HTML 5 Vs. Native Apps: What's Best For Developers? - InformationWeek
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10/26/2015
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HTML 5 Vs. Native Apps: What's Best For Developers?

Debate rages on about whether an HTML5 Web application or a native platform application is the best solution for your project team. We've put together this list of arguments -- five for HTML5 and five for native apps -- to help frame the debate.
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(Image: ishtihos via Pixabay)

(Image: ishtihos via Pixabay)

HTML5 is one year old -- at least officially. Last October, the spec was frozen on HTML5. Since then, many developers have adopted it for building websites and mobile applications. It's so popular that we'll soon see the end of the native mobile app, right? Well, not so fast ...

Despite the growing popularity and acceptance of HTML5, debate rages on about whether an HTML5 Web application or a native platform application is the best solution for your project team. As is the case with most things tech, the honest answer to the debate question is "it depends." We've put together this list of arguments -- five for HTML5 and five for native apps -- to help frame the debate. There are very real arguments to be made for each path.

We certainly don't expect to resolve the debate. Rather, we want to provide information that's useful for you as you think about how you approach your next Web or mobile project.

[Building apps for iOS? Read Apple's Swift Programming Language: 10 Fascinating Facts.]

It's important to note where the debate doesn't go. It's not as though one approach is inherently more Agile than the other, or even that one will be cheaper than the other for every project that might come along. Project cost will depend on the makeup and expertise of your dev team. What you hope to accomplish in your user experience will depend on the makeup of your target audience.

A year ago there were very real issues around how each Web browser interpreted HTML5. While there are still issues around how individual browsers have implemented specific technologies that depend on HTML5 (WebRTC, for example, is rather hit-and-miss when it comes to browser support), the vast majority of HTML5 structures and features are supported by all major browsers.

That's not to say there are no issues with HTML5. There are also issues with native apps. Lost in the debate over which technology will ultimately "win" the development war is the fact that technology managers are being forced to make development and deployment decisions today.

The debate will continue. Do you have a favorite in this fight? Let us know. In the meantime, here are five arguments in favor of each technology, first for HTML5, then for native apps. Once you've reviewed these points, share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments section below.

Curtis Franklin Jr. is executive editor for technical content at InformationWeek. In this role he oversees product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he acts as executive producer for InformationWeek Radio and Interop Radio where he works with ... View Full Bio

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MikeScan
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MikeScan,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/30/2015 | 12:23:10 PM
Re: Native vs. HTML
I'm a developer for the U.S. Forest Service.  We're developing data collection applications that will work in the woods, where there is no cell service and no WiFi.  But we still choose to go with HTML5 in order to develop for an uncertain future in government supported hardware.  We work around connectivity issues with an HTML manifest file and an HTML5 database.

Connectivity is not an issue for us, but we are hitting memory limits imposed on the browser by the operating system.  HTML5 does have a great GPS API, but we don't have access to the camera and accelerometers.  For us, HTML5 apps are a stepping stone to hybrid apps that will have access to more memory and more of the native hardware.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
10/27/2015 | 9:50:54 AM
Re: Best for developers? Why?
@melgross, you're right that users shouldn't need to think about how the application was developed, but in this case we've got a number of complications.

First, there's some serious debate about whether users prefer apps or web-based applications. I've seen "research" justifying going down either path and the real answer seems to be that they want a great, seamless user experience no matter how they get it. The thing is, the nature of that experience is going to vary depending on which path you choose as a development lead.

And if you're choosing a path, you might as well take the impact on your team into account. IT is generally a cost center, so reducing cost and maximizing effectiveness just makes sense unless you enjoy the process of laying off team members.

