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Will Apple app development move outside its control?

Anyone who has developed apps for iOS knows that Apple likes to keep a tight rein on what an app can and can’t do. Unfortunately, some developers want to do more, so they are “bending the rules” by using a workaround to make the iPhone do more than its default settings allow, MIT Technology Review reports

For instance, the app Snappli compresses data to try to save users some of the precious bandwidth of their data plan. This involves intercepting data traffic and sending it to a remote server for analysis, which generally isn’t possible in the iPhone’s default setup. So in order to run the app, and the others like it, a “configuration profile” needs to be installed to change the iPhone to allow the app to do its job.

Although this tool historically has been used only by network administrators who have to manage a bunch of iPhones remotely, it is being used more often by app developers who want their apps to do things beyond what the iPhone usually allows.

Right now, for a couple of reasons this method of app implementation has only limited impact on the market. Generally only one of these apps can be run at a time unless two of them change the exact same settings. Also, requiring a user to essentially install twice can cut into the adoption rate.

But it does speak to the fact that iOS app developers need to use workarounds for some of their programs, which is something that Apple will have to address at some point. Apple’s tight control over iPhone and iPad apps helps ensure that they come from a trusted provider and can lessen security concerns, something that public-sector agencies adopting iPhones, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, appreciate. If the future of iPad apps is outside that control, agencies should take note.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Oct 30, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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