November 11, 2013

Mobile HTML5 Suffers From Lack Of Tools, Not Performance

The potential uses for HTML5 are both pretty well-known and fairly extensive. Applications range from video to games and well beyond, making HTML5 seem like a particularly powerful tool, especially when it comes to the mobile arena. But HTML5 isn’t being put to use quite as often as some would expect, and a recent study concludes that it’s not so much that the language itself is having issues, but rather that the necessary tools to make HTML5 work aren’t in place yet.

 VisionMobile (NewsAlert) (NewsAlert) launched the study in question, entitled “How Can HTML5 Compete With Native?,” a study which led the firm to gather reports from over 6,000 developers. On top of that, VisionMobile considered over 30,000 apps in Android (NewsAlert) Play, put in reviews on 42 separate tools and frameworks designed for HTML5 and even added 32 separate interviews from experts in the field of HTML5 and native app construction to reach its ultimate conclusion: it’s not so much the language, but rather the tools to work with said language.

 The study itself provided some critical insight into the field of mobile app development. Not only did a majority of developers—61 percent—write for mobile browsers, but fully 63 percent of apps on Android Play are utterly unable to be written for HTML5 in the first place, as several critical APIs aren’t yet in place. If the browsers, however, brought just two APIs—Power Management and Wi-Fi—into play, the number of Android apps in the United States that could run in HTML5 would skyrocket. That number would go from the current 37 percent to fully 58 percent. 49 percent of U.S. Android apps could be implemented using a native wrapper, a Web-to-native converter system could account for 63 percent, and with native JavaScript? That number reaches near totality at 98 percent.

 It’s true, however, that looking at a study of what developers don’t like about HTML5 shows that, clearly, performance is the biggest issue. But experts are increasingly calling this something of a mistake, as improvements are made in hardware and compilers that should be improving performance. But then it’s not hard to note that most of the major browser vendors out there are also the same companies that offer the necessarily mobile OS to run the systems, so it’s possible that some bias could be sweeping into the system. On the surface, this makes some sense: Android wants native Chrome apps, both Google properties. Apple (News Alert) is bringing in HTML5 standards, but less some important APIs like WebGL.

 The report even offered some recommendations for areas of future development, particularly with bringing in both Power Management and Wi-Fi APIs. But more than that, the survey revealed the need for a “standardized packaging solution” for native JavaScript apps, as well as a “device identity API” and a “Debug API.” Finally, the study also recommends better education for developers to discover just what HTML5 can do.

 Indeed, there’s likely a certain amount of politics here. HTML5 has the potential to do some serious damage to the concept of the app store as we know it. Developers in large numbers love the cross-platform code portability—56 percent in VisionMobile’s survey—and cross-screen code portability at 33 percent, so it’s clear that developers would be using HTML5 more often if it were available. But without the right tools, it’s just not quite as available as it should be. That’s changing, of course, but like any other major change, this is a change that will take time.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker


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