Your point is well taken and would, I think, be the controlling point in classic enterprise development. When it comes to mobile apps, though, we're just in one of those odd points in industry history when there are an awful lot of things to take into account.
MobileappPROVAB
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MobileappPROVAB,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/27/2015 | 9:10:54 AM
Native App Development

A native app is an application program that is developed with the main intention of being used in a particular platform or device. Choosing native app would be best when you have to use the native features of the smartphone like camera,GPS, maps,etc. Native app could be installed directly on a mobile app and the developer can develop separate app version for every mobile device. Native app has the facility of being stored out of box and downloaded from a public or a private app store.

rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
10/27/2015 | 8:39:31 AM
Native vs. HTML
Security:  The OSS community claims their model is more secure because millions of people are probing it.

Connected:  How about some stats to justify that claim?  Sans games, probably fewer than 10% of apps can claim a significant portion of their value is derived without a connection.
poojamobileapps
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poojamobileapps,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/27/2015 | 1:05:38 AM
HTML5 development
HTML5 is cross platform and specially designed to deliver rich media contents. Today, HTML5 development is widely used with CSS3 for dynamic visual effects and compatibility on all mobile devices. MobileAPPtelligence is an award winning HTML5 app development company, delivering HTML5 apps and games to global clients. MobileAPPtelligence
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2015 | 2:04:09 PM
Re: Best for developers? Why?
Mel,

You have spoken like a real Business head here!

LOL!

But don't you feel its equally important to look at things from the perspective of the Developers also?

After all,most Developers are constantly fund constrained and pressed for time.

Its just deadlines,Deadlines and more Deadlines!

In that sceanario,anything that can give them even the slightest bit of help would be really-really helpful going ahead.

Please do correct me if I am wrong here.

In addition,most Developers don't intentionally try to make the lives of their Users do they?

Sure,if they are constantly pressed for time and don't have requisite support and resources in place;that frustration eventually does come out in the form of Apps which may not be super-easy to use for Consumers initially.

But for that you have to then blame the entire system rather than putting all the blame and responsibility on the heads of Developers alone.

 
Ashu001
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Ashu001,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2015 | 1:56:22 PM
Re: Best for developers? Why?
Terry,

Eventually its the Developer who will decide whether he/she goes Native or via the HTML5 route.

Since for the vast majority of Apps around its unlikely that they Performance Difference(between both options) is going to very big ;most Developers will look for the easier route out of using existing Libraries and working/building on work that has already been done this is where HTML5 comes in.

Sure for highly secretive/propreitary/Performance-intensive related apps I can absolutely forsee Developers going the Native App route   but everyone else should simply stick to HTML5.

Thank you for giving me a refresher course in Software Development once again!

Much,Much appreciated!

 

 
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2015 | 1:04:50 PM
Re: Best for developers? Why?
@melgross is right on that the app needs to work from the users perspective, that has to be a given. I think you have to interpret this article in the context that if each can work, which is better for developers.

As an old timer who began writing IBM Assembler back in college, then COBOL/CICS on mainframes my first few years of work, then CGI/HTML on first browsers and now Sencha's Extjs and Touch, this discussion hits home for me.

Where we are now on phones/tablets and HTML5 reminds me of that transition from Assembler (where you coded directly to hardware) to compiled languages (where you could write code in abstract and let compiler take care of hardware). I'd like to think these devices are headed that direction, and to some degree they are with things like PhoneGap. You'd write your app in a high level language like Sencha's Touch and if you needed a native app, the IDE tool would "compile" it to run native.

That should only necessary for the most demanding of apps where the browser container causes some problem (latency?). As powerful as these new devices are, there should not be a lot of apps like that. Certainly commercial apps (think online banking, Facebook, etc) should never need to be native. Gaming applications are the most likely to need native, as far as commonly used apps.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2015 | 7:52:39 AM
Best for developers? Why?
I see a major problem with the premise of this article. What's best for developers is what's best for their users. If that makes life harder for developers, so be it. This is a reason why IT, for example, tends to be poor at what they do. Developers need to do whatever it takes to makes their users happy. If that requires extra work for them, then that's what they need to do. It's pretty much been established that in nearly all circumstances, native apps are better. Harder for developers, maybe, but users don't care about what goes on behind the scenes, nor should they.
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