October 21, 2013

HTML5 May Challenge Native App Dominance

When it comes to HTML5 Web apps, the big question is still one of uncertainty: Can HTML5 compete with native apps? Given native apps’ popularity, this seems to be a fair question, but it isn’t an easy one to answer.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s subscription research service, recently released some research in an attempt to answer the Web vs. native app dilemma. In particular, it examines both the short and long-term prospects of HTML5 and native apps, starting with the current performance gap between the two.

As it stands now, despite the prevalence of Web-based apps on PC, native mobile apps are dominant. This is demonstrated by how we use our mobile devices: The vast majority of time is spent in mobile apps, rather than browsing on smartphones and tablets. In fact, only 20 percent of the time we spend on mobile devices is used to browse the Web. Facebook (NewsAlert) alone accounts for 18 percent, while games take up the vast majority of mobile use with 32 percent.

On top of this, more mobile devices users have used downloaded apps than mobile Web browsers. Because of these usage patterns, it seems pretty undeniable that native apps more or less define the way we use our phones and tablets.

However, with the Web becoming increasingly mobile — mobile consumer broadband connections are expected to eclipse fixed connections by 2015 — there is definitely room to change the current paradigm.

Since HTML5 is meant to work seamlessly across all platforms, it seems poised to do just this. Since they are platform-agnostic, HTML5 Web apps can bring functionality to less-dominant operating systems, while saving developers time and money. Speaking of developers, many favor HTML5 because HTML is a familiar language.

HTML5 Web apps can even offer the same accessibility as native apps since they can be pinned as icons on a phone’s home screen.

So why aren’t there more HTML5 apps out there right now? A major factor is that the HTML5 standard is still technically a work in progress. Progress is being made every day, though, so it might not be long before Web apps become as ubiquitous as native.

Edited by Alisen Downey


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