Native vs HTML5 : We Can Do Native Apps!

The tug-of-war between Native vs HTML5 apps does not seem to wane. Developers and analysts keep arguing about the benefits and drawbacks of each approach as they tackle various aspects of enterprise mobility.

Particularly, the challenge of developing full-featured, unique apps for multiple mobile platforms.

On the one hand, Gartner comes out placing the future firmly in the hands of hybrid architectures, which offer a balance between HTML5-based web apps and native user experience.

Gartner explains the preference by the apparent complexity of native development using “…a fragmented set of development tools and multiple versions of an application to serve the same user need – because different versions must be made for each type of device or operating system.”

On the other hand, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many others are dumping HTML5 and moving to native development – a move hailed by many as the sign that native apps are likely to have the upper hand in the long run.

The consensus so far? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. In other words, you cannot have the full power of native apps and the ease, rapidity and cross-platform flexibility of HTML5 development at the same time.

Or can you?

Here is our take on the Native vs HTML5 debate.

Native vs HTML5 Apps: the Core Differences

The sales of tablets and smartphones are predicted to surpass desktop and laptop sales as early as this year. So, the way that consumers read and process information from mobile devices is becoming increasingly important. What are the key differences of HTML5 (web), hybrid, and native apps?

HTML5 apps are implemented as a single, self-modifying web page rendered in a mobile web browser. HTML5 is the language of the web, and as such, it is expected to work seamlessly across all mobile platforms. Developers of HTML5 apps can reuse code and do not have to start from scratch for each mobile platform. However, HTML5 apps have known limitations.

Limitations of HTML5:

  • Require Internet access; operation speed is dependent upon cell signal or WiFi connection
  • Mobile browsers are inconsistent in their support of HTML5
  • UI performance is significantly inferior to native apps
  • Cannot access all of the device features
  • Absence of a central app store – complicates distribution and discovery of apps

Hybrid Apps: a Compromise

Hybrid apps are developed using an HTML5 framework but they are wrapped natively for any number of devices using wrapper tools such as PhoneGap. The proponents of the hybrid approach claim to have the best of both worlds, offering seamless experience for end users while removing the burden of mastering various native development tools for developers. They do, however, acknowledge that native apps offer the best user experience and performance – even compared to hybrid apps.

Smooth Sailing with Native Apps

Native apps for smartphones and tablets, on the other hand, require mastery of native-language development for at least iOS and Android platforms. These are currently generating and are likely to generate the most downloads and revenue in the foreseeable future. But native apps have a clear edge over HTML5 and hybrid apps as far as functionality, speed and, of course, smoothness and richness of user experience.

According to the recent Flurry report, only 20 percent of consumers’ time on their mobile devices is spent on the Internet – the rest is spent in apps. Native app experience, albeit more difficult for developers, unquestionably holds sway over users. With large and small companies adopting mobility and BYOD strategies, the benefits of native apps become apparent.

Benefits of Native Apps:

  • Rich UI and smooth user experience
  • Full device capabilities
  • Faster performance
  • Better discoverability and monetization
  • Superior security
  • Robust performance in online or offline mode
  • More reliable integration with data sources

Can we really have it all?

Some would argue that it was the introduction of Apple’s iPhone that changed the way we think about mobile devices. Apple’s seamless interface and native application user experience turned the smartphone into a modern-day Swiss army knife of sorts. Mobile users no longer want to compromise; they want to have interoperability, rapidity, superior UI, and smooth access to enterprise data via mobile applications. Enterprises want full-featured apps with seamless user experience across major platforms – but also rapid, stakeholder-enabled development without having to pay top dollar.

Developers have to cater to these expectations. However, the current perception is that cross-platform development is necessarily restricted to web or hybrid apps. Cross-platform vs Native seems to be the predominant false dichotomy.

We beg to differ!

MobileSmith is one of the few tools available in the market that offers purely native, code-free development for iPhone and Android – and now the iPad tablet – without having to start from scratch for each platform. It is a disruptive technology that removes the false choice between cross-platform and native apps; you can have your cake and eat it too now!

You no longer have to master native programming skills. In fact, zero programming skills are necessary. Your graphic designer can create custom native apps instead. We believe that native apps are the future of enterprise mobility, and we offer the tools to facilitate native development for your business.

Have an innovative idea for an app? We can help you get started here.