Native mobile app dev vs. HTML5: Why not both?

Mobile app developers see strengths in both paradigms as well as in a hybrid approach

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Recompilation technologies like Adobe PhoneGap and Appcelelerator Titanium let developers leverage Web development efforts on mobile platforms, Simpson notes. But well-liked tools like Titanium aren't perfect. "Titanium does have its quirks that you have to work through," such as to get UI pieces to work well,'s Newcomer says.

AppMatrix's Spratley says he is not fully comfortable with Titanium's conversion of JavaScript to native code because input is different than output, which can make for difficult debugging. Says Simpson, "It's not without its shortcomings, but it does help us get more applications out faster [and is] easier to maintain all of our applications."

At e-commerce site, HTML5 development was the obvious solution. "Because we are an e-commerce platform, there's back and forth to deal with, and security when you handle credit cards," says developer Daniel Lashua. "We thought the most-secure solution would be something Web-based, so all that information is based on our servers. We don't have to deal with distributing an app to multiple handsets or deal with security on each handset." But used Appcelerator to access native device features, rather than deliver a pure HTML5 app.

At the Placer County (Calif.) Water Agency, the HTML5 option simply makes it easier to get software to multiple devices, especially because the popular smartphone of choice keeps shifting, says Bryan Heath, an information systems analyst and developer for the agency. Having to use API toolsets for Android and iOS "doesn't sound like much fun," he says.

Web deployment is not without its drawbacks, however, Lashua says: "Users don't always get the experience they want." For example, it is a little more difficult to have a single icon to launch the company's website, and the HTML5 application cannot be used offline. But an e-commerce application like's would not be useful offline anyway, he notes.

HTML5 development set to keep catching on

Although there will always be developers who adhere to the native paradigm for all or some of their development, the HTML5 and JavaScript combination are too enticing to ignore. "Native should be best, but [it involves] too much cost and too much time," says Kazauki Konno, vice president at Quad Elements. Performance of native applications is of course very good, but tools like Titanium also create fast recompiled applications, he says.

HTML5 development clearly opens up mobile devices to the multitude of JavaScript developers, even if the die-hard native developers have an edge in which functionality they can access on specific tablets and smartphones. Enterprises and commercial software developers will continue weighing which option best serves their needs -- and you can expect most will pick both options, or a hybrd approach.

Why? Because the it turns out the question is not whether you should go native or HTML, but when.

This story, "Native mobile app dev vs. HTML 5: Why not both?," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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