Choosing what mobile platforms to support continues to be a vexing problem for developers both big and small. Supporting one platform can be difficult enough, but now developers not only have multiple operating systems to consider, but multiple device types as well. HTML5 has been the centre of the debate around how to solve this conundrum, but still has a way to go in realising all the benefits it promises.
However, the mobile Web is growing up quickly, and many HTML5 features are already supported on modern mobile browsers. Since a de facto requirement for any modern mobile operating system is the inclusion of a modern HTML5-compliant Web browser, modern smartphones and tablets support the bells and whistles that make HTML5 so special.
What this means is that it’s becomingly increasingly simple for developers that choose to create HTML5 Web apps for the desktop to use the same code when crafting an app for mobile phones or tablets.
“When it comes to mobile development there are three primary routes to go: native; Web-based; or a hybrid approach,” explains Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings.
“The hybrid approach seeks to blend the flexibility found in HTML5-based apps with more complex, native mobile apps into one platform. Native applications can provide a rich user experience, but it can be time-consuming and expensive to build native applications for multiple device operating systems. HTML5 has opened the door for device-independent user interfaces.”
He adds that as HTML5 gets better and browser support of HTML5 improves, the differences between running an HTML5 app in a native wrapper and accessing an HTML5 Web app from an app shortcut on a home screen is going to continue to disappear.
“HTML5 has an important and growing place in mobility. Mobile device proliferation is forcing IT departments to change. They must now support mobile devices, which further extends to the need for the development of mobile-friendly applications.
“As users get more and more savvy, simply accessing existing applications via a mobile browser doesn’t fly. Delivering a rich user interface for a mobile application can be either done natively or by using HTML5.”
But with companies like Facebook dropping HTML5 in favour of native mobile apps, the benefits of this technology are largely being ignored as developers buy into the common misconceptions around the standard.
Firth points out that many hardware vendors do not allow HTML5 to access the camera, the address book, vibration, the phone or text messaging – all the functions that makes a mobile device interesting for developers and all those that are necessary to make apps useful.
“As the mobile application space continues to explode, developers will increasingly use HTML5 to aid in the creation of Web apps and native mobile apps, whether hardware vendors like it or not.
“Developers can use the same set of technologies they know and love to build rich applications that work across different device types. Increasing uptake of HTML5 will also ultimately mean that developers can feel free to use the technology when creating their applications and not have to worry that the device itself won’t support a particular function,” Firth concludes.