HTML5 vs. Native Apps: Which is the Future of Mobile Apps?

Percentage of Web Traffic from Mobile DevicesAlmost a third of web traffic is from mobile devices, 29% in fact, according to Chicago-based public relations firm Walker Sands. What's more, the trend is growing, this marks a 73% increase year-over-year from 2012.

You're ready to put your business, your product, or service in front of a mobile audience. But what's the best way to do it?

What is most cost effective?

What will generate the most traffic, and the most legitimate business?

Native Mobile Applications versus platform-agnostic HTML5 (mobile websites)

HTML5 and native mobile apps have been in the boxing ring for awhile now. Where do each stand in terms of graphics? Responsiveness? Data storage?

The future of HTML5 in mobile apps is crucial to those investing some of their technology budget towards mobile app development. We're here to say that you should put your money on the HTML5 side of things, as it appears to be filling the gaps that native apps leave behind.

What are HTML 5 and Native Apps?

  • HTML5 is the fifth collection of improvements that have been made to the web-language, HTML. It was designed with the intention of improving mult-platform apps, and to redesign the web for more compatibility with mobile devices. It is housed on the web and can run inside a mobile browser (like your smartphone or tablet), and doesn't need to be re-built from scratch for each operating system.
  • A native app is an app that is built for a specific device or platform. These apps typically take full advantage of the system they were built for, using its unique features.

Mobile development by HTML5 displays a clear advantage over native apps.

Where do we go from here?

It was once the case that if you wanted to build a response, dynamic, and effective mobile presence for your brand, you needed to develop a mobile application. Actually, to reach a broad audience, you needed to build multiple mobile applications - one for iPhone/iPad (iOS), one for Android... and maybe one for Windows. One for Blackberry? What about those Symbian users?

It started to get very expensive.

In the meantime, HTML5 development began closing the gap, and continues to do so. HTML5 allows the "write once, run anywhere" approach, reducing the cost of development to a single solution.

Here's how HTML 5 is closing the performance gap, according to Business Insider:

Scalable Graphics

Web apps are doing well on the "scalable graphics" front: that is, graphics that adopt their size when a user zooms in or out on them. These allow for very high-tech, high-touch interfaces. Additionally, web pages can be built to be "fully responsive", meaning that they resize, and even modify content itself, depending on the size of the display.

Improved Multimedia Capabilities

Video and audio functions have become a widely supported HTML5 function as far as app features go. Other media platforms still have a little ways to go.

Device Detection

HTML5 has vastly improved its agility so that when you're looking to download code (software, an application) it will recognize what device you are using and offer you an app best suited to your device. This entails providing you optimal layout, behavior, and resolution for your screen type.

Data Storage

Web apps are much farther along in storing data so that users can come back to an app and pick up where they last left off. Offline storage of data for an HTML5 mobile website, however, still needs improvement. This is one area where a native mobile application still excels.


Geolocation, real-world geographic location of a device, this is basically a solved issue across all mobile platforms. Integration with user calendars and address books are still being worked on.


HTML 5 is only getting better, and the market seems to be moving in the direction of HTML5 rather than native apps. If you are looking to invest in creating mobile app technology, in many cases HTML5 is going to be your wisest investment. The functionality is there and will only continue to improve. Using HTML5's "write once, run everywhere" mentality will ultimately save you time and resources.

Need a better understanding of your options? Send us an email or give us a call, and we'll translate the Geek into English.

Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).