It has somehow become fashionable in the mobile development community to have a firm (and annoyingly loud!) stance on HTML5 vs Native Apps. Whether we're talking about full HTML5 browser-based "App-like" experiences, hybrid wrapper-style solutions created by cross-platform products like Phonegap or Titanium, or simply HTML5-powered content appearing within native Apps (such as widgets or live ads) - when it comes to the two terms "HTML5" and "Native" appearing in the same sentence - people are immediately compelled to pick a side.
Why is this issue still so divisive? And more importantly, why does it exist at all?
The argument itself is simply an inherited "meeting meme" that people in the industry propagate to sound current. Sounds a bit harsh - but hey, it's kinda true.
The truth is - your content, your application or your product can be effective as either a native application or an HTML5 experience. The trick is to identify the features, the functions - and crucially, the location of your audience before deciding whether to pursue a browser-based or an "App Store"-based solution.
The FT really mucked things up for most rational digital business professionals with the launch of their FT Web App (and subsequent exit from the Apple App Store). Almost overnight it became de rigueur to plan an HTML5-only digital strategy - see Facebook, the BBC, and others. Then when HTML5 didn't deliver the goodsimmediately (more on this later), these same companies were back to native apps - and the mob has followed.
Let's slow down here folks and remember HTML5 is still evolving, and is still not (or may never be) the simple "code once, run on every device" magic pill it's been sold as. Just ask the FT - as their Web App is still severely limited to only a few target devices. However, even though the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and others have raced back into the arms of native code - it doesn't mean native development has won the day either.
In the end, this debate is all about trends. For a good 18 months it was simply fashionable to state that HTML5 was the future of apps, and native apps would inevitably fade. Now for the past few months it's been almost the reverse. What people are losing is perspective on what these two options provide - and that's OPTIONS.
HTML5 products - Web Apps, ads, games, etc - can be the ideal approach for clients with a healthy online user-base that knows the brand and know how to find it. Native apps continue to offer the most immersive, custom channel experience bringing with it all the benefits (and pitfalls) of an App Store.
The point is - in truth there is really is no battle at all - except perhaps on the final slide of many PowerPoint presentations.
Both HTML5 and native developments are the right choice for certain developers and specific products offerings. The trick is not to choose based on dogma - but to choose based on what you are looking to achieve. Leave the nonsensical Battle Royale to the same people who overuse (and do not understand) terms like API, RSS and XML.
So the next time you are asked that ridiculous 3-word question: "HTML5 or Native?" - buck the current trend (whatever it may be) and choose BOTH.