LinkedIn announced only a year earlier that it was betting on mobile web apps on the iPad. The company made a surprising change when it released new versions of its mobile apps in April 2013. The company announced that it was going with native apps for iOS, Android and other platforms over mobile web apps based on HTML5. What does this mean for the average small business trying to decide between a mobile app and a native app? Which kind of application makes sense?
Why has LinkedIn bet on native apps?
In interviews, LinkedIn’s director for mobile engineering says that there are a number of performance issues to do with HTML5 at this point. There are issues to do with memory, speed and rendering. A smooth and satisfying experience can only be had using a native app, the director says.
This doesn’t mean that LinkedIn is giving up on HTML5 – the company can’t, because a large part of their membership comes in through email links. LinkedIn decided on concentrating on HTML5 at a time when mobile users were a minority. Since mobile use has exploded since then, it no longer feels that HTML5 adequately offers the quality required by such a large user segment.
Is this the end of the road for HTML5?
HTML5 still has a bright future. The problem at this point, though, is that it doesn’t have the dedicated support of a huge organization behind it. A developer building an Android app or an iOS app has an excellent developer kit supplied by Google or Apple. When things go wrong in the building process, these developer kits offer excellent diagnostics. HTML5 doesn’t yet have that kind of developer support to power it.
Native HTML5 apps still lag behind mobile apps in a few important ways
To begin, graphically rich mobile apps still don’t work without glitches. They open up mobile devices to security risks and businesses can have trouble selling an HTML5 app – there is no app store for it.
Which should your business pick – a mobile app that runs HTML5 or a native app?
The greatest advantage of a mobile HTML5 app is that it is able to run on practically any device. Devices don’t need to install anything to use it – they just run on browsers. People can find these apps on search engine searches. A mobile app, on the other hand, can only be seen when searched for on a specific app store. A person who discovers a mobile app can easily post a link to all his friends, irrespective of what kind of phones they have. If they don’t use a mobile device, they could even view the link on a computer. They would just need to use a service such as InternetServiceProvider.net find an inexpensive connection to the Internet.
A business that is mainly interested in expanding its reach should have an HTML5 app. It could help them find new users and they are cheap to develop, after all.
A native app has its own advantages. It offers a rich user experience, is much more stable than a mobile app and can encourage user loyalty.
Editor’s Note: Ryan Hugo is a small business IT guru. He frequently helps businesses with their IT questions by writing for small business blogs.