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Could native apps disappear as HTML5 apps gain?

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July 6, 2012

Saks iPad app

As the user experience for part-native, part-Web-based applications continues to improve, marketers and developers are increasingly considering this hybrid solution a viable option for creating cross-platform strategies.

Developing native apps is very expensive and they only target one specific platform, whether its iOS, Android or something else. However, because consumer engagement with apps can be significant, marketers know they need to be in this space and are looking for more cost-effective strategies to reach across multiple platforms and hybrid apps built using HTML5 technology appear to be an increasingly promising solution.

“We are seeing a marked increase in activity surrounding branding apps that will deploy massively cross-platform,” said David Kennedy, CEO of appMobi, Lancaster, PA.

“In the short run, we see the majority of game and content app development migrating to hybrid, driven by cost concerns and efficiency of addressing multiple platforms,” he said.

“Native development is very expensive and only targets a single market, while hybrid app development using Web technology is somewhat less expensive, but the ROI is much higher because you can deploy the hybrid app to all of the stores that are supported by the build system.”

Hybrid apps
Marketers across a wide variety of categories are gravitating toward hybrid apps to extend the reach of an existing program that was created for iOS only but now needs to address other platforms, per Mr. Kennedy. AppMobi reports that 40 percent of the apps created with HTML5 are media, 35 percent are games and 15 percent are retail.

However, new apps are likely to be developed as HTML5 hybrid offerings from the start so that marketers are able to develop only once and still be able to deliver an app across platforms.

“The costs of developing a second native app for just one market are unjustifiable,” Mr. Kennedy said. “If you look at iOS as the premier market, and most do, then look at hybrid as the way to address everything else.

AppMobi reports that it has seen 100 million hybrid HTML5 app starts on its platform, with more than 50,000 HTML5 developers actively building apps, more than five times the number developing HTML5 hybrid apps a year ago.

One reason for the growth in HTML5 hybrid app development is that the experience is improving both for developers and consumers.

In the past year, the average time a developer needs to complete an HTML5 hybrid app has been reduced by half to just 8 weeks, per appMobi.

“Because of continual advancements in CPUs and GPU power, mobile operating systems, high-speed connectivity and, most of all, browser technology, hybrid apps are now able to deliver the same high quality user experience that people have been trained to expect from native apps,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Higher ROIs
Hybrid apps can also deliver a higher ROI than native apps because their reach is so much broader.

Cross-platform apps from appMobi run on iOS, Android, Facebook, Amazon, Nook and the open Web.

Hybrid apps can also be attractive to developers because there is a different pricing model compared with native apps. While iOS and Android typically charge developers 30 percent of their revenues for the use of their platform, appMobi charges a flat rate of $0.10 per monthly active user when apps reach about 10,000 MAUs.

Native apps are developed for a specific device, need to be installed and stored on the device. Web apps are written entirely with Web technologies while hybrid apps use a combination of native device and browser-based technologies.

Despite the benefits offered by hybrid apps, they are not going to be the solution for all marketers in every circumstance. Also, hybrid apps will eventually be replaced by fully Web-based apps in the next few years.

“There will always be native apps,” Mr. Kennedy said. “HTML5 and hybrid app technology is not a complete replacement for native development.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York

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