More than the ability to call apps from a smartphone's home screen, the main advantage of native apps over web applications is their ability to interface with a smartphone's hardware for added functionality. A new mobile browser called mobiUs will take mobile web pages to a different level by integrating these hardware functions into websites through HTML5.
appMobi, which builds HTML5 platforms and applications for mobile and desktop devices, has just launched the production release of mobiUs, a new web browser for Apple iOS devices. mobiUs promises to "change mobile apps forever" by taking full advantage of a smartphone's hardware capabilities in running web apps, such that websites designed for mobile phones will act more like native applications.
Beyond Mobile Web
This extends beyond the ability to simply run offline, as most HTML5-based mobile websites promise. mobiUs is actually a platform that lets web applications harness the hardware features of a smartphone. mobiUs also integrates APIs from both appMobi and PhoneGap to provide web apps a more native look and feel, so that it doesn't look like it's running within a web browser.
mobiUs' main features include the following:
- Access to the smartphone's hardware features, including GPS, accelerometer, vibrate motor and the like;
- Mobile apps will work with or without an active Internet connection;
- Games that support DirectCanvas technology will perform better;
- Push notifications from HTML5 web apps or even other users;
- Online purchases through 1Touch wallet.
mobiUs works in conjunction with Apple's mobile version of Safari, which means users can launch mobiUs as a standalone browser, and it can also run from within Safari as an extension. This way, users will not have to switch across browsers whenever HTML5 web apps are loaded, as the smartphone will take care of the switch.
Beyond the App Store
The application screening process has always been the bane of developers whose apps often fail to meet stringent standards being imposed by app ecosystems like Apple's App Store or Android Market. Some also eschew the 30% revenue share that the marketplace owners charge for distributing premium apps on their ecosystem. With HTML5, though, appMobi plans to level the playing field by turning the entire web-at-large into an application marketplace.
With mobiUs, application developers can simply release their software as web apps, and local rendering engines like the mobiUs browser takes care of running the mobile website as a native app. Game developers can even take advantage of DriectCanvas to boost performance by up to 500%, by taking advantage of hardware acceleration.
appMobi has provided a software development kits for various purposes: the Impact GameDev XDK, the PhoneGap XDK and the appMobi XDK, which all enable developers to write apps using HTML5. mobiUs is currently available as a free App Store download for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. An Android version is coming in January 2012.