Mobile app development is currently dominated by Android and Apple, who have roughly an equal share of more than two-thirds of the market. But as the range of mobile devices on offer increases, HTML5 apps that work on all devices are becoming more appealing, both to users and developers. Apple’s native apps are still out in front in terms of quality – but the gap is closing, as HTML5 apps constantly improve their user-friendliness and availability. So what’s the difference between native apps, like those offered by Apple and Android, and web apps? And how can HTML5 mobile app development help you improve your mobile marketing strategies?
Right now, the Apple App Store contains nearly three quarters of a million iPhone and iPad apps, all of which have to be completely re-coded to work on another device. Web apps are built using standard coding such as HTML5, which allows them to run on virtually any platform that uses a standards-compliant browser. They will work on iPhones, iPads, Androids, Kindles, Windows – and, importantly for start-ups, any new platform that may be launched in the future.
Not only do web apps work equally well on any platform, they are cheaper and quicker to produce than native apps. The only reason native apps are still overwhelmingly used is because Apple’s unstoppable development department stole a march on competitors very early on, and currently offer a superior experience to most similar HTML5 apps. This state of affairs won’t last for long.
One of the main reasons for mobile app development shifting towards HTML5 and other standards-based languages is the ease of open-source updates. Most iPhone users have experienced the frustration of being unable to update their app because they lack the latest iOS. Web apps, on the other hand, will practically never become outdated. Every time a user visits a website, they are loading the most recent version from the server. The simple action of visiting the site means you are viewing the latest version of that app.
There are still a number of hurdles to overcome before web apps present a realistic, mass-market alternative to native apps. Chief among them is the state-of-the-art hardware interfacing currently provided by (in particular) Apple. All iPhone apps are seamlessly integrated with the device’s hardware, allowing users to take advantage of the GPS, digital camera and accelerometer capabilities. Right now, web apps don’t have it so easy. Apple’s closed book isn’t likely to open itself to rival developers anytime soon, but as competitive pressure grows, most people expect that situation to change.
The other major feather in the Apple cap is the secure, easy payment process offered by the App Store. There are 400 million active iTunes accounts, each with stored credit card details, making consumer purchases extremely hassle-free. Web apps currently lack a similar consolidated payment system. Again, though, that is expected to change with time.
There’s little disagreement about the smoother, more polished look and feel of native apps. But there is also a consensus on some key advantages offered by web apps. The ever-changing nature of standards-based technology means that HTML6 is likely to do some significant catching up. Add to that the expense of building native apps, and the decreasing cost of developing web apps, and it’s easy to see how mobile marketing strategies will begin to gear themselves towards users that have jumped the mother ship Apple and are spreading their consumption across a wider range of smaller, more adaptive developers.