Wednesday, September 7, 2011

HTML5 v/s Native Apps

With more and more companies putting in thousands and thousands of $$$ on their mobile initiatives, the big question about the mobile road map is : HTML5 or Native Mobile apps?

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed some factors which will help a company decide whether to opt for a Mobile website or a Native app. The current question becomes more interesting because of the present state and buzz about HTML5.

What is HTML5?

HTML5 is the fifth version of the HTML language that provides the basic building blocks of web pages. It will support multimedia without plugins and has the ability to work on all computers and devices.

Advantages of HTML5
  • Portability: HTML5 web apps can be accessed and used on any device via a web browser, much like a mobile website
  • Cost effective: They can turn out to be significantly cheaper that developing native apps for various devices
  • Offline access: Web apps also provide the capability for offline access and usage via application cache, meaning you don’t have to have a network connection to use them.
  • HTML5 introduces new APIs to access mobile device functionality, in particular sensors such as accelerometer and GPS

Few HTML5 Limitations
  • Security issues: Users could tamper with processing scripts, which might allow unauthorized access. Hackers can get access to perks, discounts, etc. for which they really aren’t eligible.
  • Synchronization challenges: While the app is connected, it can save data to the cloud however if it goes offline, changes will not get saved. Synchronization can become a challenge when people access from different devices.
  • User Experience: Mobile apps are a lot about the user experience. Its really crucial how well you can engage your user with such a small screen. Native apps till date offer a better user experience, ease of use and convenience.
  • Standard Gestures: Some standard actions specific to a device will not be supported by HTML5. For eg: iPhone has the standard 'long hold' which is used for many actions. The HTML5 look and feel will be like the web feel.
  • Marketing effort: This is specially crucial for smaller companies who attract many of their users from the various app stores.
  • Monetization: The fact that apps like Angry Birds have made millions of $ is possible only because of an app store which lets people discover them and developer monetize them. This is not so easy on HTML5.
HTML5 believers say it could destroy the native app by 2014. However, there is a lot of work to be done on the HTML5 front to remove the 'clunky' behavior of the technology.

Some quick tips to help you decide:
  • If your app is very complex and highly interactive, use native
  • If you are targeting multiple platforms and your offering/ value is web-centric, use HTML5
  • A native app can also have web view, so consider a 'hybrid app', if required
  • Consider one or both options based on the company and user requirements and your budget and target.
Only time will say which will rule after the next few years. For now, the native app market is here to stay and flourish.

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