Blog Post

Pie Guy: Web Apps as Viable Alternatives

Pie Guy is an excellent little game that’s causing a small stir among developers. The game has completely bypassed the App Store and is available to download, right now, as a Web App.

It’s a cute 8-bit-era game with deliciously retro graphics that clones Pacman with a pie-themed twist. Eat the pies, don’t get caught by the cooks, and try to beat your high-score. The game can be installed for free simply by visiting on your iPhone’s browser.

The surprising thing is that all of this was achieved without the App Store. I’ve never come across an iPhone web app that feels so much like a native app. From the install process, to the icon and graphics, the attention to detail is impressive.

Admittedly, Pie Guy is no Rolando, but nevertheless it’s just the sort of 99 cent app I’d expect to find riding high in the App Store charts. Except it’s not in the App Store — Pie Guy is free from the constraints and anguish of Apple approvals and it’s just as polished and professional as we’d expect, but perhaps rarely find, from a native premium app.

What’s amazing is seeing what has been achieved without the App Store. A great user experience and a great product, all without running natively. Plus, it even works offline, despite being a web app. It’s worth noting though Pie Guy is iPhone 3GS only, the app apparently takes advantage of the significant improvements Apple made to WebKit performance on the device.

Of course, iPhone web apps are nothing new. Way back when, before the glorious mess that is the App Store, Jobs announced that developing on iPhone was effectively as simple as creating a web site.

After a rather disgruntled reaction from the dev community, and much purported rushing on Apple’s part, we ended up with the App Store. The very notion of web apps, on the other hand, seemed to get tossed aside in the free-for-all gold-rush that ensued.

Many months later, attention is beginning to swing back around to the untapped potential of web apps. It may be that developers are looking for a route to take their concepts to users without running the rejection gauntlet that is Apple’s app approval process. However, it’s also likely that developers want to take advantage of those handy WebKit performance improvements on the 3GS.

Earlier this week on Twitter, David Kaneda, a WebKit developer, claimed, “I could write a pretty competitive Tweetie clone, pretty quickly.” Loren Brichter, developer of iPhone Twitter-client Tweetie, promptly responded by saying, “I dare you.” What resulted from the ensuing exchange was a coder battle that may go some way in illustrating the real potential of WebKit, with Kaneda already producing promising results.

In the meantime though, users are caught between a somewhat chaotic App Store and a predominantly lackluster selection of web apps. There’s clearly room for improvement in both arenas and it’ll be interesting to see what developers manage to squeeze out of WebKit in the coming months.

4 Responses to “Pie Guy: Web Apps as Viable Alternatives”

  1. This is what I’ve been talking about. Device independence is what Mac users long for when an application is Windows-only, but suddenly the story changes when it’s an iPhone exclusive. Fixating on your platform to the exclusion of others will only put you in a deeper, more expensive Microsoft-style trap.