Whenever a great Web app comes along, like YouTube's revamped mobile site, it's amusing to glance in Cupertino's direction and wonder if Apple's worried. After all, the company's got a good thing going with the App Store, and any polished Web app that lives outside the walled garden could be considered a threat.
Truth is, Apple doesn't openly show fear of Web apps. In fact, Apple's Website embraces the concept with an entire section of Web-based games and tools. But most of them aren't very good, and there are less than 5000 to choose from, while the App Store is approaching 300,000 apps. (See Related: YouTube Mobile Site Trumps Dedicated App )
Nonetheless, I've surveyed the scene for some of the best iPhone Web apps around. Some of them can be added to the iPhone's home screen as a bookmark, running in full-screen mode, while others are just solid mobile-optimized websites. But try them out, and you might wonder if Apple's worried, too:
No list of iPhone web apps would be complete without Google Voice. It's the quintessential Apple vs. developer story: Google makes native iPhone app, gets rejected, builds capable HTML 5 version instead. A native app probably would have been better, as this version is missing features, but at least it's free of Apple's grasp.
Am I the only one that doesn't like the bloated presentation of Facebook's native iPhone app? The Web version has fewer features -- you can't upload photos or chat, for example -- but that's not a bad thing. Facebook's Web app has just the basics, including status updates, photos, profiles, messages and events. It's kind of like Facebook Lite, before Facebook killed it.
The App Store is loaded with to-do applications, but the Checklist Web app is simple and free, with offline support and no ads. Just type in your agenda, check off as you go and e-mail the remaining items to your spouse. What more could you want? Get it here.
Like a smarter version of Yelp, NextStop looks at where you are and recommends fun things to do. It's ideal for travelers who haven't planned their whole day out or folks who are just plain bored. As Robert Scoble reported, NextStop prefers the HTML5 approach because they can release updates immediately, and can refer users to other websites without booting them out of the native app or embedding a separate browser.
This isn't the cleanest app around, but if you need to find a parking lot, it gets the job done and costs nothing, unlike similar App Store offerings. Parking Assistant uses the OpenStreetMap project to show nearby lots in two colors, red for paid lots and green for free ones, thus confirming that there are no free parking lots near my apartment.
Web-based iPhone games are okay for cheap thrills, just don't expect anything elaborate like a first-person shooter. Some of my favorites: Jungle Frog, Hurricane, Meteor Rain and, of course, Google Pac-Man.