Merits of HTML5 for Mobile

January 3, 2013

Some people call HTML5 apps universal, some, on the other hand, call them useless. As usual, truth is somewhere in the middle 🙂 Although we are adherents of native approach, we strongly believe HTML5 to be a useful tool for certain tasks. Today we’d like to discuss the benefits that using HTML5 might bring to your product.

We often hear that HTML5 can be used only for simple tasks and simple apps. However, despite certain limitations of this technology, from our own experience we can say that HTML5 is not that limited. In HTML5 apps, you can work with video, support push-notifications and geolocation, work offline and cash data etc which is actually a good arsenal of possibilities for a mobile app.

We give our credit to HTML5 for a couple of reasons.

HTML5 apps are great for content consumption. If the main focus of your app will be done on content (text, images etc) and you need frequent updates of an app, then HTML5 would be very convenient to use. Some types of content (text, tables) are easier to present using HTML5 than native technology. One of the best examples in this case is an HTML5 app of the Financial Times. The other one is Netflix. The Financial Times has attracted more than 2m users to its HTML5 app, 10 months after its launch. The FT says the app has boosted its mobile business to the extent where it now drives 12% of subscriptions and 19% of traffic. The newspaper says that in the last six months, its smartphone users have increased by 52%, while tablet users are up 49%.

Cross platform development. HTML5 apps can be used on many mobile platforms. Taking into account that companies usually don’t have unlimited time and unlimited budgets, they can’t build an app for every platform. HTML5 apps come in handy as they offer a dynamic solution for scaling a business’s presence across a greatly fragmented ecosystem of mobile platforms. The Netflix story provides a clear example of a company achieving success with cross-platform HTML5. “If you’re doing an app for one device and don’t have a need to frequently update it or to do A/B testing, of course you’d do native. We’re interested in bringing our service to as many devices as possible, and want those experiences to bring delight to our customers, but we also want the flexibility to rapidly innovate on them. We’re willing to sacrifice some polish that comes with a native implementation in order to innovate with minimal constraints”, says Matt Marenghi Director, Engineering at Netflix.

Constant improvements of the technology. Despite all the criticism, HTML5 technology is getting better with the time. The standards for HTML5 performance get higher and higher. Experts believe that soon you will be able to do pretty much anything you can do with an app with HTML5. Perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why developers find HTML5 quite appealing.

To sum app, we can say that HTML5 is a niche technology which should not be treated with ‘all or nothing’ attitude. HTML5 can be a good solution for:

–       A simple app with limited amount/complexity of features

–       A content focused app and content based elements in native app

–       If you’d like to avoid 30% charges in AppStore or Google Play (the FT case)

Hope, this was helpful. In our next post we will get down to the issue of HTML5 vs native apps.

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