Users Frequently Can’t Tell If They’re Using A Native App Or HTML5

Users Frequently Can’t Tell If They’re Using A Native App Or HTML5

There has been much hand-wringing about the merits of using HTML5 versus building native apps for mobile device. Whatever the technical arguments, it’s important not to lose sight of one key fact: many end users can’t tell the difference.

Mobile app picture from Shutterstock

Developers are understandably concerned with the development approaches for the two alternatives, which are quite distinct. However, as Gartner analyst David Mitchell Smith points out in a recent paper, that distinction is often ignored by users:

The main issue is that users cannot tell, in most instances, if an app is native or a wrapped hybrid. To them, it is an app if it comes from the app store (not just Apple’s App Store, but also Google’s Play store, Amazon and enterprise app stores). Users see what they want as “native,” and that reinforces perceptions that HTML5 is not relevant or dead.

The lesson? As much as you might think hybrid apps are awkward, users are more likely to embrace them. The key may not be what you build, but how you deliver it.



  • I made an HTML5 app for work, no one knows the difference, can tell the difference, nor do they care. As long as it works, they’re happy.

  • As long as it performs well. A good native app fully loads a new screen after tap in a quarter of a second. Mobile web, HTML5, and hybrid take many seconds (2 – 3). Native apps can preload text, images and video to keep things snappy. This is extra important with video. If we can get the customer to pay for the extra development, we download video in the background so that videos play instantly when the user taps. Users delete apps with slow loading media. From that standpoint, you can’t beat native. Plus native code puts you in close touch with all of the features of the phone: camera, compass, accelerometer, gyro, gps, etc. If the app has simple text and images html5 might be good enough, but for high performance, you need native. This is why Facebook went native a few years ago.

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