What is the difference between a mobile app and a web app?

Mobile apps and web apps difference

What is the difference between a mobile app and a web app? – Article by Amélie Viardot

In today’s world, where technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace, mobile apps and web apps are two commonly used software applications. 

However, many people may not be familiar with the difference between these two types of apps. That’s why we’ve created this article to explain the key differences and advantages and drawbacks of each app type. We also give you different examples. 

So, if you want to develop apps, here is the perfect guide.

What is a mobile app?

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A mobile app is a software application that is designed to run on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. 

Mobile apps are specifically developed for mobile platforms like iOS or Android. They leverage the unique capabilities of mobile devices, such as the camera, GPS, and biometric sensors. 

Mobile apps can be downloaded from an app store, like the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. They are installed on the user’s mobile device, allowing them to access the app’s functionality directly from their device. 

Mobile apps can be used by users even if the device is not connected to the internet

Mobile apps can provide a wide range of functionalities, such as gaming, social media, e-commerce, productivity, and much more.

 

Advantages of Mobile Applications

  • Personalized user experience: Mobile apps are designed to provide a more personalized and engaging experience to users. They can leverage the features and capabilities of mobile devices to offer an immersive experience.
  • Better performance: Mobile apps are optimized for speed and performance, as they are designed to run natively on a mobile device. This means that they can operate faster and more efficiently than web apps.
  • Offline access: Some mobile apps allow users to access content and functionality even when they are not connected to the internet. This is particularly useful for users who travel frequently or have limited internet access.
  • Push notifications: Mobile apps can send notifications to users, which can be used to notify users about new content or updates. This feature can be used to increase user engagement and retention.

 

Drawbacks of Mobile Applications

  • Cost: Developing mobile apps requires specialized skills and knowledge of specific programming languages and frameworks. Mobile apps are typically more expensive and time-consuming than developing web apps.
  • Compatibility: If your team or your supplier doesn’t have the right skills, it’s possible you  will need to develop separately the app for each platform, iOS & Android. This will add to the development cost, complexity, and time to market. But you can also use languages dedicated to create multi-platform applications from a single codebase, such as Flutter, as we do at iterates for our clients.
  • Application Store Approval: Mobile apps need to be approved by app stores like the Apple App Store or Google Play Store before they can be distributed to users. This approval process can be time-consuming and may result in rejection if the app does not meet the app store’s guidelines.
  • Limited accessibility: Mobile apps are limited to the platform for which they are built (Android or iOS), meaning that they can only be accessed by users on specific devices.

Examples of mobile apps 

  • Social networking apps: These apps enable users to connect and interact with friends, family and professional networks online, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • Entertainment apps: These apps provide access to movies, TV shows, music, and other forms of entertainment, such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and YouTube.
  • Productivity apps: These apps help users be more productive by organizing tasks, schedules, and to-do lists, such as Evernote, Trello, and Asana.
  • Educational apps: These apps help users learn new skills or knowledge, such as language learning apps like Duolingo, or educational apps like Khan Academy and Coursera.
  • News apps: These apps provide access to news and information from a variety of sources, such as CNN, The New York Times, and BBC News.
  • Navigation apps: These apps help users find their way around, whether it’s driving directions with Google Maps or Waze, or public transportation information with apps like Citymapper.
  • Travel apps: These apps help users plan and book trips, find accommodations, and explore new places, such as Airbnb, Expedia, and TripAdvisor.

Examples of features that are more accessible in mobile apps than web apps

  • Camera: Mobile apps can leverage the camera feature of mobile devices to provide users with advanced functionalities, such as taking photos and videos, scanning QR codes, and using augmented reality.
  • GPS: Mobile apps can access the GPS feature of mobile devices to provide location-based services, such as mapping and navigation, location-based promotions, and local search.
  • Push Notifications: Mobile apps can send push notifications to users, even when the app is not actively running. This feature can be used to notify users about new content, promotions, or updates.
  • Biometric Sensors: Mobile apps can use the biometric sensors of mobile devices, such as fingerprint scanners and facial recognition technology, to provide secure authentication and access control.

 

What is a web app?

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A web app, short for web application, is a software application that runs in a web browser.

Compared to mobile apps, web apps do not need to be downloaded or installed on the user’s device (but they can, of course).

Instead, users can access a web app by visiting a website and interacting with the app’s interface through their web browser. Web apps are built using standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and can be accessed from any device with a web browser, regardless of the operating system or hardware specifications.

