Mobile App Or Mobile Web. Which One Is Better?
Mobile App | Mobile Web — The Saga Continues
Let’s start with the cornerstone knowledge that mobile is dominating online. Nearly 60% of website visits came from a mobile device in 2018. That number is expected to rise when the 2019 data becomes available. If your website isn’t mobile-ready (responsive), you are missing the majority of online value and will be passed over by consumers searching online, not to mention the punishment from Google and other search engines in your ability to rank. Mobile app or mobile web… mobile is dominating.
The prevailing question remains, do you need a mobile app — you know, the app that can be downloaded from either the App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android)? That is the sticky wicket that we’ll get into here and provide you with some insight and help you make a more educated decision.
What's The Difference in Native Mobile And Mobile Web?
As you can see from the visual comparison above, not much at first glance. The visual attributes of a native mobile app can be replicated on a mobile device in the browser (Chrome, Safari, etc) pretty readily — proven in the Amazon app vs web page example. But, the differences come in functionality and capability.
Native mobile apps are built for a specific platform, such as iOS for the Apple iPhone or Android for a Samsung device. They are usually downloaded and installed via an app store and have native access to system resources like the accelerometer, GPS, or camera functionality. For mobile gaming, there’s no question that native apps dominate the market by nearly a shutout score. Native apps live on the device and store various resources locally. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Amazon are examples of popular native apps, although all of these destinations can be accessed in the browser.
The Numbers Are Staggering
Smartphone users worldwide
Apps download in 2019 (estimated)
Apps available for download in the app stores
As you can see from the numbers above and a lot of other stats, it is a saturated market and very difficult to get noticed. That means if you want a native app, there should be a compelling case and you should be prepared to go many extra miles to promote it.
Conversely, web apps are accessed in an internet browser like Google or Safari, and if built properly (using responsive design) will adapt to the device or form factor on which they are being viewed. They are not native to a particular platform or operating system and don’t need to be downloaded or installed. Just like web pages on a computer, they are accessed through a URL. If they are designed with responsive functionality, they look and function very much like a mobile app, which is where things typically get confusing.
Take the Amazon app and web example above. The designs are nearly identical, using the same color palette, fonts, etc., but they are two very different products.
Under nearly every circumstance, a web app needs an active internet connection to function whereas native apps do not (although they may require access to data not local to the app).
Native mobile apps also have the advantage of being faster and more efficient, but they do require the user to regularly download updates. Web apps will update themselves.
- Typically installed directly to the device from a store download (App Store, Google Play).
- Able to access all of the devices’ native functionality i.e. camera, share sheets, location, Bluetooth, etc.
- May be limited or inoperable on older devices as operating systems iterate over time.
- Usually very safe and secure.
- Requires what can be a daunting app store approval process.
- It most often performs better than mobile web apps and can be used offline for specific functionality.
- Requires distinctly separate development efforts from web development.
Web Apps In Browser
- Requires no installation or download and accessed via browser on a device.
- Limited access to native device functionality.
- Typically operates on any device with a browser.
- Security is limited to the browser.
- No approval process required.
- It can be slower than native applications due to browser limitations.
- Operates responsively in the browser so separate development effort is not required.
How Do I Decide If I Need A Native Mobile App?
This shortlist of questions should help you qualify whether you really need an app. The answer may not be readily evident and we’re always happy to discuss this with you further.
How Are Native Mobile Apps Developed?
Mobile apps are more expensive to create than web apps. Because they are specific to the platform they run on, launching an app across multiple platforms means a significant amount of additional work.
Native mobile apps are built using specific languages usually targeted to a specific platform. Apps for Apple are almost always built using either Objective-C or Swift with the Xcode IDE (integrated development environment). Apps for Android are most often written in Java and are typically built using the Android Studio or Eclipse IDE.
This has expanded a little over the past couple of years. More development platforms have entered the market with cross-platform promises, although none of them have delivered the level of developer granularity that the native languages and SDKs offer. These newer entries include React-Native, Flutter, Xamarin, PhoneGap and several others.
Apple and Google provide native development tools, interface elements and software development kits (SDK) that developers can use to build native mobile apps.
How Are Mobile Web Apps Developed?
Feature Comparison At-A-Glance
|Native Apps||Responsive Web|
Developed for a specific device.
Browser-enabled on any device.
Installed directly to the device from a store download.
Accessed via web address in the browser.
Able to access all device native features i.e. camera, GPS/location, Bluetooth.
Limited device feature availability.
May be limited or inoperable on older devices.
Typically works on any device with a browser.
Typically very safe and secure.
Security is limited to browser capability.
Requires app store approval process.
No approval is required.
Now that you know a little more about mobile apps and mobile web, you may have more questions. Having capabilities in both, we would be happy to discuss your specific needs and help you with a solution, or simply provide some ideas. You can contact us here.