Where's the App? The Amazing Future for Mobile Apps Being Enabled by HTML5

Posted by Kate Jurras on Tue, Apr 17, 2012

describe the imageThis is the sixth post in our mobile blog series. Throughout the month of April we'll be featuring posts from some of Boston's most expert thought leaders, answering these questions: "What's happening in mobile right now? What's coming soon?This post is by Ken Kimmel. Ken is the co-founder and president of On The Spot® Systems, makers of the mobile survey application Survey On The Spot®. Prior to his current position, Ken held key leadership roles at Dunkin’ Brands and Baskin-Robbins, including overseeing brand and strategy development, field operations, marketing and advertising, and franchising and development.

So, I am not a technologist or engineer, but I can certainly understand the huge opportunity that has presented itself to mobile developers with the rising tide of HTML5.

You see, it starts like this: our company, On The Spot Systems, had built a business model based on utilizing mobile devices to easily collect and report data from people on the go. Our original vision was that people around the world would be clamoring to download our free iPhone app (and soon to be Android and Blackberry apps) so they could answer surveys for businesses wherever they were. The feedback would go straight to the business owner and the consumer would receive a reward. Neat. Except…

Not Your Average Joe's

Nobody wants to have a survey app on their phone. I mean really, what's the point? Unless every retailer in the world is participating, finding people to take surveys was like looking for a needle in a haystack; whether at retail, restaurants or medical clinics. The notion that someone would come into a store, read some merchandising materials or their register receipt AND THEN download our app so they could take a survey in exchange for a coupon was almost as hard to believe as the likelihood of their going home to their computer and taking a survey on the web. Not too likely. (Really, how often do you do this?)

And then comes a pivot. In the last year HTML5 has become a gamechanger as mobile devices support more advanced features. Now, developers can emulate 95% of native app functionality and UI, without the need for an app. We can start Survey On The Spot surveys easily with a link or QR code. Changes to functionality can be made on the fly without having to release a new app to the store and convince your users to update. Are there limitations? Sure, for now. But that said, we have implemented capabilities and features like off-line data collection and numerous new question types in less time than it takes to get approval to distribute a native app. Weigh that against the cost of developing, maintaining and updating multiple apps for multiple platforms, and you think you have died and gone to heaven.

At the end of the day, will the use of native apps wane as the convenience of HTML5 mobile web apps for both consumers and developers grows? The use of HTML5 may increase the adoption of QR codes as consumers use them to start HTML5 apps. Making mobile apps easier to access should lead to an increase into adoption and more consistent use. The opportunities presented by this new technology have the potential to change how the world views, uses and develops apps in the future.