question.
Second, web-apps are only available where there is web access. In the States, at least, cell-based web access is pretty horrific, despite whatever recent claims the cell carriers have made. And because broadband speeds are accelerating, it makes the cell rates seem that much worse. Definitely not good enough to be taken seriously for an application. Second, you can’t run the app where you get no (or bad) cell service. Like in a subway, for example. Because the phones don’t cache the web page for very long, it means that you can’t even web apps that don’t need to contact the server are unusable if you want to pull up a game like Space Wormy.
For these reasons, phones will still need local apps for at least the foreseeable future. Hopefully, this won’t lead to the introduction of new cell phone platforms and API’s. The last thing the heavily fragmented cell phone industry needs is yet another platform. However, manufacturers can’t seem to help themselves. But that’s a whole other topic.