Posts Tagged ‘iOS’

Native vs. HTML5 hybrid

Facebook recently released a new version of its iOS app in order to fix a number of issues with the previous releases. The Facebook app has been notorious for being slow, buggy, and simply lackluster overall. The problem touted by many was the fact that it was not a native iOS app in that it relied on UIWebView containers to display content; this post brings such speculation front and center. However, I’m not sure I agree that the blame lies with UIWebView. The problems with the Facebook app, as far as I could tell, centered around lag in loading content, or or simply not loading content due to connection timeouts. Two comments in the post, I think, point out the real issues:

This article is ridiculous. Not caching data is [the] fault of the developers, not Uiwebview. And seriously, blaming the slowness on HTML? What does the format of the data have to do with anything? There is no reason their dev cycle isn’t compatible with a decent iOS app. iOS development at Facebook is not a priority. Period. That is the only reason the app sucks. It sucks because they wrote a shitty app. Not because of Uiwebview. Not because they use HTML. Because they wrote a shitty app.

Late to the conversation here but Robert Jacobson makes an excellent point: your criticisms are specific to the implementation of the FB app and not the concept of hybrid HTML5 apps. You specifically point out inefficient and inconsistent web service calls that cause many of the problems. Even a native app will be at the mercy of a poorly written web service. I appreciate all the research you’ve done for this article but it is disappointing that it is getting referenced elsewhere on the web for an example of why HTML hybrid apps are bad. You’ve got a good critique of the Facebook iOS app implementation here. This does not even come close to a fair analysis of HTML5 hybrid mobile applications as an implementation strategy.

The last quote brings up an important point, many are now soured by the idea of a HTML5 hybrid mobile application, which is unfortunate because it’s a architecture that would work well for many developers and alleviates the burden (at least to some degree) of supporting multiple mobile platforms.

Looking ahead, I’d bet on HTML5 and web technologies in general. You’ll never get native performance, but as mobile devices become more powerful the tradeoff, platform flexibility and ease-of-development in exchange for lower performance, will become a non-issue for all but the most intensive applications (e.g. games). I toyed around with PhoneGap (before it was bought by Adobe and split off into PhoneGap and Apache Cordova) last year and was pretty happy with the results. I did have a number of frustrations, but those weren’t due to performance, but to bugs and rendering issues in a number of HTML5 mobile frameworks (jQuery Mobile, jQTouch) and webkit mobile itself (support for position:fixed; not available in iOS 4 at the time, supported in iOS 5 which had just hit the market); I’m not pessimistic here, these are things that will improve (or have already improved) as mobile software development matures.

What webOS did better…

Having recently upgraded from a Palm Pixi to a iPhone 4S, leaving behind webOS for iOS, it’s easy to find many things that are vastly superior on iOS; not surprising, given the superior hardware on the iPhone and the relative maturity of iOS as a platform. However, I find myself missing a few things I’ve become accustomed to with webOS; things I think webOS simply did a better job at.

While both platform alert you to events, webOS also kept notifications stacked on the bottom of the display until you chose to swipe them away.


Integrated Contacts
webOS automatically imported and linked contacts from multiple sources (Facebook, Gmail, etc.) making it fairly simple to manage (or more accurately, not have to manage) an address book.

integrated contacts

While iOS supports multitasking on a technical level, on a UI/UX level the focus is very much centered on one app at a time, as swapping between apps always requires a trip back to the home screen. The webOS process of sliding between cards was not only a slightly faster method to swap between apps but also fairly convenient when it came to glancing at something in another app and then getting back to what you were doing; the scenario that pops into my mind is texting something from a webpage but not remembering it exactly or entirely, and having to swap between the messaging app and the browser.

Also, swiping a card up and off the screen was a fairly elegant way to close it. Exiting apps is perhaps not a big of a deal on an iPhone due to the larger memory pool, but when you do near the memory limit, I’m not sure double tapping the home button, pressing and holding the app icon, and hitting the remove icon is the easiest nor most intuitive action.