Native mobile app development is expensive and sometimes a very lengthy project, in large part because the apps are built to run on specific mobile devices and operating systems. But native mobile apps can take full advantage of such on-device features as the compass, camera and GPS and generally offer better performance than apps written in the HTML5 Web language.
Writing the HTML5-based hybrid mobile app core is often depicted as easy and requiring little development experience, but this is misleading.
An alternative to native and Web mobile apps is hybrid mobile applications, which attempt to combine the strengths of native and HTML5 mobile app development while minimizing their disadvantages. Furthermore, hybrid mobile applications are distributed by app stores such as Apple App Store and Android Play just like native mobile apps, making them more readily available than pure HTML5 mobile apps. They can simply be downloaded and run on mobile devices like any other app store item.
The HTML5 app core can then be reused for other mobile platforms. Only the native wrapper needs to be written for each mobile device and operating system. You can automatically generate wrappers (aka containers) by using software from vendors such as PhoneGap and Appcelerator, greatly reducing development time.
Before committing to native mobile or hybrid mobile applications, consider the user experience and what each development option provides as well as the level of investment needed to achieve your mobile app goals. Also consider the benefits of hybrid mobile apps outlined above.
But also be aware of the drawbacks of hybrid mobile applications, including performance issues. No mobile device browser fully supports HTML5, and the support may be uneven across devices.
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Making hybrid mobile application development as easy as advertised usually requires buying into one vendor's approach to building containers for the HTML5-based core. Choose a container vendor that agrees with your mobile app goals. Since many container vendors are small companies -- startups in some cases -- try to find one that could be around for a sufficiently long time.
Development organizations should seriously consider adopting HTML5 for mobile app development sooner rather than later. Hybrid mobile apps developed today with HTML5 cores can be turned into HTML5 mobile Web apps in the future without having to rewrite them from scratch. This approach can provide a gradual entry into the future world of HTML5 as its gains greater support.
This was first published in January 2013