Recently we had a discussion in our team about the direction web service startups needed to go to mobile enable their service. The discussion revolved around building a native mobile app (android or iPhone app) versus creating a mobile version of the site using HTML5 and accessing it on a mobile browser.
As I looked around the web for my own enrichment, I was pleasantly surprised to see rich user interfaces created with HTML5 that looked very similar to a mobile app. Just check out popular sites like YouTube (m.youtube.com), CNN (m.cnn.com) on your smartphone and you will understand what I talking about. HTML5 now offers some really cool things that developers can incorporate such as geo-location features, application data caching etc. In fact, I like the mobile version of YouTube running on a mobile browser better than the app on my iPhone. Netflix leveraged HTML5 as well in their design for the new user interface on PS3 platform and it looks really cool!
Does this mean that HTML5 is a direct threat to native mobile apps on the iPhone and Android? I think so. Maybe not right away, but definitely in the near future, as wireless bandwidth constraints are eliminated and 4G becomes more main stream, HTML5 can be expected to challenge the app world directly.
Image via CrunchBase
I've always disliked the idea to download apps that provide only content delivery or services (like CNN, eBay etc.) I would rather download apps that uses the phone’s intrinsic features - such as games, or those apps that are computing intensive or network related. Also, the hassle of downloading an app and periodic updates is an irritant to say the least for most people (not to mention those app downloads that stop mid way). HTML5 could be an option for sites and web services that primarily need to deliver content to mobile users.
Finally, the native app scene is getting too crowded (300,000+ iPhone apps and 100,000 Android apps). The average smartphone user typically already has between 25-40 apps on their phone and hence it is becoming increasingly difficult for new apps to make them download new ones. Adopting HTML5 to develop a rich mobile version of the site would be an attractive option for new entrants.
So stay tuned for more HTML5 and a new bunch of sites with cool features and services.