What sets apart a web app from a mobile app?

What sets apart a web app from a mobile app?

What sets apart a web app from a mobile app?

The primary contrast between web apps and mobile apps lies in their accessibility and installation method. Web apps can be accessed via desktop or mobile web browsers, whereas mobile apps are installed directly onto smartphones or tablets.

The primary contrast between web apps and mobile apps lies in their accessibility and installation method. Web apps can be accessed via desktop or mobile web browsers, whereas mobile apps are installed directly onto smartphones or tablets.


What sets apart a web app from a mobile app?

The primary contrast between web apps and mobile apps lies in their accessibility and installation method. Web apps can be accessed via desktop or mobile web browsers, whereas mobile apps are installed directly onto smartphones or tablets.

Unlike native mobile apps, web apps do not necessitate installation for usage.

While this stands as the most apparent disparity between the two, numerous other significant differences and similarities exist, all of which will be explored in this comprehensive guide.

I will delve into everything you need to comprehend regarding web apps and mobile apps, delineating circumstances where building a mobile app is more appropriate and instances where a web app is more advantageous.

Understanding Web Apps

A web application, or web app, is a software program hosted on remote servers and accessed through web browser interfaces via the internet.

Familiar examples of web apps include Google Docs, Netflix, and Facebook. Users can utilize these tools directly from any web browser without the need for software installation on their devices.

While web apps may not always deliver the optimal user experience compared to native apps (which will be discussed later), they still function effectively through web browsers.

To operate, web apps, progressive web apps, and hybrid apps require a backend infrastructure consisting of a web server, database, and application server.

It's important to note that web apps and websites are distinct entities, despite both being accessed through web browsers. Websites typically offer static content, whereas web apps are dynamic, providing greater interactivity and enabling users to perform various tasks.

Understanding Mobile Apps

Mobile apps, as their name suggests, are tailored for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Users typically need to download and install these apps onto their devices to access them.

Mobile apps capitalize on the native functionalities of a device, such as its camera, Bluetooth, or GPS, thereby enhancing features, performance, and usability compared to web app equivalents.

Within the realm of mobile apps, two main categories exist: native mobile apps and hybrid mobile apps.

A native mobile app is developed for a particular operating system, such as iOS or Android, optimizing its performance and user experience for that specific platform.

On the other hand, hybrid mobile apps are engineered to run across multiple operating systems, offering a degree of flexibility in deployment while still leveraging some native features of the device.

Key Differences : Mobile App Versus Web App

When contrasting a mobile app versus a web app, several notable distinctions become evident. Depending on your objectives, these disparities could certainly influence your decision-making process in favor of one option over the other.

Development Environment and Tools Comparison

Mobile app development necessitates platform-specific development environments and tools. For instance, Apple provides its proprietary IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for iOS app development, comprising the iOS SDK, development tools, and compilers tailored for coding and debugging iOS apps. Similarly, Android offers its dedicated development software, Android Studio.

In contrast, web app development environments are less stringent. Web developers enjoy a broader array of tools at their disposal, contingent upon the programming languages selected for the project.

Frameworks & Programming Languages

The programming language utilized in mobile application development hinges on the app type and platform targeted. For iOS apps, Swift and Objective-C serve as the primary programming languages, whereas Android apps commonly employ Java and Kotlin. Hybrid apps, on the other hand, can be crafted using a variety of languages including C#, Xamarin, React Native, Appcelerator, and Cordova/PhoneGap.

In contrast, web apps are typically constructed using languages such as JavaScript, PHP, Python, and Ruby. Generally, developers have a broader spectrum of options and often find web app development more accessible because they can leverage languages and frameworks with which they are already proficient. If you possess basic coding skills, building a web app may seem more manageable.

Performance and Speed Comparison

Performance disparities between web apps and mobile apps are substantial, with mobile apps generally holding an advantage. Firstly, mobile apps can operate without an internet connection, enhancing responsiveness, loading times, and native gesture support inherent to mobile devices.

In contrast, web app performance and speed are heavily reliant on the strength of the internet connection. Absence of connectivity renders the app non-functional, with poor connections leading to sluggish loading times and decreased usability. Additionally, web apps often suffer from inconsistent performance due to reliance on web browsers.

User Experience and Engagement

Enhanced performance and speed significantly contribute to an improved user experience on mobile apps. Actions executed within a mobile app are nearly instantaneous, with minimal lag or interruption when transitioning between stages—a feature not consistently achievable with web apps.

Moreover, app publishers possess more avenues to engage with users compared to web app developers. For instance, publishers can send push notifications directly to mobile devices, prompting users to open the app or perform specific actions. This level of direct engagement is unavailable to web apps.

Comparison of Cost and Development Timeline

When considering cost and development timeline, building web apps generally proves to be cheaper and faster compared to developing mobile apps. Mobile app development tends to be more time-consuming due to its complexity, often requiring the creation of separate versions to run on multiple platforms.

Nevertheless, it's important to acknowledge that the cost of mobile app development has notably decreased in recent years. The emergence of no-code app builders allows for the creation of mobile apps without the need for coding, enabling launching on both iOS and Android from a single build. This streamlined process drastically reduces the time to launch and diminishes development costs.

Market Reach and Monetization Methods Comparison

When it comes to market reach, web apps enjoy a broader scope as they can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, irrespective of the device they use. On the other hand, mobile apps are distributed via app stores, necessitating the creation of multiple versions to comply with the specific requirements of each operating system, though popular apps are typically available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

In terms of monetization, mobile apps generally have an advantage due to their native components. While both types of apps can employ various monetization strategies, mobile apps tend to have smoother checkout processes. Additionally, setting up recurring billing and utilizing saved mobile wallets on the device are easier for mobile apps compared to web apps.

Commonalities exist between web apps and mobile apps.

Accessibility and Compatibility

- Both mobile and web apps are accessible to the masses and compatible across multiple platforms.

- If someone has a smartphone or tablet, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to access the application, whether it’s a native mobile app or web app.


- Mobile and web apps both face security vulnerabilities.

- As a developer and app publisher, it’s your responsibility to prioritize data protection and user privacy.

- The exact types of threats may differ between the two, but inherently, this is still something they share.

User-Centric Design

- UX design is critical for web and mobile apps alike.

- In fact, 90% of people say they’d stop using an app because of poor performance, with most performance issues being design-related.

- Design choices impact attractiveness, screen fit, and user ease in finding what they’re looking for.

Ongoing Maintenance and Updates

- Mobile apps and web apps both require updates and ongoing maintenance.

- Whether it’s bug fixes, new feature releases, or security patches, continuous updating is necessary regardless of distribution method.

- Updates for web apps can be deployed on the server without user intervention, while mobile apps require user installation for new versions.

Integration with Emerging Technologies

- Thanks to APIs (application programming interfaces), it’s common for multiple apps to integrate and work together, applicable for both native and web apps.

- Examples include integrating Slack with a website for notifications or integrating with Facebook or Google for user authentication through SSO.