Home HTML5 vs. Native Apps: the Google Plus Thread

HTML5 vs. Native Apps: the Google Plus Thread

Over on Google’s new social networking service Google Plus, Seesmic founder Loic Le Meurstarted a great discussion on the differences between HTML5 mobile Web apps and native iOS and Android apps. The question he raised is what can you not do in a mobile Web app? You can’t do video capture, for instance, or push notifications, among other things. But what else? What are the real challenges here?

At last count, 87 comments from Google Plus users helped to fill in the blanks. The resulting discussion is remarkably similar to something you would see over on Quora, minus the comment threading and answer summary. For mobile developers, this is one discussion worth checking in on.

The Google Plus Discussion

The discussion was inspired by the Google Plus HTML5 app, which is the app available to iOS users while waiting for the native app to be approved by Apple.

There are some interesting tidbits in the resulting comment thread, like Nik Cubrilovic’s (formerly of TechCrunch) note about how local storage works on mobile. “The design pattern is to pre-load everything, assets, templates, etc. when the user first loads the app,” he says, before teasing that the HTML5 apps he’s currently working on are “really pushing the envelope” and will be “fantastic.”

Android developerDavid Shellabarger says that there are several Android-specific things that Web apps can’t do, including changing the wallpaper, completely replacing the homescreen, replacing any app, adding ringtones, accessing the local filesystem or accessing the menu button.

On iOS, Jay Goldman adds that you can’t do overlays on the camera capture screen (e.g. guides, buttons, etc.) in mobile Web apps, you can’t upload files on iOS (so no sharing images) and you can’t do push or local notifications.

There are also links to resources that can help you workaround some of the challenges, including PhoneGap, Appcelerator and Xamarin.

It’s definitely a discussion mobile developers should consider checking out.

Side Note: Is Google Plus Already Beating Quora?

What’s interesting too, is how quickly the discussion took off, while another thread lingered over on Q&A site Quora. “20+ answers here in a few minutes,” said Le Meur, “only one in Quora.”

This, of course, begs the question: what will become of Quora once Google rolls out Google Questions into Google Plus? While Quora is positioned a bit differently – only “quality” answers are rewarded on its site, there’s something to be said for the reduced barrier to entry, speed and ease with which you can comment and contribute on Google Plus. And in the end, that may prove just as, if not more, valuable, simply because it gets more people to participate. And because individual answers can be “+1’ed,” there are possibilities for rewarding quality answers already built in to this new system.

Have you found any other great discussions about mobile over on Google Plus you want to share? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit: Newsden

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