Plenty of websites and services use slick web apps in lieu of, or in addition to, native software for the iPhone App Store, but they had no storefront of their own until now.
OpenAppMkt is an HTML app store that launched today, with everything I’d expect to see in a mobile app market. It has a clean interface for searching or browsing by category, along with a website that’s equally polished. iPhone users can “install” OpenAppMkt by adding the website to their home screen, and individual apps are installed in the same way, creating icons on the home page as if they were native apps.
The app selection is small for now, with only a handful of apps in each category, but nicely curated. When installed, all of them run full screen, without Safari’s navigation bars. You’ll find a bunch of Google’s offerings, such as Google Voice and the excellent YouTube web app, plus some gems such as Glyphboard, which presents a chart of symbols and emoticons for copying and pasting.
Apple does have its own list of Web apps, which is much lengthier than OpenAppMkt, but it lacks user reviews and screenshot galleries, and there’s no iPhone-optimized storefront. It’s safe to assume that Apple is concentrating on the App Store and isn’t going to push web apps anytime soon.
The problem with OpenAppMkt has everything to do with the curent state of web apps. Most of them don’t compare with native apps, and a few selections in OpenAppMkt cheerfully remind you that a better experience awaits in the App Store. It’s true; native apps can handle high-end graphics, multitask, make better use of the accelerometer and allow easy billing through iTunes.
We may see HTML-based apps catch up some day, but right now the best ones are glorified web pages with killer interfaces. At least now there’s a reliable place to find them.