iPhone could use Web Clip

Since I’m in the UK, I don’t own an iPhone yet, but I, like many others, was still disappointed to discover that Apple was not releasing a “proper” SDK for the iPhone. The move has a number of unpleasant consequences:

  • developers must code their interface rather than lay it out using a GUI tool like IB
  • the app must be hosted on a server in order for it to run – there’ll be no permanent downloading here
  • as a result of being hosted, apps will (often) have to load over EDGE
  • all apps will be surrounded by the browser chrome
  • no local facilities such as Bluetooth or the camera are available to apps. Even the games claiming to make use of the accelerometer actually just use the width of Safari’s viewport to judge the phone’s orientation

All of these and more have been discussed at length all over the web already, so I’ll leave that bit to the experts. My idea in no way alleviates the need for a proper SDK, but I think it would be really neat for the iPhone to support the Web Clip feature from Leopard (see here and here). The premise is simple – it would allow the user to load a web page and then select a portion of it using the iPhone’s nifty pinching and scrolling much like when setting a wallpaper. Once the user was happy with the selection, the web clip could then be saved into the 17th iPhone app:
iPhone web clips app.
OK, so I didn’t get the corner radii of that icon right, but I do think that it could be a pretty neat feature. Then maybe when Apple’s sorted out the actual API (which is surely on the way, right, Apple?), widget support could be brought up to the level that it’s at in desktop Mac OS X with Cocoa-based plug-ins and support for scripting, augmenting the web clip feature to a fully fledged dashboard (albeit one widget at a time).

I admit that this idea doesn’t solve all of the problems with developing for the iPhone browser; web clips still have to download the whole page, so it certainly wouldn’t reduce bandwidth consumption. I do, however, think that it might just speed things up a little, negating the need to zoom and scroll around a web page when there’s only one bit you’re interested in…

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