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What Is The Difference Between A Mobile App And A Web App?

8 min read

When deciding to develop an app, you can create a mobile app or a web app. A mobile app is an application designed specifically for mobile devices, while a web app is accessible online via a browser, regardless of the device you use.

Note that mobile apps come in two forms, native and hybrid apps.

Native apps are designed for a specific operating system, meaning you can only download them if they are compatible with your device. Hybrid apps combine the features of mobile and web apps.

While you download and install them on your device like a mobile app, they work with multiple operating systems and functions, just like web apps.

Mobile And Web App Comparing

This article compares a mobile app and a web app based on major differentiating factors to help you make an informed decision.

1. Platform

The most significant difference between mobile and web apps is the usage platform. You can use a mobile app only on mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices.

The apps are usually available on the Google Play store for Android, Windows Store for Windows, or Apple Store for iOS devices.

Web apps are available through web browsers. This means they aren’t limited to a specific platform or device. They are also shrinkable to make them mobile-friendly by fitting your device’s screen.

You don’t have to download or install web apps since they aren’t native to a particular system.

2. Functionality

Most mobile apps have limited functionality and allow users to perform specific functions.

For example, a mobile app like TurboTax is solely for taxes, while Twitter is specifically for interacting and socializing with others. The limited functionality means you may need more than a single mobile app for different purposes.

Alternatively, web apps provide more functionality. Examples include Gmail and Microsoft 365.

For companies like Adobe Photoshop that have both mobile and web apps, the mobile apps have simplified features, while the web app provides the full capabilities of Adobe Photoshop. The complexity of web apps is a personal preference.

3. Building

Web apps are quicker to build, and there is no standard SDK (software development kit) for developing them. You also use two types of programming languages when building web apps.

Client-side programming languages like CSS and Javascript facilitate program execution through the browser, while client-side languages like Python and Java deal with receiving and storing information.

They also send data to the server. HTML5 is also used for markup.

Platform-specific languages are necessary for creating native mobile apps. Objective-C and Swift are ideal for iOS platforms, C++ and Java for Android, and C for Windows platforms.

While most businesses hire developers, you can create a mobile app using an open-source database if you have programming skills.

While developers required a software development kit (SDK) designed for iOS, Android, or Windows when building apps for specific platforms in the past, you can now leverage languages like JavaScript.

In the case of hybrid apps, you can use a combination of HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS because they function and look like native apps.

4. Internet Connectivity

You require internet access to use web apps, meaning they can sustain themselves. They also update themselves. Mobile apps require you to download the app on your device before using them and can work offline.

They also need you to download regular updates to get the best out of them.

5. Cost

Generally, mobile apps are more expensive to build and develop than web apps as they are designed for a specific platform and because of many other factors, that impact cost of app development.

Therefore, if you need a mobile app for different operating systems, it will cost more as the developers need to build from scratch. Web apps, on the other hand, cost less as coding is similar across platforms.

What To Consider When Making A Choice

When determining whether to design a mobile or web-based app, here are some factors you need to consider.

1. Target Audience

You should understand buyer demographics, purchase power, demographics, and preferences when making business decisions.

When you use these variables, you will most likely choose to develop a mobile-based application. This is because, with every 1% increase in web app audience, there is a corresponding 41% increase in mobile app audience.

However, you still need to determine which audience you feel comfortable dealing with. If your business focuses on millennials, you should choose a mobile app.

On the other hand, if you are dealing with busy professionals like accountants, bankers, or lawyers, they are more likely to be accustomed to using their laptops. Therefore, a web-based application will be the best option.

Additionally, invest in a web application if you need to update an application frequently. However, if your customers need to use your services offline, a mobile application will be the ideal choice.

2. User Experience

Another consideration when choosing an application for your audience is functionality and user experience. Mobile applications allow users to use mobile gadgets with inbuilt features like a camera, location, and microphone.

Therefore, a mobile application will suffice if the product or services you are developing requires your audience to use these features.

However, a web-based application is the most appropriate choice if your audience needs to perform engaging tasks, fill out multiple forms, and download documents.

3. Development And Launch Time

Time is of the essence when developing a product or service. A web-based application is your best bet to reach your customers in the shortest time possible. Developing a mobile application is time-consuming.

Furthermore, you need to create different applications for various operating systems.

For example, you will need to develop an app that is supported by Android, Windows, and iOS. Additionally, the app needs to be approved before you can launch it.

