HTML5 trumping iOS among app developers in emerging mobile markets

HTML5 trumping iOS among app developers in emerging mobile markets

Summary: Mobile app developers in many regions outside the US and Europe are choosing to develop apps in HTML5 rather than iOS but it's iOS that's earning devs the biggest bucks.

TOPICS: Mobility

While Android and iOS are the platforms that will guarantee mobile developers an audience in the US and Europe, developers in much of the rest of the world favour HTML5 over iOS.

Among mobile app makers in South Asia, South America and the Middle East and Africa, HTML5 is the most popular platform after Android to develop for, according to a survey of more than 6,000 developers by the analyst house VisionMobile. Apple's iOS platform, used on the iPhone and iPad, is the third most popular OS among these mobile developers.

VisionMobile categorises HTML5 developers as those using web technologies such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to build browser and hybrid apps. Hybrid apps are those rendered inside a web view with a native software wrapper to allow them to control more of the phone's hardware and be sold through app stores.

The relatively low popularity of iOS among developers in emerging mobile markets tallies with the modest sales of Apple iOS devices in some of these regions.

IDC figures from last year show iOS devices account for less than 10 percent market share in Africa, compared to 70 percent plus share for Android. The analyst house forecasts that iOS will still be below 20 percent market share in 2017, while Android handsets will account for close to 80 percent of the market.

The popularity of HTML5 apps in countries where smartphone penetration is low also supports Mozilla's decision to launch its web-app focused Firefox OS handsets in countries where smartphone ownership is relatively rare, such as Latin America. Firefox OS is an open source operating system designed to run apps built using HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Image: VisionMobile

Globally, Android is the number one choice for developers building mobile apps, favoured by 71 percent of programmers, with Apple's iOS the next most popular platform, chosen by 55 percent of developers.

iOS is the preferred platform for developers in North America and Europe while Android wins in every other region. The difference is especially pronounced in Asia, where 46 percent of mobile developers prioritise Android, compared to 28 percent for iOS.

Worldwide, 37 percent of mobile developers are building HTML5 apps for the browser and an additional 15 percent are making hybrid HTML5 apps.

In fourth place was Windows Phone, favoured by 26 percent of developers and up from 21 percent last year, followed by Windows 8, which was the choice of 21 percent of developers and BlackBerry chosen by 14 percent.

On average, developers make apps for 2.5 platforms at the same time, which is down from 2.9 in VisionMobile's survey in the third quarter of 2013.

HTML5 is a popular companion platform, across all primary platforms. Among those developing primarily on iOS or Android, about 19 percent use HTML5 to display limited web content in their apps, for example documentation or elements that may require frequent updating.


The majority of developers, 60 percent, fall below what the report calls the "app poverty line", where developers earn less than $500 per app per month.

However, iOS apps generally earned more for developers than apps written for other platforms.

"iOS has a larger 'middle class' than Android. Among developers that generate $500 — $10K per app per month, 37 percent prioritise iOS vs 25 percent Android," the report said.

The popularity of selling apps has fallen since VisionMobile's survey last year, dropping to 24 percent of developers, while more app-makers are now earning money from in-app purchases, rising to 22 percent.

In-app advertising is also on the increase, utilised by 26 percent of developers.

"In-app advertising is the low-hanging fruit and as such remains one of most popular revenue models, at 26 percent of app developers, particularly strong on platforms where demand for direct purchases is weak, such as Windows Phone and Android," the report said.

In-app purchases also proved lucrative relative to other monetisation strategies, with a median revenue of $425, compared to $150 for both pay per download and in-app advertising.

Contract development is now the most popular direct revenue model, with 26 percent of mobile app developers currently developing apps on commission.

Image: VisionMobile

More on HTML5

Topic: Mobility


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • HTML5 opinion

    I have developed a few mobile apps, but never in HTML5. Using Java for Android, XAML for Win Phone, and Object-C for iOS. The perceived benefit of HTML 5 is to be able to port code between platforms, however the HTML5 toolkits are just not a good consequently making the app harder to develop to begin with.

    In terms of revenue, its all about getting featured. You are less likely to get featured in iOS because of saturation, Android features mostly big companies, Win Phone has best chance because they update the featured and top 100 list more frequently. I have made the most money at Win Phone because I was featured twice.
    Sean Foley
    • Me too!

