Mobile App vs Web App: What’s The Difference?

Understanding their differences is key to building a successful digital product. In this article, you’ll learn the difference between mobile and web applications, and gain insights that will inform your decision to develop one type of app over the other. So, let’s take a look at the differences between a mobile application and a web application.

What is a Web App?

Web apps are the second element of the mobile app vs web app debate. They are designed to be fully functional and accessible on whatever device a user chooses to use. Unlike mobile apps, web apps do not need to be downloaded, so users can access them through their browsers.

The process of building web apps has some differences and similarities with the process of building a mobile one. Sometimes the differences between a web application and a mobile website can cause a bit of confusion.

Desktop or mobile browser, web apps tend to operate equally well. In other words, when it comes to web apps’ compatibility, you can be sure that they will run easily on any device if they use the correct code base and web technologies.

Mobile Apps vs Web Apps

Mobile apps tend to be faster and more efficient than web apps, but in order to maintain optimum functionality, users must regularly download updates, whereas web apps update themselves. A difference between these two types of apps is that web apps require an active Internet connection in order to function, whereas mobile apps can often function while offline.

  • Web apps are accessible via web browsers and will adapt to whichever device.
  • Unlike native mobile apps, web apps are not native to any particular system or device.

The best thing about web apps is that they are responsive enough to the devices that they are being used on, so much that at times they can function as a mobile app.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Web Apps & Mobile Apps

Now that we have established an understanding of the differences between mobile apps and web apps, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Advantages of Web Apps:

  • Are easier and faster to build than mobile apps.
  • Function in-browser, and therefore do not need to be downloaded or installed.
  • App store approval is not required, so web apps can be launched more quickly.
  • Easy to maintain, as they have a common codebase regardless of the mobile platform.

Disadvantages of Web Apps:

  • Are slower than mobile apps.
  • Do not work without an Internet connection.
  • Carry higher risks of poor quality, and security can’t be guaranteed since web apps don’t need to be approved by the app stores.
  • Can be difficult to discover since they aren’t hosted in a specific database like an app marketplace.

Advantages of Native Mobile Apps:

  • Increased safety and security as a result of being approved by the respective app store.
  • Can function without the Internet.
  • Can access device/system resources such as a camera or GPS.
  • Faster than web apps.
  • Can be easier to develop thanks to the availability of developer tools, and interface elements.

Disadvantages of Native Mobile Apps:

  • More expensive to develop compared to web apps
  • Can be difficult to have a native mobile app approved by the app store.
  • Can be costly to maintain and consistently update.
  • Designing and building the app from scratch is usually required in order for it to be compatible with different platforms such as iOS and Android.

Like a native one, both a mobile website and web app also have to face challenges in order to engage users. Developing apps can be overwhelming at times.

You should always consider which of the two technologies discussed best suits your target audience ​although you should consider the cost-effectiveness of your app project in relation to your goals.

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