If you are running out of time, you should opt for a web-based application.

4. User Visits

Another question you need to ask yourself when choosing between a mobile and web app is whether a user will visit your app five times a day.

If you find that users will be using your app regularly throughout the day, you should choose a mobile app. It is more convenient and updates users with notifications.

For example, games, reminders, social media, and notes are most suited for mobile apps. Many users access these apps regularly during the day.

One significant barrier is that it is slow to log in, launch, and execute desired actions.

Imagine having to log in to a web browser several times during the day to access Facebook. It would be easier to get an instant notification when you receive a message. This makes a mobile app better in this instance.

5. Reach And Ease Of Discoverability

Mobile users depend on your businesses’ efforts in enabling them to know about your application. Many users have the notion that every business has a mobile application.

This is why many users refer to Play Store or App Store when searching for an application.

Web apps, on the other hand, are ranked through website pages. Google rankings will determine whether your app is discoverable or not.

If your SEO campaigns are effective, your web app will reach a vast audience. This is one of the reasons you may find web applications more desirable than mobile applications.

6. Offline Usage

It is wrong to assume that everyone has access to the internet. When designing an application, you must also consider areas where the internet connection is problematic. In this case, a web app may not be a viable solution.

For example, you are better off designing a mobile app in specific markets or locations, like trains, gyms, or forests.

When your product or service is mainly for offline users, it is better to use a mobile app. This allows users to access desired information when they need it. Some examples of where a mobile app will suit offline users are as follows:

  • Google Maps: This allows users to download a map and use it offline for navigation.
  • Dictionaries: This allows users to translate a foreign language without the need to log in to the internet.
  • Trip Advisor: This allows users to download a city guide when traveling abroad. Therefore, there is no need to log in to the internet to identify the most visited restaurants or places.

7. Privacy Concerns

Cybercrime is a significant concern for this techno-savvy generation. Many people are keen on which applications they install on their phones.

If a user is required to allow access to an application, they will most likely not install it. Web applications don’t have such conditions. With many web applications, you can opt to deny or allow access. This gives them an edge over mobile applications.

8. Other Alternatives

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When you are having difficulty choosing between a mobile or web app, you need to consider other options. The best alternatives for mobile and web applications are progressive web apps and cross-platform app development.

A progressive web application is similar to web app. However, they come with a functionality that allows users to include them on a home screen. It is the best alternative to downloading a mobile application.

You can use this app on a smartphone browser without downloading or installing it.

When the application is installed, they appear and feel like mobile applications. Furthermore, users can work with them offline. This means users can enjoy the same advantages, like video capture, push notifications, and offline access to content.

A cross-platform is an excellent option if you want an app that works on various mobile platforms. One of the standard technologies for building hybrid apps is React Native.

With hybrid mobile apps, you can access features just like normal mobile applications. These apps are written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and support different platforms.

One of the benefits of hybrid apps is that they can be used on one platform. This eliminates the need to update Windows, Android, and iOS apps separately. Another benefit is the reduced waiting time.

With hybrid apps, there is no need to deploy an app to the app store. This process can take anywhere between 2 to 7 days.

Finally, there are no correcting issues with hybrid apps. You will receive an immediate response when you upload the app to the server.

Steps Of Users’ Choice

When deciding whether to opt for mobile or web applications, you should take the following steps.

1. Make A Note Of The Business Requirements For The App

The first thing you should do when choosing an application is to review the best requirements for the app. This includes listing what you want the app to do and why.

Focus on information about who you expect to use the application and how they will learn about it. Use these details to compare the pros and cons of mobile and web-based applications to see which is best suited for your needs.

2. Talk To Your Team

Determine the available resources and how well a website application will be supported. If you cannot support a website application or use it on your site, the best alternative will be a mobile app.

3. Consult Experts

Before you make your final decision, you should talk to experts and consider their opinion. Make sure you give them detailed information about your needs and budget.

The development experts will listen to your goals and requirements and advise you on the appropriate solution to drive revenue and boost customer satisfaction.

In Closing

The decision to create a native mobile app, a hybrid mobile app, or a web app highly depends on your business needs and what you intend to achieve.

You should develop a detailed plan and make all the considerations mentioned above to avoid returning to the drawing book later. Don’t merely be guided by cost.

Regardless of your choice, user experience should always come first to ensure you provide the most value.

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