The Great Mobile Debate: Native Apps vs. HTML 5
By 2017, Swedish mobile phone provider Ericsson estimates that there will be 9 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, including nearly 3 billion smartphones (pdf). With more people than ever accessing information via mobile devices, it’s essential marketers provide mobile-friendly content to multiple devices to reach existing and prospective customers.
In today’s environment, where 87 percent of the world has a mobile-cellular subscription (pdf). businesses cannot afford to lose a significant portion of the mobile audience due to incompatibility with certain browsers, devices or platforms. For a company to reach its mobile target market, it must provide online content that spans multiple devices and platforms.
The cross-platform experience matured dramatically in 2011 with the introduction of HTML 5, a new Web standard that is expected to be an official W3C specification by 2014. HTML 5 mobile Web apps deliver richer user experiences and greater complexity of graphics with game-like interactivity. Prior to this improvement, those who deployed content were limited to Adobe Flash, which is incompatible with some of the most popular mobile platforms.
Mobile compatibility wasn’t even a consideration for companies developing Web experiences, until recently. According to research by Ericsson, approximately 40 percent of all mobile phones sold in Q2 of 2012 were smartphones. This trend has driven mobile compatibility toward the top of the priority list, and a focus on mobile optimization has become a base-level requirement. Marketers now routinely consider, “How will this app work on an iPhone or an Android or a Samsung tablet?” Ultimately, awareness of this critical engagement element leads to higher quality and more satisfying user experiences.
Trends suggest the future lies in cross-platform development with HTML 5; however, mobile apps still make sense in many situations. When choosing between a native app and a mobile website, program intent and objectives should guide the decision-making process.