Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on August 11th, 2013

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Seven Functional Differences Between a Mobile App and a Mobile Website

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This is a question we are often posed and think that defining a clear distinction between the two would be helpful. Many people come to us wondering which would be the most cost-efficient, which would best allow them to reach their customer base, etc. Below we have listed seven qualities possessed by either apps or websites and differentiate between them for you to help alleviate some of the confusion.

1.       An app is downloaded from an app store such as iTunes App Store or Google Play, a website is something accessed online

An app is software downloaded to your device for access at any time. Websites are able to be found in a Google search, whereas the apps are typically found in their respective stores making a website easier to find due to the massive presence of Google and its popularity as a search engine. Websites can also be linked to from other sites or included in emails whereas apps can only be referenced and recommended, the interested party then has to find the app in their device's respective store.

2.       If the app is not free, the user will pay the app store for the download. Websites are usually free to access

A website is usually free to access unless there is specific paying-member content that isn't viewable by all visitors.  If an app costs money, it is usually a one-time charge with full functionality allowed after purchase and installation. Also, there is no wait time when accessing a website where the download for the app takes time before it is able to use.

3.       To have an app in the App Store, the developer must pay a fee to the App Store to have their apps listed and distributed. A website needs a domain name and web server

Websites are easier to create in this regard because there is no yellow tape to go through with the sponsoring app store. The website can be designed and developed to your personal taste and then made active without the need for outside approval. It is generally faster, cheaper and easier to develop a website that is free to access and can be accessed from any device or through any search engine.

4.       Apps can access device functionality such as the camera, contacts, pictures, or GPS. Conversely, Mobile websites cannot access device functionality

Apps are also usually higher-performance because they are developed in native code. Apps are usually much more specific than websites and are used to accomplish a certain task, such as calculate tips at a restaurant or keep track of daily goals and give rewards upon achievement. An app generally operates within your mobile device whereas a website is only accessed from the device.

5.       Mobile websites are accessed by a URL and require an internet connection whereas an app can work without internet access

An app can work with no internet connection as they are downloaded content on a phone or tablet and work within the device. This makes them more portable than a website and more device specific, but with 3G and 4G web connections on smartphones, the internet is usually always accessible.

6.       Mobile websites work on all devices; Apps only work on the device they were downloaded on

Apps only work with the device they were downloaded on, and are only able to be downloaded by a specific device from that device's sponsoring App Store, Marketplace, etc. This puts app developers at a disadvantage because their app can only reach a specific, pre-targeted audience whereas Apple, Windows and Android users can access any mobile website.

7.       Mobile websites do not need approval to update, while apps need approval from their sponsoring company

iPhone apps need to be approved by Apple before they are available for download, Android apps by Google, etc. App updates also need to be installed and the update is sometimes required by the provider in order to continue app use; website updates happen automatically. This gives a convenience boost to websites, as they are easily updatable by the site administrator through a custom-developed Content Management System (CMS).

If you have any additional questions or are wondering which avenue would make the most sense for your specific pursuit, please let us know in the comments or contact us.