Published on July 1st, 2021 | by Ali Dino


Mobile Apps vs. Web Apps: Everything You Need to Know

Ever since the genesis of the digital marketplace revolutionizing businesses around the globe, every innovation is linked with the internet either through the web or an app. Some companies prefer having a mobile application to expand their business, and some have resorted to a web application to monetize their profits. But the question that stands out is, what is the difference between a mobile application and a web application?

While a mobile app and a web app might seem to provide similar services, there are crucial differences in how they are developed and the advantages it has on a business. This article would take you through everything you need to know about mobile apps and web apps. 

Mobile App vs. Web App: Definition

What is a mobile application?

If you were to unlock your smartphone screen right now, you might instantly hook onto some application that has a notification over it. Be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Gmail, or even the alarm clock, these are all classified as mobile apps, sometimes also referred to as native mobile applications. 

Mobile applications are specifically designed and developed for a particular mobile operating system like Android or iOS. Every application that is available over the Google Play Store or the App Store is a mobile application. These applications are to be strictly downloaded and installed on the device, and they have the functionality to run even without an internet connection. 

What is a web application?

Mobile devices have made it easy to browse the internet to check any site, compared to opening a laptop or desktop to access the internet. For instance, checking Quora to find a response to your question or even browsing through Yelp to look for a good restaurant in your neighborhood. 

Every time you access your mobile browser for checking a site, that particular site is known as a web application. These web applications can be accessed through a browser of any mobile device, and they do not have to be installed into the system. If you have an active internet connection and a browser on your mobile, every site you access is a web application.

Mobile App vs. Web App: Distinguishing Characteristics

Despite some seeming similarities, there are several characteristics that distinguish a mobile application from a web application. The pointers below would give a brief idea of how mobile apps and web apps perform differently for its users and the advantages it has on a business.

  1. Supporting Devices

Mobile applications are developed for specific platforms or Operating Systems like Android, iOS, and Windows. The applications are developed and updated separately using particular languages, making mobile app development services a complex and expensive process. For instance, iOS applications are built using Swift or Objective-C, while Android applications are created with Java languages like Kotlin or Android Studio.

On the other hand, a web application is supported on every mobile device with a browser installed. These web apps are built using JavaScript, C++, or HTML, and they perform equally well, irrespective of the device or the platform that is being used. Furthermore, given its common codebase for maintaining and updating the application, a web app is less complex and less expensive to develop. 

  1. Internet Accessibility

One of the distinctive features of a mobile application is that it can function without an internet connection. This is because an application caches data into the mobile device, allowing the users to use specific features for full or limited functionality. 

As far as a web app is concerned, it cannot run without an internet connection. Being dependent on a web browser that fetches data from web servers, a web application is impossible to access without a full internet connection. This is the reason its quality of functionality and services is also dependent on the kind of internet connection the device has. 

  1. Security

For mobile applications, security is one of the biggest concerns for both developers and their users. Google Play Store and Apple App Store have a strict policy regarding the applications that can be launched and downloaded into a device. It is only after receiving the store approval that apps can be downloaded into a device. 

But for a web application that does not have to be downloaded, it can turn out to be less secure. With no authoritative body in control of testing its features and impact on the users, there are higher chances of security breaches and issues leading to a loss of data. But on the brighter side, developers are obliged to make a web app secure to increase customer trust and gain greater rewards on investments. 

  1. Accessibility to System Resources

Mobile applications are all about improving user experience through a customized interface and a variety of out-of-the-box features. This is the reason mobile apps have more functionality on system resources to improve customer satisfaction. For instance, mobile apps can utilize the device camera, GPS, phonebook, messages, and gallery for customizing the app features.

On the other hand, a web application does not have accessibility to system resources. There might be exceptions where a web app can gain device system access like GPS, but only through user permission.

  1. Advantages for Business

In terms of business advantages, a mobile application suits a business with the idea that it makes users use the app at least once a day or make it crucial for their daily lives. For instance, a food delivery application would serve best as a mobile app since it has to provide greater performance, leverage the address location, and give a live feed of the delivery status. 

A web application is the best alternative for businesses focused on delivering a unique service to their clients. Companies can monetize their profits through advertisements and subscription fees for the kind of services they are providing. For instance, a mobile app development company can maximize profits by advertising its services and charging clients based on their required services.

Choosing the Right App

The decision to choose the right application for your business growth must be based on your business objectives, target audience, budget, and even technical requirements. If we were to consider the mobile app vs. web app statistics, amongst 3.2 billion smartphone users, approximately 90% of users spend most of their time on mobile apps. Let us take a quick look at when you should develop a mobile app or a web app.

Develop a mobile app when:

  • Users are predicted to use it more than once a day or make it an integral part of their lives.
  • The application has to leverage system resources for providing basic functionalities or improve user experience.
  • You want to provide a customized and consistent user interface for the users.
  • You want to monetize business profits through downloading costs or subscriptions.
  • Application performance, speed, and security are of high concern. 

Develop a web app when:

  • The application does not need access to system resources, and performance is not a huge concern.
  • You want to monetize business profits through ads or subscription-based services.
  • You want a common codebase for the entire application with more planned upgrades.
  • The application development budget is low.
  • You want your company site or services to have a wide discovery range in search engines. 

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