HTML5 Apps and Why I think this is the Future of Mobile

Over the last 24 hours I've received some concerns about the new HTML5 mobile interface for Heap and Torch. Confusion is to be expected, especially as of this post's date there is really only four HTML5 apps of this type in use, so Heap or Torch's Mobile interface is likely the first such app people have come across. This post is to clear up some misimpressions and to explain why I think this is the future of all mobile productivity apps.

How does an HTML5 application start?

After you click the Heap or Torch icon on your home screen you will see the following sequence of screens:

App Loading Sequence

There are a few key points:

  1. The interface becomes available to you as soon as the data is loaded from the local database (regardless of your online state)
  2. The sync process runs in the background so you can continue to view/create content while it is working
  3. The application itself runs directly off the device

How does the upgrade process work?

Whenever you are on the Internet and are using an HTML5 app, your device checks a small text file called the "manifest" to see if it's version is the same as the current version on the server. If not, it downloads the new application files to the device (in the background). The next time the app starts up you will be using the new version.

Future Compatibility:

But perhaps the most important point is that the new HTML5 apps are not iPhone/iPod Touch or Android specific. There is not one line of platform specific code, it all conforms to the HTML5 draft spec.

Now compare the above to a native iPhone app:

  1. It only works on the iPhone / iPod Touch
  2. Upgrades require being submitted to Apple for approval (which takes some time) then installed by the user through Apple's App store
  3. Which (item 2) causes an issue of multiple versions of the app being in production at any given time because some users won't upgrade. This results in having to leave old "hooks" open in the server version of the application.

Downsides:

At current there are two issues:

  1. It doesn't work with the iPhone 2.x software
  2. It doesn't work with the Palm Pre

For iPhone users the upgrade is free, so there is really no reason not to upgrade. For iPod Touch users it is $10.

While the Pre implements some of the HTML5 spec, it doesn't implement all of the methods that the apps need (but once they are it will just work).

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