Web apps can provide a wide range of functionalities, such as productivity tools, e-commerce platforms, social networks, and much more. 

Web apps are becoming increasingly popular due to their versatility and accessibility across multiple platforms.

 

Advantages of Web Applications

  • Accessibility: Web apps can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, making them more accessible to a larger audience. They do not require users to download or install any software. If you like, you can also publish them in the stores to get more visibility: Apple Store and Play Store (Android). 
  • Cost-effective development: Developing web apps is generally less expensive and time-consuming than developing mobile apps. Indeed, web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are widely known and require less specialized knowledge. And you can easily connect your web app to your actual database.
  • Easy updates: Web apps can be updated instantly without requiring users to download any new version of the app. This makes it easy to fix bugs and release new features. A real advantage nowadays to act quick and respond to market evolution. You are depending on application store approval, like “classic” mobile apps.
  • Platform-independent: Web apps can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, regardless of the platform (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc.). No store can censor your app. You make the changes you want, when you want!  This makes web apps more versatile than mobile apps.

 

Drawbacks of Web Applications

  • Limited user experience: Web apps are limited by the capabilities of web browsers and do not provide the same level of user experience as mobile apps. They cannot leverage the features and capabilities of mobile devices.
  • Performance issues: Web apps rely on internet connectivity and may experience slower load times and performance issues if the internet connection is weak or unstable.
  • Limited offline access: Web apps require an internet connection to function, so they cannot be accessed offline unless developers include an offline mode.

 

Examples of web apps 

  • Productivity apps: These apps help users be more productive by organizing tasks, schedules, and to-do lists, such as Google Docs, Microsoft Office Online, and Trello.
  • Communication apps: These apps enable real-time communication between users, such as email services like Gmail, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, and video conferencing apps like Zoom and Google Meet.
  • E-commerce apps: These apps allow businesses to sell products and services online, such as Shopify e-commerces or Amazon app.
  • Project management apps: These apps help teams collaborate and manage projects in real-time, such as Asana, and Basecamp.
  • Educational apps: These apps help users learn new skills or knowledge, such as language learning or educational apps, like Coursera or Udemy.

You are looking for cool ideas to create a web app? Check this video 👇

Examples of features that are more accessible in web apps than mobile apps

  • Cross-platform compatibility: Web apps can run on any device with a web browser, regardless of the operating system or hardware specifications. This means that they are more versatile and accessible than mobile apps.

  • Instant updates: Web apps can be updated instantly without requiring users to download or install any new software. This means that web apps can be updated more frequently than mobile apps, which require approval from app stores and user download.

  • No installation required: Web apps do not need to be downloaded or installed on a device, making them more convenient and easier to access than mobile apps.

  • Search engine optimization: Web apps can be optimized for search engines, which can increase their visibility and attract more users.

  • Multi-tab browsing: Web apps can be accessed in multiple tabs or windows within a web browser, making it easier for users to multitask and switch between different tasks.

 

Differences between a mobile app and web app

  • User Experience: Mobile apps are built to provide a more engaging and personalized user experience. They can leverage the hardware capabilities of mobile devices and take advantage of native features like push notifications, camera, and location services. Web apps, on the other hand, have a more limited user experience as they are built to run within a web browser.

  • Performance: Mobile apps are optimized for speed and performance, as they are designed to run natively on a mobile device. This means that they can operate faster and more efficiently than web apps. Web apps, on the other hand, are dependent on internet connectivity and may experience slower load times and performance issues if the internet connection is weak or unstable.

  • Accessibility: Web apps can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, making them more accessible to a larger audience. Mobile apps, however, are limited to the platform for which they are built, meaning that they can only be accessed by users on specific devices.

  • Development cost: Developing mobile apps requires specialized skills and knowledge of specific programming languages and frameworks, which can make it pricier and time-consuming. Web apps, on the other hand, can be developed using more widely known web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, making it easier and less expensive to develop.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, mobile apps and web apps have their advantages and drawbacks. They serve different purposes. 

Mobile apps offer a more personalized and engaging user experience, while web apps provide accessibility and platform independence. 

Ultimately, the choice between a mobile app and a web app depends on the specific needs of the user and the goals of the application. It’s important to carefully consider the differences between the two and choose the appropriate type of app for your project.

You need to develop your application? You are lucky! iterates can help you with that 👨‍💻 

You can read our previous article on the subsidies you can benefit from Brussels Region. 

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