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Native Apps vs. HTML5/Responsive Design: A diversion of sorts
Ray Kahn
SEP 06, 2013 14:00 PM
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Today I am taking a break from writing about Cloudera and Hadoop. Next week I will continue with that discussion.

Recently I was asked whether it is better to develop a native app, iOS based, or does it make sense to use a mobile web application based on HTML5 and Responsive Design. As I was contemplating this question I searched the internet and realized that this is a question which is being asked very frequently. It seems that no matter what one decides to do, it is important to have a mobile strategy that takes into account your customers' needs, resources at your  disposal (human and financial), your organization's monetization strategy and the type of user experience you would like to provide.

What follows is a short presentation which I put together to compare and contrast the 2 platforms. After doing my research I had a change of heart: originally I was of the opinion the differences between the two platforms do not warrant the extra cost for a native app development, but, as someone who is responsible for user experience and functionality, now I lean more toward native apps. But my requirements may be very different than yours:

  • Rich user experience
  • Security
  • Accessibility

As a starting point I suggest you have a clearly defined mobile strategy aligned with your organization’s overall vision and goals.

What follows is my presentation verbatim. I am not making any changes or add any new verbiage as I think each section is self-explanatory.

Native Apps – An Overview

  • The one issue historically with native apps has been around discovery.
  • For the majority of smaller app developers – being able to be found is key to their success.
  • As of mid-2013, Apple's App Store had over 1,000,000 apps.
  • Producing a brilliant app is only half the job done – next battle is how to tell people about the app.

Native Apps: The Good

  • Users spending huge amounts of time in native apps, almost now as much as TV in a single day.
  • Native apps are better than HTML5 executions on using function of the device itself, including the accelerometer, camera, calendar, GPS, microphone etc.
  • Example: the RR Evoque allows users to use the iPhone/iPad accelerometer to looking 360 degrees around the interior of the car –only possible in an app environment.

Native Apps: The Bad

  • App stores mean parting with 30% to Apple or 20% to Google of your revenue (if transactional).
  • On average, developers only actively retain 4% of the users who downloaded their app after a year.
  • Updates through App stores: long approval times and risk of failing the process and pushing back the update.

Native Apps: Conclusion

  • Consumers love native apps, as they offer an overall excellent user experience, speedy performance, and advanced security features.
  • Use for retaining customers once you've acquired them.

HTML 5: The Good

  • Mobile web experience tends to be more functional.
  • Fast favorite among enterprise platforms.
  • Developers love them because HTML is a familiar language.
  • Advantage of working across all mobile operating systems.
  • Cost-effective: designing a single app for multiple platforms and no-approval-necessary distribution.

HTML 5: The Bad

  • HTML5 is not yet mature enough: Missing APIs, weaker UI compared to native apps and difficulty routing ads onto HTML5 sites.
  • No access to certain device events and services.
  • Network dependence: dependent on network coverage, an HTML 5 app can become inaccessible to consumers who cannot access any kind of network. 
  • Slower user interaction: web runtime barrier.
  • Can’t use GPU acceleration and multithreading.

HTML 5: Conclusion

  • A more cost effective approach.
  • Use mobile web as a means of acquiring new customers.

Side By Side Comparison



Native Apps

HTML5 Web Apps

User Experience

Fast; Interactive user experience

Browser based; Responsive Design that feels like a native app.


Advanced security feature

Basic security features


Higher development costs

Reasonable development costs


Accessible offline

Requires internet connection.

App Visibility

Dedicated app store

On line

App Availability

Approval needed from Apple or Google for publication & updates

No approval necessary.

Integration with Mobile

Reliable access to built-in mobile apps like camera, Location, etc.




Bottom Line

  • Native apps currently dominate the market.
  • Native can do more.
  • Native runs faster.
  • Native fits platform look-and-feel.
  • HTML5 is often easier to develop.
  • HTML5 continues to evolve and improve in the coming years.

What’s next?

Next week I will return to my unfinished discussion on Cloudera and Hadoop. Now that we have a development platform up and running the fun is just about to start.

If you or your company is interested in more information on this topic and other topics, be sure to keep reading my blog.  

Also, as I am with the IEEE Computer Society,  I should mention there are technology resources available 24/7 and specific training on custom topics available. Here is the IEEE CS program link if you are interested, TechLeader Training Partner Program,


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