Run iPhone apps in your web browser with Pieceable Viewer

Apr 12, 2011
Tech

One of the more frustrating things about the iTunes App Store is buyer’s remorse. There’s no way to sample an app before you commit to buying it — once you click the button to purchase it, it’s yours. Your only recourse is to leave scathing feedback to warn off others or call Apple (AAPL) and […]

One of the more frustrating things about the iTunes App Store is buyer’s remorse. There’s no way to sample an app before you commit to buying it — once you click the button to purchase it, it’s yours. Your only recourse is to leave scathing feedback to warn off others or call Apple (AAPL) and try to convince someone in customer service that you clicked the purchase button by mistake. Apparently that works sometimes.

But soon, App Store customers might have the try-before-you-buy capabilities that owners of devices running Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system enjoy with that market’s refund system. Pieceable, a startup that’s part of i/o Ventures, today released a product that allows iPhone app developers to make fully functional Flash versions of their apps available on the Internet, allowing users to mess around with them without downloading the app to their devices.

The product is called Pieceable Viewer, and according to a story from TechCrunch, it’s pretty easy for developers to create web versions of their apps for a number of purposes. From a user perspective, the best use of Pieceable Viewer is to share apps and vet them a little bit before buying them — developers get all kinds of marketing pluses from having a trial version of their apps floating around, instead of just YouTube videos showing what someone else has done.

You can play around with a few sample apps for the Pieceable Viewer on the company’s website here. Among the apps already converted for the web are Yelp, Foodspotting, Hipmunk Flight Search, Convore, Airbnb and Loopt. All of the apps act just like they would on an iPhone, except a mouse cursor functions as your finger as it would interact with the touchscreen.

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Of course, Pieceable Viewer leaves a little something to be desired and it’s not a perfect rendition of what apps look like. Yelp, Loopt and Foodspotting all get a lot of their functionality from interaction with your iPhone’s GPS capabilities, so Pieceable Viewer has to fake it — leaving Yelp seeming not nearly as useful as it would be on a mobile device. Still, the gist is definitely there, and interacting with a demo version of an app is much better than watching someone else demo it for you.

The best part about Pieceable Viewer, and hopefully the aspect that gets it to catch on, is that you can quickly share apps with others using links. Click this one and you’ll be funneled to a sharing page for the Yelp app using a link that you could then share with others, and it seems that, like videos on YouTube, Pieceable web apps can be embedded into blog posts — meaning the whole “check this out” idea should really have legs.

The implications of the product Pieceable is putting forward are interesting, especially for the App Store’s massive and somewhat uneven games market. I play through games on a daily basis to test them for various articles, and plenty are flops that aren’t even worth the dollar I’ve dumped on them. Pieceable has the capability to do away with that once and for all, leaving the App Store experience much less of a gamble that can leave consumers twisting with apps they hate.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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