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Native Apps vs. HTML5 Web Apps: Battle Royale . . . or is it?

By Product Management | August 20, 2012

CATEGORIES: Mobile Quality

As originally published on MobileAppsTesting.com.

Mobile app developers are commonly asked to create apps which stream videos, display fluid animations, play music, integrate with social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, and integrate with device-specific capabilities. They’re also tasked with creating apps that operate properly regardless of which device, OS or platform it’s running on. In many cases, if the developer wants to achieve all these requirements, they have to leverage a number of different development technologies and environments in addition to obtaining multiple SDKs and learning new scripting languages for individual OSs, causing delays in deployment and increased resource expenditures.

In comes HTML5 which developers are progressively accepting as a remedy for development headaches and a way to successfully navigate through the extremely fragmented mobile ecosystem. HTML is a programming language used to present internet content in a manner that is usable by multiple devices. The most recent version of the standard, HTML5, enables cross-device compatibility by allowing access to mobile content and web apps through any internet-connected device.

What does this mean for mobile developers? They can now create one code that is cross-device, cross-platform, cross-OS and cross-browser compatible. This “write once, run anywhere” advantage makes it so that developers can mitigate the need to write individual codes for iOS, and another specific to Android (and all its various OS versions), and another tailored for Blackberry, and another for… you get the point. This greatly reduces the costs of developing, testing and rolling out new websites and apps.

Mobile developers are beginning to favor HTML5 as a development platform of choice for many reasons. Some use it because it allows seamless integration and interactivity with mobile devices and its native features, providing end-users with a richer, more complex user environment. For example, developers are able to exploit device-specific functionalities such as the camera, speaker, microphone, accelerometer and the LBS technology. Others like it because it allows them to bypass the app store approval process. Once developers create, test and finalize their web apps, they can deploy it simply through a URL. After deployment, they’re able to quickly update the web apps with feature enhancements and resolve issues without having to go through an app store re-approval process which results in delays and large expenses – and end-users can still access the updated web app through the same URL. Instant deployment and not requiring users to download and install the app helps to speed up time-to-market and more importantly, ROI.

There is a great debate about developing native apps vs. HTML5 web apps. For enterprises, the benefits of HTML5 web apps far outweigh the limitations. Imagine this scenario:

An enterprise organization develops a native iPhone app for a CRM application. After months of solid development and testing efforts, they submit it to the App Store for approval. After an additional several months of correspondence and continuous updates to comply with Apple’s guidelines, the app is finally approved. Then, Apple updates their SDK which created multiple bugs, further delaying the CRM app release. Concurrently, the organization realizes that the code which enables the iPhone to interface with their core data had limitations which would take major effort and resources to overcome, maybe even requiring a rebuild of the entire app. And, every time the enterprise wanted to add new enhancements and functionalities, it becomes costly and time-consuming since they would essentially have to begin the development and rigorous testing efforts from scratch. Finally, the app is approved, launched, available and is a big hit in streamlining business processes so now, employees and customers alike are requesting Android and Blackberry versions of the CRM app, requiring more time and resources.

Enter HTML5. Developing the same app in this environment would have produced a “one-size-fits-all” web app which would work on the iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, among other devices regardless of OS – achieving the look and feel of a native app across all platforms. With HTML5, organizations can quickly and easily develop and release feature enhancements and resolve bug issues while enabling customers to access the CRM app as usual – through a URL. Gone are the days of app store approvals, delays, large expenses and resource commitments each time the organization wanted to roll out a new or enhanced feature or resolve issues.

As enterprise organizations evolve to support more than one device platform compounded by the growing BYOD trend, along with cost and resource considerations, developing employee- and customer-facing HTML5 web apps seems to be the less prohibitive option in the native app vs. HTML5 web app debate, doesn’t it?

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