ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

Heather Maloney
Heather Maloney Heather Maloney, Founder of Contact Point IT Services and eNudge.com.au, has a Master in Technology (Information Technology) majoring in the web, and has over 16 years experience in the IT industry, most of which has been focused on delivering business benefits via the use of internet related technologies. Recent achievements: Contact Point were appointed to the Centrelink Creative Design Panel, serving around 30 Federal Government Departments with website design and development services, commencing October 2011.

Heather Maloney has written 38 article(s) for us.

Visit http://www.contactpoint.com.au



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Apps – Build Natively for Apple or Android, or in HTML5 for All Platforms?

October 16, 2012 | Heather Maloney

Before building an App it is important to consider all of the platform options and the devices your end users are acessing.
Before building an App it is important to consider all of the platform options and the devices your end users are acessing.

Should you get your app built natively for Apple or Android, or built in HTML5 for all platforms?

In a nutshell:

  1. building natively for Apple means programming in Objective C for the app to run on iOS (the Apple operating system) within an iPhone or an iPad
  2. building natively for Android means programming in Java for the app to run on a smart phone or tablet on the Android operating system (Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich are two flavours of Android)
  3. building in HTML5 equates to developing the app in a language and software platform so that the app can be compiled to run on pretty much any smartphone or tablet device.

Whilst on the face of it, the answer might appear to be a “no-brainer” – build once in HTML5 for all platforms in order to save time and cost, both in development and later maintenance of the application – as usual in the sphere of information technology, the answer is really not so simple.

Building in one of the native environments is usually the best option in cases where your application provides a highly specialised user interface, or uses more complex features such as GPS or other apps or device capabilities (e.g. camera). This is because the native environment allows the programmer greater control over the code used to achieve the end result, meaning that the user experience of the app, speed, performance and security are likely to be superior.

Building in HTML5 is a sensible approach for the dissemination of information (e.g. content publishing), or gathering of simple information from the customer (e.g. a survey). It is also possible to achieve more dynamic functionality by adding JavaScript to the HTML5 language, and using 3rd party tools such as PhoneGap to build for any device platform, however, our experience is that the end result has less of the normal ‘feel’ of a natively built app, and does not perform as well.

In making a decision for your own app you will also obviously factor in Budget and Target Audience.

Budget

If you want to support many device platforms, then building apps natively for each platform is going to cost you a lot more than building in HTML5 and JavaScript. If you are a business and require an app to be built for your sales force or a small client group, then you can probably choose to support just one mobile platform, and develop in the native language, thus avoiding the trade offs in look and feel and functionality.

Target Audience

The broader your target audience, the more likely it is that your app will need to be built for multiple platforms. However, the market share of device platforms will continue to change, so that is a consideration also. Apple devices a year or more ago had a much larger market share than they now have; with the Android platform rapidly growing their market share. Blackberry was recently a very strong player in the smart phone device space, but now you are more likely to see a Blackberry lying discarded in a desk drawer than actually in use.

Conclusion

When deciding what platform your app will need to work on, you need to weigh up:

  • the functionality required for your app
  • what device platform your target audience is likely to be using
  • your budget
  • industry and technology changes

Share your experiences regarding choosing a platform for your apps via a comment below.