Home Report Finds Performance of Web Apps Throttled on iOS Devices

Report Finds Performance of Web Apps Throttled on iOS Devices

Apple iOS devices run Web applications two-and-a-half times more slowly when they’re launched from the home screen than when they’re run from within the mobile Safari browser. According to numerous tests by the technology blog The Register, when Web apps are saved to the home screen and launched this way, they aren’t able to take advantage of Safari’s recently updated Nitro JavaScript engine nor do they get to utilize some Web caching systems.

The poor performance of these Web apps could simply be a bug introduced in the most recent iOS. Or it could be an intentional move by Apple to make it more difficult for those who’d like to bypass its App Store and offer Web rather than native apps.

Eyebrows are raised here, no doubt, as The Register’s discovery comes on the heels of Apple’s announcement that it will require all in-app purchases to run through its new subscription plan. That gives Apple a 30% cut, something that many developers have balked at.

One way to avoid the new in-app purchase rules – and to avoid paying Apple its 30% share of app sales as well – is to build your app as a Web app. While this means the app isn’t available via iTunes, Apple does allow users to add any Web page to their home screen. This creates a little icon on the iPhone that makes it appear as though it’s just another app.

However, if these apps aren’t fully functional, or aren’t as functional as native apps, it may be a disincentive for developers and for users to go that route.

The issue has been brought to light on developer forums, Hacker News, and Stack Overflow, and The Register reports that Apple is aware of the problem. It has offered no official comment, however, and no indication if this will be rectified.

If Apple is intentionally throttling the performance of Web apps, it does call into question the company’s support for HTML5 and Web standards. CEO Steve Jobs asserted that support in a statement last year. Justifying Apple’s lack of Flash, Jobs wrote that, “Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards.”

Making “open” Web apps perform more poorly certainly challenges the company’s stance on these standards.

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