Hackers begone! 3rd party apps now on iPhone

You can now add third-party applications to the iPhone - and Apple won't 'brick' it if you do
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Apple (opens in new tab) is obviously hoping to appease at least some of its critics after it posted a web page devoted to third-party applications for the iPhone and iPod touch (opens in new tab).

The 22-page selection of blogging tools, games and other widgets won't please everyone. A growing community of hackers is intent on bringing true third-party programs to the iPhone and iPod touch platforms - against Apple's wishes.

The third-party applications on Apple's Web Apps for iPhone (opens in new tab) site are essentially widgets (or gadgets in Microsoft parlance) that use Apple's Safari (opens in new tab) web browser to work.

The widgets include a Facebook app that enables you to upload pictures or send and receive messages; simple games such as Sudoku and Bejeweled; and even ovulation predictors to help would-be parents.

True third-party apps?

However Apple won't currently allow developers to create fully-fledged third-party applications for the iPhone or iPod touch - spreadsheet applications, database tools and the like. Apple says it's taking the action because it doesn't want third-party apps to cause the iPhone to crash, or for them to take down its partner mobile networks like AT&T (opens in new tab) in the US or O2 (opens in new tab) in the UK.

Some iPhone users believe that many of Apple's claims on this front are spurious. This has spawned the growth of a hacking community that has dedicated itself to putting third-party apps on the iPhone and to 'unlock' the device from AT&T so it can be used on rival mobile phone networks.

iPhone hackers see it as their right to carry our modifications to the phones they own, and to enable other iPhone users to hack their mobiles by providing the software tools to do so.

The fact that doing so violates the iPhone's warranty and End User Licence Agreement (EULA) doesn't appear to bother the hackers. However they do get mightily miffed when Apple issues a software update for the iPhone and iPod touch that breaks any affected devices.

Leopard is key

However the arrival of third-party web apps for the iPhone and iPod touch could just be the beginning. Apple is said to be furiously working with developers to bring fully-fledged, Apple-approved applications to the iPhone.

These could well be announced by the end of the month when Apple finally puts the next version of its operating system - Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard (opens in new tab) - on sale. This is because Apple apparently wants to keep some of Leopard's code secret ahead of the launch - and both the iPhone and iPod touch rely on key components of Leopard to work.