With 1.1.3 iPhone update, users can easily add mobile safari shortcuts to the iPhone springboard screen. This is a BIG DEAL in the mobile world – especially for the designer / developer community.
Different handsets tend to have different requirements on the launcher icons or the so called “9up menu” (since majority of the feature phones can only display 9 icons at a time).
The specs of those icons usually are not very well documented either. Some support PNG. Some claim they support PNG but only in 8-bit with no alpha channel. Some support advanced SVG 1.1 Tiny (i.e. S60 Symbian) but that’s a lot more technical and requires much closeer working with the developer to have things implemented. Some follow the standard J2ME icon size and specs, but might still ended up a few pixels off (I am looking at you Samsung, and LGs). Not to mention different screen size / view could result in multiple icon files with multiple versions.
In short. It’s a mess (if you want to get premium “face time” with your mobile users / customers).
On the business side, it’s even tougher.
Getting your app / web app in front of the consumers usually means “kowtow” to the carriers or the handset manufactures. I am not saying they are “evil” or “bad”, it’s just difficult since they have different concerns on manufacturing, and distribution reasons.
The new iPhone 1.1.3 allows users to add Mobile Web apps directly on the launcher screen just like adding a bookmark. For the designer / developers, it’s super easy (60×60 PNG icon on the server). Apple even handle the reflection and rounded corner for you. Not revolutionary, but it saves developers hours of even days of trial and error and rework.
To help the Mobile Web to grow, this is one of the many of the little things iPhone is helping the ecosystem. We want more.