An HTML5 app is housed on the Web and runs inside a mobile browser.
Unlike apps built specifically for Apple or Android devices, it does not need to be built from scratch for each operating system. The promise is that it can be “write once, run anywhere.”
It’s true: In many cases, HTML5 can work just as well as a native approach. HTML5 has established itself as the de-facto alternative “platform,” after Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS.
But it is not the silver bullet it is often made out to be, for several reasons. HTML5 faces a fragmentation issue of its own, since there are gaps in the range of HTML5 app features supported by the different mobile browsers. Backers of HTML5 are working furiously to fill those gaps.
So where are we in the HTML5 vs. native apps debate? The status of HTML5 is vital to decisions about where to invest mobile budgets. In an August 2013 report, BI Intelligence analyses this very question.
In the report, we do a head-to-head comparison of the two, explain the specific reasons why HTML5 has some clear advantages over native apps for mobile development, look at adoption data, analyse the barriers to HTML5 as a development tool and explain how HTML5 is starting to overcome them, look at the current state of the performance advantage held by native apps, and explain why in a hyper-fragmented mobile landscape, HTML5 has emerged as the long sought-after “third platform,” allowing for mobile Web apps that cut across fragmentation.
Here are examples of where HTML5 is trying to close the performance and feature gap:
- Graphics: Web apps are far along in allowing for scalable (users can enlarge them by zooming in) graphics that allow for “the creation of very advanced and slick user interfaces,” according to the W3C, the nonprofit that creates the HTML5 standard.
- Multimedia capabilities are improving. Video and audio playback has become a widely-supported and widely-used HTML5 mobile app feature. Other multimedia features are still in a more nascent stage.
- Responsiveness: HTML5 apps can be written so that the device type is detected, and an appropriate app version is delivered. That’s important because of the variety of screen sizes out there. The layout, behaviour and resolution are optimised for the screen.
- User Data: Web apps are far along in their ability to store app data so that users can return to an app and pick up where they left off. Smooth offline usage is an area that needs more improvement.
- Geolocation on Web apps is now basically a solved issue across mobile browsers, while integration with user calendars and address book data is still a work-in-progress.
In full, the report:
- Explains the specific reasons why HTML5 has some long term advantages over native apps for mobile development
- Analyzes the barriers to HTML5 as a development tool and explains how HTML5 is starting to overcome them
- Looks at the current state of the performance gap between HTML5 and native apps
- Gets the developer’s perspective through data from developer surveys