The iPhone as a Tool for the Web Developer

By Scott Clark

Okay, so you probably know people who ran right out and bought the iPhone when it came out. You may have considered getting one yourself, but couldn't justify the cost--after all, it's just a phone with an iPod built into it. Or is it? Could it be that the iPhone is a developer's dream, with apps available that make a web developer's life much easier? In fact it is just such a tool, and this article will discuss some of the best applications for web developers.

When most people think of the iPhone, they think of entertainment, music and games. While there is no shortage of such applications for the iPhone, there are also a bunch of apps that you can use as a web developer when you are away from your computer. Suppose you are visiting a friend when you get a call from your boss telling you that your site urgently needs to be updated? Do you cut your visit short and rush home so you can update the site? Not if you're cell phone happens to be an iPhone.

First things first. The iPhone comes with an email client, instant message client, as well as a version of the Safari Web browser. It works in landscape mode for easier viewing by simply turning the iPhone sideways. It won't play Flash movies, nor Java applications, but it does support JavaScript and CSS. Apple has just released the Software Development Kit (SDK) for the iPhone, but that's beyond the scope of this article.

As a developer, you can enable the use of both of those technologies to detect the iPhone browser, and direct your visitors to a page that is optimized for the iPhone. You can read all the details in this article by Estelle Weyl. You can also find more development tips and examples for developing web sites using your iPhone here.

FTP On The Go

Once you've gotten used to the functionality of your iPhone, you will undoubtedly want to visit the App Store (an application on the iPhone that allows you to download and install new programs) and download some additional applications. For me, I wanted to be able to FTP onto my web host so I could upload and download files. Fortunately there is an app called FTP On The Go that sells for $9.99...once you have installed it, you can move files back and forth and also open and edit HTML, JavaScript, ASP and PHP files directly on your iPhone using FTP On The Go's built in text editor.

FTP On The Go also includes a built in web server and FTP server, should you need them on the fly. Not bad for an FTP client that will cost you less than $10 dollars.


I also wanted an application that would enable me to SSH or Telnet directly into my server. Again, there is a free terminal client application available from the App Store called TouchTerm. It allows you to save sessions and SSH into your server, change directories, chmod or chown files and/or directories, and do all the other tasks you've become accustomed to when using an SSH client on your computer.

They also have an advanced version, TouchTerm Pro, that you can buy for $15.00, which has enhanced features for the web development professional.

Analytics App

Yes, there is a version of Google Analytics for the iPhone! It's called Analytics App and you can get it from the App Store for $5.99.

Once you download, install it and log in, you have access to all your Google Analytics information, nicely displayed and quickly accessed. It includes 29 reports, and lets you use any custom reports that you've created in Google Analytics,

To me, this app alone makes the iPhone a valuable tool. I can access my site's reports from a cafe, from my home, from the airport, from a hotel, quicker and easier than I can with my laptop. It's a must have for any serious web developer.

Other Useful Applications

Before we move on, I have to mention a couple of applications that don't really have anything to do with web development, because if I didn't, I'd be doing you, the reader, a disservice. They are just too useful to miss!


First, there is OrbLive, which sells for $9.99 in the App Store. OrbLive is a combination client/server application that enables you to access your media library, which is located on your computer, usually in your home or office. You may even have a library of movies, music, documents, etc. stored on a centralized computer in your living room.

The iPhone typically only plays .MOV and .MP4 movie files...but using OrbLive, you can browse to the directory you have them saved in, and stream them directly to your iPhone! First, you have to install the OrbLive app on your iPhone. Then you have to visit the OrbLive web site and download the OrbLive server component. It has a small footprint, and once you've installed it, you won't even know it's running.

Now you can browse your entire media library via the Orb app on your iPhone. You can do it through a wifi connection, or, more importantly, you can be connected via 3G or a wireless network anywhere in the world, and still access your media. You can also access your library via any web browser. Very, very useful.


Second, there is Shazam. Shazam is a free application that should have been invented 30 years ago, but the technology is just to the point where it can work. How many times have you been driving, listening to the radio, when a song came on that you really enjoyed, but you didn't know the name of the song?

With Shazam, you simply click the "tag" button and hold the iPhone near the source of the music, be it a radio, stereo, someone else's iPhone or iPod, your computer, etc. After about 30 seconds, it sends the bit of audio it collected to the Shazam database, identifies it, and send you back the name of the song, artist, album, discography, links to purchase the song, links to lyrics for the song, YouTube videos, etc. Very, very handy app.

White Noise

Finally, there is the White Noise application, which sells for .99 cents. Ever needed some ambient background noise to help you relax or fall asleep? White Noise lets you choose from many such audio tracks, including ocean, fireplace, rain, crickets, the amazon, a sprinkler and many more. You can set the timer so it stops playing after a specified amount of time. Very useful when it's time to relax.

If you know of some additional iPhone applications that are useful to a web developer, or just useful in general, don't hesitate to let us know via the commenting form below!

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