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Web App vs Mobile App – Key Differences That You Need to Know

Comparing Web and Mobile Apps: Understanding Crucial Distinctions

By Rahul JhaveriPublished 2 months ago 4 min read

Web apps are commonly mistaken for mobile apps, but they are not the same. These two should never be confused because they differ so much when it comes to user experience (UX) as well as their development and deployment processes. Indeed, there exists many differences between web and mobile apps which can be noted by any specialist in software development.

In this article, we shall give a detailed comparison between web app and a mobile app that will make you choose wisely according to your specific needs.

What is a Web App?

Web applications are self-contained software programs that run solely on web browsers. They can be accessed from anywhere via internet connection on any device. It may be used on all personal devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.

Since web apps aren’t platform-specific and can only be accessed via a browser with an internet connection, there is no need for users to download or install them on their devices. In contrast to writing code that must be ported over different platforms, this simplifies the web app development process.

Among the most widely used web apps are webmail websites like Gmail and Yahoo; social media sites like Facebook, and e-commerce websites like Amazon.

How are Web Apps Developed?

An individual web application developer or a team of professionals can develop a web application under the guidance of a software engineer. Web applications can be created using CSS, JavaScript, Python, and HTML5.

Currently, unlike mobile applications, there is no standard software development kit for building web applications. However, software developers have access to some templates. Web applications work by collecting information from users, usually through a web form. The received information is then sent to the application server, where the requested operation is performed. Finally, the results are returned to the browser, and can be accessed from a desktop or mobile device.

Compared to mobile apps, web apps are generally faster and easier to develop, but offer a wider variety of features. A growing trend, progressive web applications (PWAs) leverage recent browser advancements to make web apps behave like mobile apps. However, the support and functionality provided by operating systems is still limited compared to actual mobile applications.

What is a Mobile App?

Mobile applications are software programs that are designed and programmed to run exclusively on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, wearables, etc. These apps serve a variety of purposes such as communication, information, entertainment, business, shopping, among others.

Mobile apps can be downloaded from the Play Store for Android devices or the App Store for iOS devices. Users are provided with functionality similar to what they would experience when running a web application on a desktop computer.

iOS and Android are the dominant platforms in the mobile application industry, followed closely by Microsoft. Many companies have prioritized developing and testing their mobile apps for iOS and Android due to the high usage of these platforms, which account for about 28% and 71% of the global market, respectively (as of 2009-2022).

Some well-known examples of native mobile apps include popular social media platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Twitter. In addition, there are entertainment apps like Netflix, Spotify and TikTok, as well as shopping apps like Amazon, Walmart and eBay.

How are Mobile Apps Developed?

Companies often hire developers to develop native or hybrid mobile applications. But if you have some programming skills, you can also get involved in mobile app development. Previously, developing apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone required specific software development kits (SDKs). Now you can also use JavaScript and other interface languages in developing mobile applications.

Developers use a specific language and an IDE (Integrated Development Environments) to build native mobile apps for their chosen platform. Once downloaded from the App Store, these apps are stored in the device’s memory and users can access them via their icons. Many mobile apps are designed to work without the internet.

Apple devices operate on the iOS operating system, which means that Apple applications are developed using either Swift or Objective-C and the Xcode integrated development environment (IDE). Conversely, native Android applications are coded in Java and are typically created using either the Eclipse IDE or Android Studio.

Native apps have an advantage over web apps as they can access hardware and other device features, including the camera, calendar, GPS, sensors, and address book.

On the other hand, hybrid apps offer more flexibility in terms of development. They can be built using a combination of CSS, HTML5, and JavaScript. Hybrid apps are essentially web apps designed to resemble and operate like native apps. Consequently, many developers find them quicker and easier to build. While hybrid apps can also utilize various device features, they rely on an internet browser, unlike native apps.

Web App vs. Mobile App: Which One Should You Choose?

The decision of mobile app or web app should be based on your specific needs and goals. While mobile apps are suitable for standalone systems such as games, web apps offer greater accessibility because they can be used by anyone with a web browser. Web applications eliminate the worry about device compatibility. Mobile apps can communicate even without an internet connection, a feature that web apps don’t have.

Consider that many web apps may not be compatible with different mobile devices, and favor mobile apps if that option is needed. Web applications have the advantage of dynamic updates, which all users can instantly access when servers change, while mobile applications require users to download the most recent updates. Ultimately, the choice depends on the needs of your project.

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About the Creator

Rahul Jhaveri

Rahul has been working in Australia's IT industry for more than 10 years. He is the director of JhavTech Studios, a Melbourne-based tech hub which offers top-notch and personalized services in the area of Web and Mobile Development.

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