Mobile Web apps are written in HTML, they exist online, and can be accessed and used from any kind of phone or tablet.
Native apps, in contrast, are built expressly for a single mobile operating system like Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, or Amazon’s Fire OS. They are marketed and downloaded through the company’s proprietary app stores. Google, Amazon, and Apple get a cut of any download revenue.
In the newest report from BI Intelligence, we explore a seeming contradiction: consumers seem to prefer native apps. But many mobile developers, particularly in the mobile e-commerce world, find that HTML is more cost-effective than a sole focus on native app development. They have been successful in anchoring their mobile strategies in HTML.
Is it too late for HTML, and its new mobile-ready version, HTML5? Will the native app tidal wave overwhelm it and relegate HTML5 mobile Web apps to permanent second-class status? Or will companies come to exploit its many advantages?
- As device types and operating systems proliferate, the case for universal mobile Web apps becomes more and more pressing.
- Feature gaps are being closed, and performance wrinkles being ironed out.
- In terms of mobile developer interest, HTML5 has seen an uptick recently and ranks well ahead of other contenders for third-place status in the mobile platform wars, such as Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. We put hard numbers to developer trends.
- While monetization of downloads is far more straightforward in the app stores, there are successful examples of mobile Web app monetization, especially in mobile e-commerce, but also in terms of subscriptions and advertising.
HTML5’s advocates see its current stasis as a temporary speed bump, before mobile audiences and developers see the light and embrace apps on the more universal and less closed-off mobile Web.
Another advantage: Native apps are written in the difficult programming languages used for specific operating systems, while mobile Web apps are built around HTML5 and related Web technologies, which are more widely known.
Of course, it doesn’t help that consumers, and even many app publishers, remain confused about what a mobile Web app is, and how it differs from a native app and a mobile website. (A mobile Web app offers app-like interactive experiences, while a mobile website just serves up content and has a thin user interface.)
In full, the report:
- Details the statistics behind consumer attachment to native mobile apps. 87% of U.S. consumer time on smartphones is in native apps.
- Analyses the chicken-and-egg platform problem that HTML5 faces
- Reviews the progress made by the W3C, the nonprofit collective in charge of HTML5’s development, in closing the performance and feature gap with native iOS and Android apps
- Performs an in-depth analysis of the monetization challenges faced by HTML5 mobile Web apps and HTML5 developers
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.