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The state of standalone apps on iOS

From: Marcos Caceres <marcos@marcosc.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2014 22:31:06 +0000
To: public-web-mobile@w3.org
Message-ID: <0EE684409E484B33A88C5B5737B83A02@marcosc.com>
Hi All, 
I've prepared a detailed study of installable web apps on iOS. You can find the complete document here:


Would appreciate any feedback/review prior to wider circulation. 

Below are the key findings from the study: 

##Key findings
The number of sites claiming to run as standalone is small but significant; of the 78,155 sites we used as data, they represent 1.4% of the dataset (i.e., 1097 claim to be "apple-mobile-web-app-capable").

Despite their claims to the contrary, what we found was that the majority of web apps do not run as standalone (90%, or 324 out of 360). Only a tiny fraction (10%, or 36 out of 360) are able to run as standalone - and 28% of those had significant limitations (described below). There is, in fact, a greater percentage (12%) of desktop sites masquerading as installable web apps than there are actual standalone applications.

Of those 36 apps that were true standalone web apps (i.e., has an icon, is usable on mobile, can be navigated), 10 (28%) of those had issues where they either left the user stranded without being able to "go back" - or worst, suddenly navigated to the desktop version of the site. In other cases, the application mostly worked - but then it was not possible to perform some critical task in the application (e.g., a purchase). In such cases, the application returned the user back into Safari. Others, like nest.com, make a best effort at working at standalone, but throw the user back to the default web browser at random points.

On the up-side, the majority of web apps (76%) where designed to work on a mobile phone, even if only 13% of those could actually be navigated.

Icon usage, overall, was also fairly healthy - 56% of the web apps we tested included an icon. However, we discovered that at least some web apps included dummy icons from pre-purchased templates - meaning more than one web app included an icon that had nothing to do with the application itself and had the same icon as another site.

Oddly, many web apps (5%, or 19) incorrectly claim that they can run as standalone - but contain a markup error in their HTML that prevents the application from actually doing so! Ironically, of those, 12 out of 19 (63%) even go as far as to include an icon.

For more details, see the "other observations" section, as well as the "all the questions" section. 

Marcos Caceres
Received on Thursday, 20 February 2014 22:31:38 UTC

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