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Denver iOS Developer User Group Message Board › How to develop local biz apps without submitting to the app store?

How to develop local biz apps without submitting to the app store?

A former member
Post #: 1
Hi all. I am looking to start developing local business apps. I understand that Apple is cracking down on app that are purely marketing-based. Yet almost every local biz app is exactly that.

How does one overcome this? My understanding is that you cannot install an iOS app outside the app store unless the phone is jailbroken. Is this correct? Is there no way to put a QR code on a website and allow people to download that way? Thanks all.
Jeff R.
user 50756582
Denver, CO
Post #: 1
It is possible to write a web app for the iPhone (and Android) using HTML 5, CSS, and Javascript. Once written the app can be installed on any iPhone without ever having to talk to apple, and without ever again having to access the web (unless of course the app is designed to).

However some native components are currently impossible/difficult to access via a web app. For example the camera. Additionally the process of installing the app, while actually very easy, is different than installing a native app.

On the positive side, a web app, can in theory run on any higher end web enabled device, altho the differences between mobile browsers are every bit as frustrating as desktop based browsers.

Apple has it's own App store for web apps (­) or there are independent stores, e.g., (­)

I believe the July 31, 2012 Boulder iOS Developer Meetup "Native iOS and Web Apps: The Best of Both Worlds" may answer some questions regarding web apps.
A former member
Post #: 2
Thank you very much.

Have any of you had kickback from Apple about developing local business apps that are found to be purely marketing (duh that's the point)?
Mark B.
Denver, CO
Post #: 31
Hi Gregg,

I agree with Jeff, you should look at iOS web apps (in fact, web apps that can run on multiple mobile platforms), using HTML/HTML5, CSS, and Javascript. You can actually build quite capable cross-platform web apps, that can use geolocation (maps/gps), access accelerometer data, detect orientation changes, etc. There are also various cross-platform frameworks out there that are pretty powerful, such as jQuery Mobile, Titanium Mobile, Phonegap, Sencha Touch 2, to name a few of the more popular ones. jQuery Mobile is pretty nice for building apps that will be strictly browser based. I've used it for a couple of web apps I have built. The other three are similar in that they allow you to wrap your HTML(5)/CSS/Javascript app in a native wrapper, such that the app can be deployed to the App Store or Google Play. With these, you'll also have the ability to access more hardware features that can't be accessed in a browser-based mobile web app. (Note, this is an oversimplification, as each of these frameworks has it's own approach, costs, tradeoffs, etc).

There is much to talk about, and consider, when thinking about whether you want to go the web app route vs. the native route. If you decide the web app route is the best approach, you should realize that you will still face some challenges and limitations. With each iteration of the above frameworks (and others), as well as a broader adoption of standards in mobile web browsers, "cross-platform" is becoming a bit easier and a bit more attainable.

Now, if you are just going to target iOS devices to start, you can take advantage of some nice features in mobile Safari (some of which are actually supported on Android BTW - both use Webkit). For example, you can allow the user to "bookmark" the app on the home screen with an icon (Apple calls these Web Clips), so you can open the web app from the icon, just like you do for native apps. You can also make your app appear more native by configuring your web app to run in "standalone", or "fullscreen" mode, where the browser decorations (address bar, bottom button bar, etc) are hidden. If you are going to target iOS initially, I would definitely take a look at jQuery Mobile. As a bonus, a jQuery Mobile app will also look and work fine on most Android devices (possibly requiring a few tweaks).

Lastly, as for distribution of mobile web apps, there really is no widely accepted "store" out there as of yet. You'll notice that the two that Jeff mentioned do not get a lot of use. For now, I think your best best is to promote and distribute from your own website. Using QR codes is just one approach you could use, but you should also just give them the direct link to the web app. Some websites that have mobile web app versions of their site, will just redirect the user to their mobile web app URL. Here again, there are some things to consider. This may not always be the best approach.

Wow, sorry, this reply went a little longer than I intended. Lots to talk about! Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this some more. I'd be happy to share some of the head-banging experience I've garnered from building a couple of mobile web apps. :)

Mark B.
Denver, CO
Post #: 32

Just to clarify, I'm not advocating web apps over native apps here. I think there are valid use cases for each. As a mobile developer, I prefer to have a good grasp on "all of the above", in order to help my clients make the best decisions. In this case, I am simply suggesting that for the type of apps you're looking to build, the web app approach may fit your needs. The promotion, marketing, and distribution of the app would be up to you.

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