This era is marked by more and more usage of mobile devices for accessing information. Such is the case; if your business does not have a presence in the mobile space, you will lose business prospects. A business owner must think deeply about his requirements and gauge the best way to mark a mobile presence. That presence could either be in the format of a web app or mobile app.

Now, if we talk of mobile app space, they are further categorized as native apps and cross-platform apps. Native apps are native to a particular mobile platform's development environment—be it Android, iOS, or even now defunct Windows Mobile OS. Cross-platform mobile apps can be run on all platforms; however, the building process is a bit more convoluted and time-intensive.

Before starting the development process of an app—a business must ponder his business goals, needs, and budget. Based on the assessment, a choice among intricate cross-platform app development approach and separate native apps should be made.

As it turns out, there is one very widely circulated myth that web apps are the same as mobile apps, despite too many differences in resource-utilization, implementation, development approaches, and deployment. With this article, I intend to dispel this confusion as it is essential to know the real differences in making a sound decision among these.

I shall list down the fundamental difference between web and mobile apps. I shall also share some insights enabling you to choose a better approach for marking a mobile presence. Let us start from the start.

Web Apps VS Mobile Apps: The Nuts and Bolts

Those software applications that are made for direct execution over mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets—are known as mobile apps. As discussed earlier, they have two main types—native mobile apps and cross-platform mobile apps.

As mobile apps directly interact with OS and hardware, they give a better and tailored performance, but development costs are higher.

Web apps are general-purpose apps that can be accessed through mobile-compatible web browsers. For example, web apps execute by default within the Chrome browser in Android and within the Safari browser in iOS.

Native Mobile Apps VS Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

Now let us come to the distinction between native and cross-platform mobile apps in a bit more detail.

Native Mobile Apps

Those mobile apps that are built solely to be used over a single mobile platform—either Android or iOS—are called native mobile apps.

For Android, most of the native app development is done using Kotlin, Java, and C++, in an open-source integrated development environment from Google known as Android Studio.

For iOS, native app development is done using Swift and Objective-C programming languages using Xcode integrated development environment.

While building native apps, the principal emphasis is the inter-compatibility of the apps with the operating system and the extraction of maximum performance from the hardware.

Both Android and iOS provide their own software development kits, interface elements, and development utilities for aiding the building of their platform-specific apps.

Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

Cross-platform mobile apps, as the name suggests, are those that can run on Android and iOS by having the same codebase. Using cross-platform app development technologies such as React Native, Flutter, Xamarin—a single codebase is created, which is cross-compatible with Android and iOS at the same time.

These apps require more cost input and efforts for development. Cross-platform apps have various downsides in terms of app size, UI, and compilation time. These apps are larger because they additionally hold the code of the BCL assemblies.

Smaller businesses prefer building cross-platform app development because they think they can save substantial time by having apps for both platforms in one go by losing some pieces on performance.

Web Apps

Unlike mobile apps, web apps execute within the mobile device’s web browser without directly interacting with the mobile operating system. They have limited access to mobile’s native functionality such as media, geolocation, state, etc.

A general trend of building a web-based app currently is the usage of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. Quite the opposite to the mobile app, there is no standard register or software development kits to develop web apps. Yet, significant facilitation is provided by the availability of community-run and developed templates.

The development speed and efforts required for web apps is significantly lower than that of mobile apps. Yet, there is a trade-off in terms of functionality and performance.

Mobile Apps VS Web Apps: The Plusses And Minuses

Let us enlist the specific pluses and minuses of mobile and web apps in brief.

Advantages Of The Mobile Apps

  • Fast execution in comparison to web apps

  • Better functionality by making use of enhanced access to hardware

  • Offline work is possible

  • App hosting stores ensure data security

  • Development is aided by the platform itself through SDKs and tools

Disadvantages Of The Mobile Apps

  • Take more cost and efforts in comparison to web apps

  • Non-compatible across platforms (Android and iOS)

  • Upgrade and maintenance require more effort

  • App has to be approved by the app hosting store, so quality has to be top-notch

Advantages Of The Web Apps

  • Users do not have to download or install these, can be run from web browsers

  • Maintenance becomes more manageable as there is a single codebase

  • Most upgraded version opens each time

  • Development cost is low

  • No interference of app hosting stores in the codebase

Disadvantages Of The Web Apps

  • One cannot work offline

  • Lower performance and not-up-to-the-mark user experience

  • People cannot find these easily as there is no centralized database of web apps like an app store

  • Do not undergo a rigorous testing process like mobile apps, hence quality may not always be good

Verdict: Which App Is Best Suited For My Business?

Choosing among a web app and a mobile app depends upon many factors. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. One should look into the business's specific requirements for making such a choice. As a business owner, consider your business goals, budget, and time for making a presence on mobile cyberspace. Let me divulge into details a bit more for aiding your decision.

When Web App Is A Better Choice?

If your business goals command that you only need an additional resource with an interactive user interface over the internet, building a web app would make a much better choice. A mobile responsive web app is suitable for those businesses when they need to put a little more functionality than their websites.

When Mobile App Is A Better Choice?

If your business needs are far more than just displaying basic functionality such as the usage of location coordinates, map routes, camera access—then definitely go for a mobile app.

Here is a catch—if it should be a native app for a cross-platform app?

The answer would depend a lot on your budget and how much organizational efforts you are ready to deploy to maintain two separate apps. The cross-platform app, of course, trade-offs the performance and resource usage for having multiple apps. Yet, for smaller organizations, it is much easier to maintain a single codebase.

Winding Up

Despite all the factors of costs and business requirements, you must keep in mind that providing the most value to the users matters most crucially. Choosing the right product engineering company that understands your needs is essential as well.