Thursday 25 October 2012

MomoLondon: HTML vs Native

A lively and exciting debate (despite the old material!), well-run by Ewan MacLeod, Editor, Mobile Industry Review @ew4n


Team HTML5

  • Andrew Betts @triblondon
    • HTML5 apps for FT
  • Simon Arora, Biz Dev Mgr, Keynote DeviceAnywhere @devanywhere
    • Initially all about native
    • More and more customers asking for HTML5
    • More platforms with a single codebase
    • No need for appstore or marketplace certification
    • Wider reach to monetise services
  • Jose Valles, Head of Bluevia @josevalles49
    • Been an HTML5 supporter for a long time
    • Launching FirefoxOS device

Team Native

  • Alex Caccia, President, Marmalade @marmaladeapps
    • one of the leading cross-platform build platforms
    • take advantage of ARM instruction set…
    • two of top three games in US app store built using marmalade
    • HTML5 just doesn’t provide enough power - need native for performance
    • HTML5 does not solve fragmentation
  • Chris Book, Bardowl @bookmeister
    • native gives close access to device APIs
    • deal with different network situations
    • HTML5 doesn’t work for audio streaming and caching
  • Nick Barnett, CEO, Mippin @docnickb
    • make app builders for operators and manufacturers
    • provide both HTML5 and native app builders
    • it’s more about the business model and distribution
      • if you want to be in the app store, you have to be native

Last app you paid for?

  • AB: Open House London
    • because their website is appalling and doesn’t work
  • SA: Travel Deluxe
    • native london travel
  • JV: probably a skateboarding app, or tripit or spotify
  • AC: Expense Calculator
  • CB: New Star Soccer
    • 10 games free, then in-app purchases
  • NB: International Rules of Yacht Racing
    • native

All native apps. If you want to buy an app, it has to be in an app store…

What about Facebook?

  • AC: Hardware platform is moving faster than anything else
    • If you come up against an issue, you’re against the browser
    • The only way past is to know the details of the insides of the browser
    • Can’t solve it by logic (terrible for project management!)

FT web app UX

  • EM: FT webapp has to go through local cache expanding step before starting
  • AB: equivalent to installing an app from the store
    • if you say no, it still works; but in a potentially limited way
    • actually a benefit: allows levels of access

Stats from deviceanywhere

  • SA: out of 100 customers, top 25 are looking at HTML5
    • have a lot of enterprise customers
    • looking to increase their reach
  • NB: these customers already have iOS and Android apps?
  • SA: yes, looking to extend reach across devices without decent appstores

HSBC Business Banking

  • EM: it’s an utterly crap HTML5 experience
    • banks say they’d love to do HTML5, but security say no!
  • JV: why then do they have online banking?
    • want to keep customer experience
  • CB: native NatWest app is better than web experience…
    • haven’t been able to update their website in 12 years!
    • loads of apps where you use native app first rather than web site
      • e.g. Hailo, National Rail Enquiries
  • NB: cross-platform HTML5 is a nonsense
    • at Mippin, we build web app builders for each platform separately
  • AB: that’s just ‘cos you’re not doing it very well!
    • FT use same codebase for Android, iPhone, iPad
  • NB: but Windows Phone 7 UX is completely different from iOS
    • customers expect something different
    • so you need to write your UI differently anyway
    • may as well write it natively each time

How do we resolve vested interests? And designing for format?

  • AB: each format and each channel will have differing expectations
    • if you define your constraints narrowly enough, natively will always be better
    • if you have a broad strategy and vision, then web technology will win
    • what about TV? what about kiosks?
    • a single web technology solution will adapt to those situations
    • single code base works with touch, keyboard and gestures too!
    • at a recent hackday, FT Labs connected a Kinect and controlled the app without touching the screen
    • the FT webapp works in the way that the people reading the paper are used to — independent of device expectations
  • AC: want a fine degree of control over what it looks like and how it behaves
    • in gaming environment, you really want to make the app shine
  • CB: isn’t this all about the 30% that Apple want to take out of the subscription?
  • AB: it’s not (exclusively) about the 30% — it’s more about a direct relationship with the customer
    • enables customers to switch devices without losing their subscription
  • CB: but Spotify have native apps and still go cross platform whilst keeping relationship with customers
  • AB: if Apple changed their rules to say that Spotify would have to give a percentage of their revenue, then Spotify would be stuffed
  • NB: if the Daily Mail went the FT route would people get their news elsewhere?

Is it fair to say that HTML5 is destroying usability of mobile platforms?

  • JV: no, it’s building something
  • CB: Google Maps browser version just not as good as previous native version


  • NB: mippin use unique per platform wrappers
    • PhoneGap works well for iOS, not so well for Android
    • BlackBerry has WebWorks
    • hardcore gaming is a pretty specialist use case
  • CA: use the right tool for the right job
    • SDK supports HTML5 content within an app
    • and then you can switch out and use the native with ease
  • Audience: built a PhoneGap app and was appalled by performance
    • scrolling 50-100 names was just not good enough

Native provides consistent experience?

  • Spotify on some platforms lets you order playlist, Android doesn’t
  • if been written on HTML5, then would have worked fine
  • AB: people put 70% of budget into iOS
    • then 20% into Android
    • then 5% into Windows and Blackberry…
    • not surprising that non-iOS apps are crap


  • JV: 700K apps in Apple appstore, so discovery there is hard too
    • don’t see a difference
  • AB: FT not in a unique position – shared by lots of big brands
    • for small companies, app store is probably a good thing
    • FT have specialist native apps in the store which point users in the direction of the web app

Prisoners of the market owners?

  • NB: usual retail model: retailer takes 30-40% of revenue
    • and benefits can be considerable!
    • if you’re in Brazil in 2 years time with Boot2Gecko devices, then the mindset could be completely different
  • Dan Appelquist: isn’t that the issue — app stores are dragging us back into the old model that the open internet is breaking us out of
  • CB: yes, the dominance is worrying
    • but it’s a business making opportunity for startups
  • CA: native is not closed
    • hardware manufacturers trying to make best user experience

Security in native?

  • CB: difficult to securely store offline data
    • premium audio streaming is not yet possible in HTML5
  • EM: a bank developer said “the security people want a native app for encryption reasons”
  • AB: why does the online banking not just work on the phone?
    • yes, you can have encrypted storage, but do you need it

Best way in for mobile development

  • NB: use an app template toolkit for a size that fits
    • learn to be a mobile developer…
  • what if you just want to see your idea?
  • CA: most dangerous word when you start is “just”…
  • AB: the reason for the standard layouts on web is ads
    • have to build the design to fit the adverts
    • there’s been a boost in design creativity from moving to new formats
    • you can take that newfound focus on user experience and bring it back to the desktop
    • you’d never expect a mobile app to have big gutters down the side
    • unless it’s an iOS 5 app on an iPhone 5…


  • NB: issue for HTML5 apps
  • AB: W3C working on notifications as a spec…

New users from India, China & Brazil won’t be in Apple or Google’s ecosystem

  • NB: won’t be a technology decision — more of a distribution

Javascript libraries?

  • NB: 85% of development in HTML5 apps goes into javascript

Great new debugging suites for Android Chrome and iOS Safari

  • Dominic Travers: great time to develop HTML5 apps!

Will we still be arguing in 5 years’ time?

  • AB: native will always be able to innovate faster
    • web will be behind, but standardised
    • FT’s Android app is partly native for performance
    • as soon as the browser catches up, they’ll remove the native part


  • W3C community group
  • UKTI Competition Final 29th October
  • 7th Anniversary in November

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