Brilliant idea for your startup — checked. Users do need your product — checked. A mobile application or a mobile website for your business — well, here’s when you have some significant doubts. But it’s nothing to be upset about. This article will help you outline the main aspects of the mobile app vs web app. Read on to find out what will suit your business best.
Overview of the Mobile Market
There’s no denying that the usage of mobile phones is winning the race in the tech world. According to Statcounter, in 2019, the number of those who use mobile devices is significantly higher that of desktop and tablet users:
- Mobile — 53.29%
- Desktop — 43.99%
- Tablet — 2.72%
This data means that having a website tailored to fit the desktop screen is not enough anymore as everyone is trying to make their way into the humongous worlds of modern “palm computers.” And even if you’re dead sure that your app will make a splash, you still have to weigh up a lot of essential factors. Have you decided which platform to choose? Thankfully, this is not that difficult. To help you answer this question, you can address Statcounter once again.
This factual data is going to shed light on the most popular mobile operating systems throughout the world, and more specifically, in the US, Canada, and Europe.
As you can clearly see, the undisputed leaders are Android and iOS. So, why resist the temptation to combine the benefits of both worlds?
But while answering the platform question is relatively easy with all the statistical data you have at your fingertips, it’s still bothersome to pick up the right type of mobile development. So now we’ve finally reached the core of the article — is it better to use an app or the website application?
Overview of the Main Types of Mobile Development
To make your product or services mobile-friendly, you can consider three main types of development approaches. Thus, you can build native apps, mobile website apps, or hybrid applications.
But before considering the pros and cons of each approach, let’s see what the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website is.
The mobile app is a software program that you download from an app store or marketplace onto your smartphone. Mobile apps can be native, which means that an application is created specifically to run on a particular mobile operating system, like iOS, Android, Windows, or any other. There are also hybrid apps, which can have a single codebase and run on different platforms.
A web app, for its part, is an application that you don’t have to download on your mobile device but that you can easily access in a browser on your smartphone.
Now, you can have a closer look at a mobile app vs web app and their pros and cons.
Native Mobile Applications
As stated above, a mobile native app is built especially for a specific platform, let it be iOS, Android, or any other os out there and with the help of “native” languages. For instance, for iOS you can use Objective-C, Swift, and for Android apps — Java.
This type of mobile development is quite common and it has its major advantages as well as disadvantages.
Pros of native mobile apps:
- You can access and actively utilize all the native features of a mobile device, like the camera, GPS navigation, accelerometer, swipe navigation, push notifications.
- Native mobile apps can function offline, which might be crucial for a lot of businesses, like mobile gaming startups.
- Thanks to the fact that such applications are built for a specific platform, it makes them remarkably fast and efficient.
- As a rule, native mobile apps are intuitive and interactive.
- Startups are able to add them to various marketplaces and app stores to distribute them among users.
Cons of native mobile apps:
- “Native” programming languages are harder to use than those for mobile web.
- Be ready to spend a buck on building a native application as it’s created to suit a specific OS. If you want to have a native app for iOS and Android, you’ll need to pay quite a sum for both of them as they’ll be developed as standalone applications.
- Such native mobile applications are harder to maintain.
- Overall, to create a native mobile app can be cumbersome and costly for startups.
Mobile Web Applications
Unlike mobile apps, you don’t have to download them onto your device. Your mobile web browser, like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Opera, would be perfectly enough to use your services or product.
Pros of mobile web applications:
- One of the main advantages of mobile web apps is that it’s a cost-effective way of development. You do not have to pay for standalone apps to run on particular platforms like the case is with the native development.
- Easy to host and maintain.
- Suitable for any platform, that’s why you can easily encompass the whole mobile market.
- Your web app will run on multiple mobile devices within a browser.
- Such web apps are perfectly compatible with other devices like a laptop, for example.
Cons of mobile web applications:
- To access a web app, you must have an internet connection. Otherwise, you can forget about using it.
- No desktop icon on the screen of your mobile device
- Too many actions to access an app. You have to open your browser, type a required URL, etc.
- They are less intuitive and provide pure user experience
- No access to native features like GPS, camera, push notifications, etc, which makes it an utterly improbable choice for startups.
- Mobile web apps are much slower than native mobile applications.
Hybrid applications represent an attractive cross-platform development option, which combines both native mobile app vs mobile web development approaches. A hybrid app operates in a container through a framework. Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of such applications.
Pros of hybrid applications:
- This type of development is cheaper than the native one as you can run a single codebase for all platforms.
- You do not need to have a browser to run a hybrid app.
- It’s almost impossible for an average user to distinguish between native mobile applications and hybrid ones.
- One codebase is easy to maintain.
- You can have easy access to all the native features of a mobile device.
- There are a lot of cross-platform frameworks to choose from to create a mobile app: React Native, Flutter, Ionic, etc.
- Cross-development is faster compared to other options
Cons of hybrid applications:
- While it’s cheaper in comparison with the native mobile app development, it’s still more costly than the mobile web development.
- Slower than native apps
- A bit less interactive
Overview of Mobile-optimized Website vs Responsive Web
If you still decided to go with the mobile web, here are several alternatives of such development, you might want to look at — mobile-optimized websites and responsive websites.
Responsive Website vs Mobile App
Responsive design is a special type of design that can be tailored to be used on different devices — a laptop, mobile phone or tablet. It means that your website can adapt to various gadgets regardless of the size of their screens. In this case, the “one size fits all” is the direct representation of it. Responsive website “responds” accordingly to the screen of a device and renders content.
This approach has a solid advantage over the other ones: it is much cheaper than native or cross-platform development.
Mobile Optimized Website vs App
On the contrary, mobile-optimized websites are created to suit mobile browsers. Content and design are optimized to create a more user-friendly experience to use the website vertically.
The negative aspect of a mobile-optimized website is that you have to build a mobile version separately from the web one.
What you also need to keep in mind is the purpose of your startup. For instance, if you want to have an Uber-like app, games, or any applications that require to have access to native features of a mobile phone, the choice for you is hybrid or native mobile development. But if your startup needs your website to be compatible with mobile and user-friendly for your client, you can consider the mobile web, as a responsive or mobile-optimized website.
Still, to ensure the top quality user experience and if you have necessary resources, you can always go for mobile applications and websites without comparing mobile web vs mobile app.