Web App vs Mobile App?


When an organization or a business face the issue of implementing a mobile solution for any purpose, one of the main questions is what to create – a mobile app or a web app? There is no right answer, it all depends on the set of factors. If you came up with the same question this blog post will help you make a decision.

Before jumping into any comparison let us, first of all, define what is a web application and what is a mobile application.

What is a web application?

According to Wikipedia web application or web app is a client-server computer program in which the client (including the user interface and client-side logic) runs in a web browser. At the same time, it is not the same as the website. While a website is a static page with information, a web application should be…interactive. The most common examples are online forms, webmail, online sales, and auctions – anywhere the user has the choice of actions. The most well-known example is Google web apps.

 What are the main benefits of web applications?

  • Because of browser compatibility they can be accessed from ANY platform: mobile, tablet, laptop…
  • You can access them anywhere as long as you have the internet connection
  • Web apps are flexible from the updates perspective: they can be updated automatically for all users or the updates can be accepted or not accepted by users. Mobile apps always require permissions to update.
  • Development of these apps is rather cost-effective, both from creation and maintenance/updates perspective (as it’s mentioned on a lot of resources like LifeWire, TopTal, CrewCo, NNGroup and others )
  • Due to their deployment on the dedicated servers web apps are usually more secure and easy to backup than mobile ones
  • Web apps are much easier to deliver to users. For example, Apple’s AppStore rejects hundreds of apps each day because of their 114 regulations regarding design, functionality, advertisement, speed etc.

What is a mobile application?

Techopedia explains mobile application as a type of application software designed to run on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet computer. Mobile applications frequently serve to provide users with similar services to those accessed on PCs. The most popular examples are Uber, Tinder, WhatsApp.

Mobile apps have their own benefits:

  • Mobile apps don’t always require the Internet connection to work properly
  • Apps that are acquired from the official store have more credibility from users’ security perspective
  • Mobile apps can be way faster than web apps because of native processing capabilities
  • Apps can integrate with each other and with different services (think fingerprint sensors or navigation apps)
  • Mobile apps are much more suitable for usage in IoT infrastructures
  • Cloud-based apps do not require much data to be stored on the device and are one of the most popular trends in the last couple of years
  • Wearables are wildly connected to mobile devices and the corresponding apps
  • NFC technology used mostly in Commerce and social networks is accounted for use in mobile apps

Web App vs Mobile App: What to choose for your business?

Like a lot of other business related dilemmas, the choice between mobile app and web app depends on goals/tasks and available resources.

In general, if your service doesn’t require a lot of features and you are limited at budget, web app is the best way to start. Quite opposite, if your service requires a lot of functionalities and interoperability features, and your budget is not tight, you should start with mobile app OR with both mobile app and web app if your budget is REALLY  unlimited.

In the real world, every situation is unique and lies “somewhere in between”. Factors that you need to consider before choosing web or mobile app:

  • Access abilities
  • Personalization
  • Interface/ Interactivity
  • Data processing
  • Notifications
  • Updates
  • Marketplace requirements
  • Budget limitations

To help you decide, we developed a simple test based on our experience and research. It might take about 5 minutes to get the result that you can consider as a ballpark advice from third-party mobile app solution provider:

Web app or mobile app?
Pass the test to get the advice
1. Offline access
Do you need to provide users with offline access to some content (like documents, notes, images etc)?
2. Anytime/any place/any device access
Do you need to provide users with the ability to access the service anytime/any place/any device just using the Web connection? For example, some software sales reps need such functionality to show their prospects some product from their own devices.
3. Personalization
Do you need to create the database of users to deliver personalized interfaces (like dashboard layout preferences ) or personalized data storage (like personal notes folders)?
4. Interactivity
Are you going to employ interactive functionality like moving objects on screen (interactive blocks builder) or drawing something (for example signature on the touchscreen) or something more complex than taping/swiping?
5. Calculations or reporting
Do you need any reporting functionality (plots/graphs based on real-time data or interactive reports) or complex calculations functionality (like business or learning indicators calculation)?
6. Smartphone functionalities interoperability
Do you need to use some native functionality (like camera, GPS module, microphone, QR scanner, messenger, fingerprint scanners…) to deliver your service to users?
8. Notifications
Do you need notifications functionality when the user doesn't actually use your service (like push notifications)?
9. Updates
Is it crucial for your service to be always updated? YES means that you need to deliver updates to your app without users' permission and on all types of devices simultaneously
10. Functionality Restrictions
Does your service concept comply with App Store and Google Play requirements? (A LOT of apps don't pass the requirements of the App Store because of speed, design and other 114 criteria)
11. Budget
Do you have limitations in the budget? Try to estimate costs of mobile apps that deliver similar services. If similar projects' cost is significantly higher than your budget, choose YES
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