The big fear we always see associated with jailbreaking the iPhone and installing and running 3rd party applications on it, is that you’ll end up with an unstable, flaky device. Many folks think that these applications, especially as they are ‘hacked’ apps developed without any support or sanction from Apple, are likely to make the […]
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iPhone & 3rd Party Apps – Stable As a Very, Very Stable Thing!

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The big fear we always see associated with jailbreaking the iPhone and installing and running 3rd party applications on it, is that you’ll end up with an unstable, flaky device. Many folks think that these applications, especially as they are ‘hacked’ apps developed without any support or sanction from Apple, are likely to make the iPhone crash frequently – or as Steve Jobs once famously implied, bring down AT&T’s West Coast network with their rogue behavior.

Well … like Jobs’ comment, these fears are way overblown. I don’t see any great evidence so far to back them up. I frequent several of the most popular iPhone forums, and stories of major problems resulting from a 3rd party app install are relatively rare. Granted, there are certainly some horror stories, but no greater ratio of these than I’ve grown used to seeing with Palm and Windows Mobile users, using ‘legit’ paid-for applications. And my own experience says the iPhone with 3rd party apps is still a completely stable device.

Here are a few reasons why I’d say the iPhone plus 3rd party apps is still Rock Solid:

The Apps Themselves Are Stable

I currently run around 35 third party apps on my iPhone, and have been running 20 or more on it for months now. The programs I use pretty much run the gamut in terms of types of application – games and mindless fun apps, utilities like the Services app to toggle On/Off SSH, WiFi and more on the device, Summerboard and various themes for customizing the look of the iPhone, the native RSS reader, a Search for contacts search and dial app, the SysInfo app for monitoring and even terminating running processes, iPhoneHome for customizing and re-mapping the Home button’s double-tap action, and more. I’m not going to say that I’ve never had a program crash or freeze up. I have, but very rarely – and really not very often at all in proportion to the number of apps I’ve been running.

Paid-For Apps Are NOT Automatically More Stable

I’ve been a Windows Mobile and occasional Palm OS user for many years. On both those platforms, I have always bought and paid for a large number of 3rd party programs. Many of those apps have become long-standing favorites and have served me well for years.

But … I’ve also seen more than my fair share of very unstable, crappy apps on Palm and WM. The sort of apps that wreak havoc on system stability immediately. Apps that crash so severely that they force spontaneous device reboots in the middle of a call, or upon trying to answer a call (cough, Treo 650). Apps that cause such severe problems that not only do you end up uninstalling the offending program, but you end up having to hard reset your device (restore it to factory defaults) to get your system back to working right.

These apps have not proved to be automatically any more stable and reliable, just by virtue of the fact that they are charged for, or that they are distributed via recognized channels like Handango and other leading mobile software vendors.

The iPhone OS Is Very, Very Solid

This should not really be surprising, given that the iPhone runs on a version of OSX – so it’s much closer to a ‘full-blown’ OS than most mobile devices.

From what I’ve seen, it is extremely difficult to have a rogue application bring the whole house crumbling down with it – much more rare than it is on a Palm or WM device. (touch wood here) I’ve never yet had to do a full restore on the iPhone due to any problems or instability issues.

The great majority of the time, even when an individual app freezes up, the system itself keeps on chugging and allows me to force-close the offending program and carry on with life. I’ve never had a problem answering a call, never had a crash during a call, and very rarely even needed to do a hard reboot of the iPhone.

Color Me Impressed …

I’m not convinced that new paid-for apps, certified or sanctioned by Apple in whatever way, that come along after the SDK is issued will just automatically be superior to those we’re seeing over these last few months.

And I am hugely impressed with the range of 3rd party apps that have been developed for the iPhone so far, in the complete absence of any support from Apple thus far, as well as with the quality and stability of these applications.

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