Mobile App or Web App: which to choose?
We will provide a brief overview of mobile apps and web apps to depict their strengths, weaknesses and differences between these approaches to mobile development.
Mobile apps are built specifically for a certain mobile platform, using its coding language. The user must download them from an appstore and install them, so the app can work on a device. These native apps utilize any needed functions of the device (like camera, geolocation, notifications, work with contact list, etc.). They also are noted for delivering greatly customizable interface and excellent performance. Most of mobile apps (like games) can work offline and utilize the resources of the mobile device. They provide the design aligned with the design principles of the platform, thus yielding the usage experience the users are accustomed to.
Web apps, on the other hand, are built to be run in mobile browsers, using HTML5 and CSS/SASS to provide consistent usage experience across many platforms. These apps work via the mobile browser of the device and are actually simply bookmarks for web services the user can access. With web apps, most of the workload happens on the server side, with mobile device being simply a terminal to access the web-based service. Due to the fact that one service is designed to be run on any device, the interface and design might be the same for any platform, providing somewhat unusual user experience. Obviously, web apps cannot work offline and most of them have little to no access to the phone’s features. However, a user would not expect their weather app to be keen with using the phone camera — they just need the app to be able to tell if it is going to rain in a few hours, that’s it.
Thus said, mobile apps and web apps should be utilized for different purposes, to maximize the advantages in each particular case. Below we will list several focal points to let you make an informed decision when choosing to develop a mobile app or a web app for your project.
Level of control over device hardware and features. As mobile apps are developed using the platform’s main coding language, they harness full control of the device’s functions and hardware needed, like the camera, GPS locator, notifications, gestures, etc. Web apps have to access device hardware via some web wrapper, so their capabilities are quite limited.
Offline operability. Many if not all mobile apps perfectly work offline, and if they do need network connection – they can often cache the needed information for later use. Web apps need the device to be online in order to function, which obviously limits their usefulness in locations with bad coverage.
The ease of content discovery. This is where the web apps shine, as you can easily create a bookmark to a specific page on the web, like a certain merchandise in the store, certain weather forecast location, certain map location, etc. You do not need to download and install a mobile app for that. Thus said, web apps win the prize for accessing the content online with ease. QUite contrary, mobile apps are installed only if the user expects to use them quite often, so they justify the resources spent on their downloading, installation and ongoing updates.
Speed of operations. Mobile apps win hands down in this nomination. When the app uses the resources of the device instead of relying on the remote server to provide the action over the Internet connection, results are gained immediately.
Hassle with installation. As we already mentioned above, installation of a mobile app takes some time and traffic, meaning the user has to really need this app in order to make such investments. Web app, on the other hand, is merely a bookmark, taking seconds to create and using no system resources.
Maintenance and update problems. How many times did your Google maps app update last week? I counted 6, and it’s only Friday. Keeping mobile apps up-to-date is a pain for both users and developers, especially if multiple versions of the app are in use in several platforms. The updates must be packaged and uploaded to corresponding app stores, which takes time and effort. Updating a web app, on the other hand, needs no actions from user and is no harder than updating any other web page or service for developers. Thus said, web apps are obviously much easier to update and maintain.
Coverage of different platforms. As mentioned above, having multiple versions of the app running on multiple platforms is a nightmare for developers. On the other hand, as web apps operate via HTML5, their core code base works well on any platform, with slight adjustments needed.
Licensing, fees and publisher’s approval. Having to comply with the publisher’s policies and waiting for their approval to upload the app to the store can be costly, both in terms of money and time to market. For example, uploading the app to Apple’s App Store means 30% of the income generated by the app goes to the publisher as a fee. Web apps are free from such limitations, but this also means they need to search for alternate ways of income generation.
App monetization. Mobile apps benefit from using platform’s standard payment gateways, greatly simplifying the process for both developers and end users. Quite contrary, web apps have to implement their own payment systems and ensure their security in order to be able to monetize the service.
The cost of app development. As HTML5 forms a huge chunk of web app’s code base, developing such apps is much cheaper, as compared to developing fully native mobile apps. However, the latter are usually developed by stale teams of developers, as finding a talented Java or Objective-C developer is quite hard and once employed, these become valuable assets that work long-term. Web development using HTML5 is easier and such developers are not valued that much, which might lead to excessively fluent teams and impair the development workflow.
Harnessing the power of UI/UX. One of the most important differences lies in the area of user interface and experience. When building a mobile app it’s much easier to provide interface and user experience similar to the majority of the popular apps on said platform. This makes the learning curve shorter and easier for the user. This does not mean web apps cannot provide the same interface, yet accessing it online is slower, fonts and colors do not always match exactly and such small details can make a huge difference for the customers.
Thus said, there is no panacea, as mobile apps and web apps have their strengths and weaknesses. The intended target audience, most probable area of use and, most importantly, the main idea of the app can dictate the type of the app to choose. A game should respond quickly, a banking app should provide secure interactions and a weather forecast should be able to provide information within seconds.
At QuanticApps we always help the customers analyze the needs and pain points of their target audience and find the best way to cater to those needs. Therefore, the choice between developing a mobile app or web app becomes a well-informed decision, making it much easier. We wish you the best of luck with your products and contact us anytime should you need some advice or help!