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Mobile App Or Mobile Web. Which One Is Better?

Delegal Digital Mobile App or Mobile Web

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.

Delegal Digital Native vs Responsive

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

0 Billion

Smartphone users worldwide

0 Billion

Apps download in 2019 (estimated)

0 Billion

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.

In Contrast

Native Apps

  • 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.

  • Is your website already optimized for mobile?

    If the answer is no, it makes sense to explore the current functionality of your website in a responsive context. Unless there is a specific capability that your users need, responsive design can handle many needs when it comes to mobile usability.

  • Will your app solve a customer problem?

    Do you need a native mobile app to do something that currently can’t be done on your mobile compliant website? A great example is a bank allowing customers to take pictures of a check and deposit it from the comfort of a chair at home. That is a legitimate problem solved by native device functionality that can not be done through responsive web design.

  • Do your competitors have native apps?

    It’s smart to do some research and find out what your competition is doing. If one or more of your closest competitors have a native mobile app, find out how it performs. Is it gaining traction? Do they have downloads and good reviews? If you don't know how to do this, we can help. If the answer is yes, this may be a good enough reason (or at least partial reason) to take the next step.

  • Do you rely heavily on branding?

    Is your brand a big part of your visibility? Users with mobile devices give up a piece of their device real estate to download your app. Ideally, your logo is seen every time the device is opened. The caveat is that nearly 25% of all app downloads are used once and then either discarded or never used again.

  • Do you utilize user-generated content for marketing purposes?

    In other words, do your customers socialize your business online? Native apps have much tighter integration with other native apps for sharing user-generated content. If you feel that you need to make it more convenient for your users to share content they have generated, a native mobile app is worthy of consideration.

  • The Bottom Line

    If you answered yes to any of the questions above, it’s worth some effort to explore a native mobile app for your business. Remember that simply building an app is not enough. Focusing on tangible benefits to your customers and prospects is paramount in realizing success. Also, understanding the costs associated with an app will likely be a factor in your decision.

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?

Web apps are built much like web pages are built for computers — either using a combination of HTML, CSS, and Javascript or using a CMS like WordPress using a responsive-ready theme or framework. Unlike mobile apps, there isn’t a standard method or SDK for building mobile web apps. Because of the accessibility to templates and other web frameworks, responsive web apps usually have a shorter development cycle.

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.

The Net-Net

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.

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