So far in this series we’ve discussed HTML5 as an icon for the open mobile web, some of the features that make this framework so appealing, as well as some recommendations for how to adopt HTML5 practices into your organization. The critical takeaway is that if you want to drive traffic and stay competitive in the mobile market then your website needs Responsive Web Design (RWD).
Now that we’ve seen what HTML5 has to offer, let’s take a closer look at the advantages of Native, why there’s so much push for a “Native-only” approach, and the challenges in adopting this position.
Native has Obvious Advantages
The Native approach to mobile application is often identified as best in class for overall performance, user experience, and security. A Native application is coded in an object-oriented programming language such as Java (Android), Objective C (iOS), or C# (Windows). The app lives on the device, is accessed through an icon on the home screen, and interacts directly with the device’s operating system to provide full access to the rich hardware features such as GPS, accelerometer, camera, and graphics.
Since the Native app accesses the device’s processor directly and does not require a web interface, it works well in cases when there is little or no internet connectivity. This framework also offers a security advantage as well since there is no vulnerability imposed through the web.
Native apps are downloaded from an App Store such as Google Play or Apple’s App store. For many businesses and organizations, it’s a significant prestige factor and marketing advantage to show off an application in the iOS store. Not to mention that the iOS store is one of the biggest markets on the internet with over 400 million accounts tied to credit cards and over $5 billion paid out to developers.
But Native-Only May be Unrealistic
While there are many advantages to Native applications, the reality is that very few companies can afford a siloed Native-only approach to their mobile strategy. The reasons are not hard to understand. The cost of hiring qualified developers with the specialized skill sets in the object-oriented coding languages is high. Additionally, Native apps require a new build out for each platform and this also adds to the overall cost and time required for deployment.
HTML5 has gain increased market attention and traction in recent years through the rollout of more robust capabilities (such as offline caching, graphics, GPS, and accelerometer), support on increasing numbers of browsers, and the possibility of more control over distribution and deployment. Combined together, these features in HTML5 have led many companies to see the value in adopting a “good enough” approach over a “best in class” approach.
While it’s obviously important to save money and cut costs, company strategists need to carefully discern what their business needs are when deciding what approach is best. If your application uses gamification or requires a heavy amount of graphics and video then Native is probably the best option. If you’re in the financial services sector and require the transfer of secure, encrypted data at a high rate of speed, then Native is again the answer. On the other hand, HTML5 has plenty of advantages if you want more control over deployment or need to stick to a tight budget.
Despite what all the pundits claim, an exclusive “either-or” approach to mobile application development is not a very useful strategy for gaining the most mobile traffic. Have you thought
more broadly about this perhaps in the following terms, “How can I leverage the richness of native and the reach of HTML5?” Going a step further, “What if I used my HTML5 mobile website as way to upsell to my native application?” Stay tuned as these considerations will be developed out more fully in Part 6 of this series.
In the next article our investigation turns to the third major approach to mobile application development known as Hybrid. We’ll explore why it has become such a popular framework in recent years. Please join us then!