Native vs. HTML vs. Mobile Apps

Native vs. HTML vs. Mobile Apps


Published on: 13 Jul 2015

By Vinod Subbaiah

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One of the biggest questions in front of companies and individuals that want to build a mobile application is to choose whether to build a Native app or a Hybrid App or a mobile application that takes advantage of the features of HTML5.

Each choice has its own benefits and limitations and like the old adage goes, you should choose the one that best fits your needs. But how do you make the choice? In this blog post, we present you an overview of native apps, hybrid Apps and apps built using HTML5, the pros and cons associated with each method of mobile app development and the factors to be taken into consideration while opting for one over another.

We let you be the judge.

Native Apps vs. Hybrid Apps vs. HTML5: The Distinction

  • Native Apps – Native apps are applications built exclusively to take advantage of the features of a particular mobile operating system or device – be it iOS, Android, Windows Mobile or Blackberry.
  • HTML5 Apps – HTML5 apps, also known, as web apps are applications built using the latest standard in web technologies – HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3. These apps take advantage of the powerful features of HTML5 to support multiple devices and platforms.
  • Hybrid Apps – Hybrid apps are crossover applications that are built to take advantage of the features available with both native apps and HTML5 apps. While native apps can run only on the platforms for which they are built, hybrid apps can often overcome this limitation and can run on multiple devices and operating systems by placing the web or HTML5 app built within a platform specific native container such as PhoneGap or titanium.

Let us take a look at the benefits and constraints associated with each of these types of mobile app development

Native Apps: Pros

Features

Since native applications are developed for a specific device and/or operating system, native apps are better suited to take advantage of the inherent hardware and software offerings exclusively available on each operating system and device such as camera, GPS, accelerometer etc.,

App Submission and Distribution

It is generally easier to submit a native app for approval, validate it and distribute to different types of users. If you want to reach a larger user base that uses a specific type of device or operating system, native apps are often your best bet.

UI Controls

Native apps will allow developers to access and take advantage of UI controls such as pinch, zoom, tap, pull, slide and multi-touch control to make the app usage highly intuitive for users.

Graphics and Animation Support

Native apps will allow developers to build graphic and animation heavy applications such as games that will function seamlessly and operate smoothly because of the native support offered on the devices and platforms for which they are built using native APIs.

Offline Access

Native apps can be accessed both in online and offline mode and users can benefit from the being able to access the application regardless of their online connectivity.

Native Apps: Cons

Cost

The cost of building and maintaining a native app is usually higher compared to the other two options because apps have to be developed and maintained separately for each mobile OS on which the application is made available.

Complexity of Development

The mobile apps have to be developed individually for each operating system using SDK or Software Development Kit specific to each platform.

Revenue Loss

Revenue from the sale made using native apps usually needs to be shared with the companies that build and maintain the app stores such as Apple and Google. But having access to a larger user base could offset this potential loss of revenue.

HTML5 Apps: Pros

Reduced Development Cost

HTML5 apps are built using web frameworks that can be replicated for use across different devices and platforms and hence involve lower development costs compared to native apps.

Application Access

HTML5 apps can be accessed from the web without the users having to download these apps to their phones.

Device and Platform Agnostic

HTML5 apps are essentially a set of web pages and can hence be accessed on any device or platform.

HTML5 Apps: Cons

App Store Access:

HTML5 apps usually do not have access to the app stores such as Apple’s App store and Google’s Play. So if app store access and distribution are a priority for your mobile app, you may want to avoid taking the HTML5 route.

Slow Response

HTML5 apps are often afflicted by slow response times and lag because the updates and bug fixes are first made available to the native apps.

Device Access

HTML5 apps cannot access the device features such as camera, GPS, notification.

Development Time

HTML5 apps often take more time to develop because of the involved process of testing in multiple devices, and operating systems and the bug fixes involved.

Hybrid Apps: Pros

Cross-Platform Support

Hybrid Apps built using frameworks such as PhoneGap, Titanium and SenchaTouch offer cross-platform support while continuing to take benefit of the native features indigenous to each device and operating system.

Lower Development Costs

Hybrid Apps help achieve the look and feel of the native apps as well as the functionality at lower development costs by taking advantage of the platform specific frameworks to reduce the time and resources required to build these apps.

Device Access

Hybrid apps offer full-integration with the various UI controls available on devices such as pinch, touch and zoom and features such as camera, geo-location, contact list, file upload, accelerometer.

Access to App Store

Hybrid Apps, like native apps can be submitted to the app stores for approval and distribution, enabling reach a larger audience.

Hybrid Apps: Cons

Slow Performance

While hybrid apps are able to emulate some of the features of native apps, leveraging HTML5 and mobile frameworks, they are not as responsive as native apps in terms of speed and performance.

Limited Graphical Support

Hybrid apps are not best suited for mobile apps that are graphics and animation heavy. They are better suited for business apps that are more operational in their nature and functioning.

Revenue Loss

Like native apps, revenue from hybrid mobile applications that are submitted to app stores should be shared with the companies that own them.

Factors to consider

“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.” – Michael Porter

There are tradeoffs to be made with each of the choices and it is up to you to decide which aspects are crucial to your needs. Some of the major factors you may want to consider in choosing one type of app over another would include:

  • Business Goals
  • Target users and their preferences
  • Budget Constraints
  • User Interface (UI) controls
  • App Store Accessibility
  • Graphics Support
  • Speed and seamless operation
  • Access to hardware/software features native to a device/operating system
  • Web Connectivity
  • Development Skills

With the rapid advances in technology, the advantages and disadvantages associated with each method of development will continue to evolve faster than you can imagine. Choosing one method of mobile app development over another ultimately boils down to identifying and ranking your priorities so that you can simplify your decision making process.

Please share you comments about how you decided to opt for one method of mobile app development over another. We are curious to know your ideas and eager to listen to your thought process.

Vinod Subbaiah Vinod Subbaiah