HTML5 now neck and neck with native apps for developer love

Developers are spending more time on HTML5 as the number of browsers and devices grows.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Native apps might deliver a supreme mobile experience, but the lure of HTML5 hybrid app building is growing among developers.

While HTML5 versus native apps debate rages on, more developers are willing to trade in a superior native experience for the lower cost of maintaining a common code base using HTML5 code in a native app container, according to analyst firm Forrester. 

"Mobile developers split their time almost evenly between native and web-based plus hybrid development," Forrester found in its Development Landscape 2013 report.

Based on responses from 478 developers in North America and Europe, Forrester found developers were spending 41 percent of the their time on a native app approach, 24 percent of their time on mobile web, and 22 percent of their time on hybrid apps.

The analyst expects developers of consumer-facing apps to lead with a native app approach, while those building enterprise apps will move toward web and hybrid deployments.

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Image: Forrester

Despite mobile apps' rapid growth, traditional websites, web applications, and database-connected apps still dominate developers' days. The survey found that for 63 percent of developers, the most common technologies they worked on over the past two years were web applications and websites, while SQL-connected applications were the most common for 62 percent. By contrast, 30 percent of developers had worked on mobile apps or mobile websites in the past two years.

HTML5 is becoming the norm amongst web developers and the shift coincides with the need to support more browsers and screen sizes. Amongst a pool of 919 software developers, Forrester found that 55 percent are using HTML5 and on average they test their output against five browsers. They're also twice as likely than those not familiar with HTML5 to test against mobile browsers. 

Not surprisingly, most mobile developers are focusing their time on Android and iOS, with the iPhone the "first priority device" for 35 percent of mobile developers, while 27 percent target Android phones first. Android phones overall however lead iOS as a priority (from first to fifth) for 84 percent of developers while iPad, the most important tablet for developers, was a second priority for 27 percent.

Windows Phone still trailing well behind iOS and Android on consumer market share, but it has established itself as a clear third preference ahead of BlackBerry and that is also being reflected in developer preferences.

According to Forrester, 10 percent identified Windows Phone as a first priority, while fewer than 10 percent considered BlackBerry a priority at all. Meanwhile, Windows RT was a priority for just over 20 percent of developers.

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