Mobile App vs. Web App: What Should You Build? 

When you decide to build a mobile app, that’s only the first choice you’ll have to make. Before you enter development, you’ll need to make several decisions, from what features you’d like to include to what the overall design of your app will look like. But before you make those decisions, you’ll have to choose an app type.

These days, there is a slew of app types out there, but lately, the seemingly greatest debate is between the mobile app vs. web app. You might also see the terms native app vs. progressive web app. Both are popular app types for their own reasons, and while web apps are certainly gaining momentum these days, native apps are still a great choice in many cases.

Let’s explore the differences between the two, so you can choose the best app type for your needs.

What are Mobile Apps (Native Apps)?

Rumor has it that native apps are dying, but the reality is that this app type is still going strong in the mobile world. A native app is a mobile application designed for a specific mobile operating system (iOS vs. Android) that must be installed directly on your device. 

Written specifically for your OS of choice, iOS apps are written in Objective-C or Swift, while Android apps are written in Java or Kotlin. To use a native app, you must download it from your pertinent app store, either the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Examples: 

  • Bloomberg

  • Airbnb 

  • Instagram

  • Skype

What are Web Apps (Progressive Web Apps)?

Web apps, on the other hand, have really called into question what the definition of a mobile app really is. Technically speaking, web apps (or progressive web apps) aren’t really apps at all—they are essentially websites that can function outside of a browser. 

The only real difference between a web app and a website is that it must: 1) run under HTTPS, 2) have a Web App Manifest, and 3) have a Service Worker. Unlike true mobile apps, they can’t be downloaded from the app store. However, you can add an icon to your screen to access the web app like you would a mobile app. 

Examples:

  • Twitter Lite

  • Forbes

  • Pinterest

  • Lancôme

The Key Differences between Mobile vs. Web Apps?

Not only do these two app types differ in how they are defined and designed, but they also differ in what they have to offer.

  • Native apps offer a better user experience.

While it could be easily argued that a web app provides a better user experience (more on that later), native apps are generally thought to offer better performance. As they are native to their platform of choice, they are most well suited to function on your mobile device.

In some cases, user experience will eliminate web apps as an option entirely. For instance, a gaming app like Fortnite could not be designed as a web app. As such, not only do native apps offer the optimal user experience, they sometimes are the only option.

  • Web apps are easier to build than mobile apps. 

Starting with the mobile app development process, a native app is much more expensive to build than a web app. An individual native app must be created for each platform you would like to make your app available on. Likewise, you’ll have to endure the app store approval process to even put it on the market.

On the other hand, a web app is much like a mobile site. As such, a web app can function across mobile devices, alongside tablets and desktops. Plus, no app stores are involved, making developing and deploying a web app a much simpler process.  

  • Native apps support third-party integrations. 

Because a web app is essentially a mobile site, it isn’t capable of supporting third-party integrations. That said, if you need to build an app that can provide a BlueTooth connection or in-app camera compatibility, a native app is your only option. 

  • Web apps don’t need to be installed.

Convenience is a recurring theme for web apps. In addition to making the development process less complicated, web apps don’t require installation from the user. You simply find the web app in your browser, add an icon to your home screen, and you’re done.

By making the app more easily accessible, it eliminates the excuses for why users wouldn’t want to engage with your app, such as wait time for installation or the lack of storage space. Plus, you can still be visible on your user’s screen, send push notifications, and more.

  • Native apps provide the opportunity for app monetization.

While the fact that web apps don’t require installation can be seen as a pro, it can also be a con. As a mobile user yourself, you’ve likely noticed that many apps require you to purchase them before you can install them. This provides the app owners the opportunity for app monetization. 

It’s important to note, however, that you can still earn a return for your web app through other forms of monetization. From advertisements to membership fees, you can make money off of your app in the same way that you would on a standard website. 

  • Web apps are better for SEO.

One of the greatest downsides of building a standard mobile app is that the only way users are going to find it is through the app store. While it’s possible to optimize your app store listing, web apps allow you to easily optimize your app through SEO instead. 

Note: You can now make your web apps accessible from the Google Play app store. The Apple App Store has yet to make this an option outside of their own Apple brand web apps. 

What Will You Build: Mobile App vs. Web App? 

While there’s speculation that web apps will soon replace mobile apps altogether, the choice for what you should build should depend on your needs. For further help making your decision, you may want to discuss your project needs with your mobile app developer.

Still looking for a developer? At ClikGlobal, our team provides businesses like yours with quality yet affordable mobile app development. Whether you’d like to build a native app, a hybrid app, or a web app, we can help. 

Let’s discuss your project today!