      I have developed with Android/Java, Objective-C and the WinPhone8 platform - essentially XAML as well and I completely agree. The other humourous point to all of this is that HTML5 is still incomplete, it doesn't even include "touch-enabled" routines - meaning it is NOT built for touch. When I developed an app with HTML5 I find I had to perform a lot of "native" API coding on each of the platforms to make the app look smooth and polished and quite frankly to work with device internals (camera for scanning for example) or push notification. Cross platform as with the Java "promise" isn't all what it is cut out to be! It will work, but it simply isn't anywhere close to native.
  • HTML5 isn't fun to work with

    It is great for UI prototyping, but you tend to get poorly performing apps, and then don't get me started on trying to debug Javascript - what a horrible thing to have to do!
    • Debugging Javascript in Chrome

      is easy. Just use the developer tools. Even IE9 and Firefox have excellent JS debugging tools. Although IE is still the worst of the three it does let you set break points.
      • IE9 debugger can set breakpoint

        what are you talking about? of course it can set BP:
        • Did T1Oracle claim that IE9 cannot set breakpoints?

          "Although IE is still the worst of the three it DOES let you set break points."

          Capitalization by me.
      • Debugging Javascript works great in Chrome, IE, and Firebug

        But it is the structure of the language, the lack of typing, and the terrible syntax of JSON that makes it difficult... plus, when the problem is a bug in one of the many libraries people inevitably use (like jQuery or Angular), well you're hosed... there's no debugging compressed js.
  • HTML5 Bandwagon...

    Developing native applications that are cross-platform is fairly easy if you use the right tools.

    Javascript is a mess, if you want to write something quick then it is ok. However if you want to maintain and debug it good luck. The clue is in the name 'script', its a scripting language that was not designed to write main stream applications. Google has realised this and is developing Dart.

    For now as most times in our industry people tend to jump on the bandwagon and believe the hype and then move on to the next great thing.
    • Cross-platform native apps

      What tools for developing cross-platform native apps would you recommend?
      Honeyboy Wilson
  • Not an HTML5 fan

    I've spent nearly 2 years now trying to do what we used to do in Flash in HTML5/JavaScript/CSS/etc. Overall, the experience has been poor. If I had my choice I'd build in Flash, use the swf for PC browsers and export Flash as AIR apps for iOS and Android. But for some reason this isn't a popular choice, so we continue with less-than-mediocre HTML5 in the hopes that someday, with the right tools and add-ons and browser support, it will work.
    • Great Tool Called Hype

      Have you tried Hype? It's a great tool:
    • Lol @ Flash

      Flash is so dead man. Just move on. HTML/CSS are not idea in every respect, but they do work. And if you are building an app, your best off using the native language for the apps. But Flash? Ya, you might as well dig yourself a grave.
  • Makes sense...

    HTML is intended for the brain dead or the uneducated. No intelligent educated person would voluntarily choose HTML for anything other than web pages.
    • For those prone to self torture? Yep. Brain dead, I don't think

      Keeping track of all the stuff strewn in your javascripts, keeping it organized and as OO as possible requires someone organized and disciplined, and probably fairly smart too.
  • Barrier of Entry

    Makes me wonder if this is partially because in order to develop for iOS you typically need a Mac. That barrier of entry can be cost prohibitive.
    John Lenin
    • You need that anyway

      You can't get your app into the store without an xcode project, no matter how you created it.
  • Portability is definitely a good thing

    It won't make the system vendors happy (the commericial ones anyway) but it does reduce the effort required to support multiple platforms.

    But I don't think that $500 per month per app is a good poverty line; rather it should be based on total revenue per month.
    John L. Ries
  • We need to look past the current poor tooling

    From my experiences to date I'd agree with people who say HTML5/CSS3/JS is a frustrating stack to develop with, however when you look at all the companies who are currently developing products to improve that situation I can only see a bright future. It would seem that because the Bing developers were having so many problems with their large JS projects, Microsoft developed TypeScript (cf. Google Dart). TypeScript 1.0 will be launched this year with an impressive pedigree along with standards credibility. While performance will remain an issue, along with API support for hardware features, like that state of our cars, hybrid solutions are often necessary to satisfy the customer of today. In the future, as the hardware gets more capable and tooling improves I believe that HTML based solutions will become good enough for the masses. Watch this space.
  • A Great HTML5/CSS3/JS Development tool does exist......

    If you are looking for a really great development tool for HTML5/CSS3/JS then check out Alpha Anywhere from Alpha Software ( Check out some of the videos that demonstrate the product both for web based applications and mobile.
  • Intel XDK NEW

    Who says hybrid apps are not good? I have developed 5 apps that are available on Google play, Samsung Apps, opera mobile store and amazon. Intel XDK NEW gives you the chance to build cross platform apps for Tizen, IOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Nook, Amazon Kindle, Windows 8, Google Chrome, Facebook and web app. It has several libraries that can be used for accelerometer, compass, geolocation, web servjces, camera, dialler, imei, streaming and so on. Check http:/ to see an app I built with this tool.