Mobile Apps vs Web Apps: what’s the difference?

mobile apps

Apps have dominated the user market greatly in the last few years, there’s an app for everything, from food tracking to bitcoin platforms that can all be accessed with the click of an icon on our smartphones. But did you know that there are two types of apps that we make use of on a daily basis?

One of the biggest misconceptions when dealing with apps is thinking that they are all built and managed in the same way, but there are major differences between native mobile apps and web apps; which completely change the user-experience and management of the platforms.

First of all, the most basic concept to understand is the difference between web apps and websites. The primary difference here is that a web app is a website that is designed and managed to be viewed seamlessly on a smartphone’s web browser. This will integrate the dimensions and usability of a smartphone to deliver the best user experience from the comfort and practicality of a smartphone browser; without the need to download the app.

Building a website intended for desktop use is far different from building a website for mobile use – the ratios and set up are optimised to fit screens, provide clearer navigation and ultimately deliver within the screen space provided. When building a website, both mobile and desktop optimisation can be considered and implemented during the development stage.

But what’s the difference between mobile apps and web apps?

Mobile Apps

Native mobile apps are configured on a specific platform, primarily iOS and Android for iPhone and Samsung devices respectively. They are generally downloaded from the App Store for Apple and Play Store on Android devices and are instantly connected to the device’s system resources such as GPS tracking of camera access.

Some of the most popular searches on App Stores include Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, Google Maps and FitBit and are each stored directly on the smartphone they were installed on, saved on user accounts for easier integration when purchasing a new device.

Web Apps

Web apps are not downloaded or installed on a device and can be accessed by means of a web browser. This allows the app to load in an optimised manner adapting to the screen size and functionality of the particular device they are opened on. This in-built feature is only accessible through open browsers but still functions and reacts with the same fluidity as a mobile app.

Web apps require an active internet service as there is no loaded data on the device you are browsing from. They also do not require manual or automatic updates as their live nature keeps them up-to-date, unlike mobile apps which require periodic updating. Mobile apps do respond faster than web apps.

Another factor to consider is the way either is built.

How to build a web app and mobile app

Mobile App

As a general rule, mobile apps are more costly to develop when compared to web apps – this is mostly due to their platform-specific framework causing developers to create an iOS version as well as an Android version, with only the site map as the common feature in software.

The quick response rate in mobile apps makes them far more popular in day-to-day usage; this is due to the short loading speed enabled by Integrated Development Environments (IDE) created for the specific software language; be it Swift for Apple, Java for Android or specific Google interface elements and SDKs (Software Development Kits).

Web Apps

Web apps are most commonly built on JavaScript, CSS or HTML5 but there is no SDK for building web apps, apart from developer’s access to certain templates. Web apps are typically easier to build and can be completed in a shorter amount of time when compared to mobile apps.

But with progressive web apps considered the norm thanks to modern day web development tools, loading times, responsive rate and user experience can be greatly improved. Inventor of progessive web apps, explains that PWAs are; “responsive, connectivity-independent, app-like, fresh, safe, discoverable, re-engageable, installable, linkable web experiences.”

Probably the biggest question of concern is whether PWAs can bridge the gap between mobile and web apps; but until then, your choices are two: mobile apps or web apps… what’s your choice?