HTML5 on iPad: conspiracy or cock-up?


The Register published a rather breathless report today on an alleged sneaky trick by Apple.

Apparently, with Apple’s latest release of its mobile operating system (iOS 4.3), HTML5 apps running on an iPad or iPhone run slower when “installed” on the home screen than they do in the browser.

After you open a Web page on an iPad or iPhone, Apple allows you to save a shortcut to your home screen. If the page is a Web app, the result is something virtually indistinguishable from a native app, except it’s written in HTML5, and you don’t get it through the App Store but direct from the publisher over the Web. HTML5 apps run really well on the iPad — at Caplin, we’ve already written some proof-of-concept trading apps in this way, and the functionality and performance are surprisingly good.

However, it appears that in the latest version of iOS (released a few days ago), Web apps saved in this way run significantly more slowly than they do when run in the browser itself. The conspiracy theory suggested in the Register article is that Apple has deliberately hobbled the performance in order to slow the uptake of HTML5 and push users towards downloading native apps from the Appstore instead. Apple gets to keep 30% of all the revenue from all native apps.

Steve Jobs has said a lot about his vision of HTML5 as the future of application delivery, in particular in his famous anti-Flash letter. Personally I don’t believe that Apple has deliberately introduced bugs to slow the take-up of HTML5. It seems so out of character. If they really didn’t want people using HTML5 apps, they simply wouldn’t support them. And they certainly wouldn’t support them so well.

And anyway, the “installed” app still runs as well as it did in the browser in iOS4.2 (which a few days ago everyone thought was acceptable) — just not as well as it now does in iOS4.3.

Here’s a general rule: when the two possible explanations for a phenomenon are conspiracy or cock-up, put your money on cock-up.

2 Responses

  1. I would vote for conspiracy. HTML 5 Canvas has a terrible frame rate on Safari… apparently the clear operation takes a good third of a second.

    Since the Ipad can obviously fill the screen faster than a third of a second, all I can imagine is that Apple deliberately crippled HTML 5 so it wouldn’t compete with the App store; since they already forbid flash.

  2. [...] screen. The argument was that they wanted to push people towards native apps and the appstore. (See my original article for more [...]

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