Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites: A Comparison

Posted by Tim Ballard

The question is seemingly simple enough, Mobile App or Mobile Website? I would like to give you a simple answer but a simple answer would not be the correct answer. There are many aspects to consider when deciding between a Mobile App and Mobile Website. The most important of those being quite obvious but some of the most neglected. What are you trying to do? What do you want to do best? What do you want your users to experience when they visit your app/site? What is my budget?  Let’s break it down with some smartphone statistics first. 

There are currently 6 Billion mobile subscribers worldwide
This equals 87% of the world’s population
China and India account for 30% of this growth
There are over 1.2 Billion people accessing the web from their mobiles
Over 300,000 apps have been developed in the past 3 years


Statistics from a study released by Pew Research Center:

Smartphone sales have become bigger than PC sales.
28% of Internet usage comes from a mobile phone.
38% of UK tablet owners spend more of their time on their device than watching TV.
There were a total of $241 billion mobile transactions in 2011.
A majority of respondents use their mobile phone to access the Internet since it’s more convenient to use and they always carry it with them everywhere they go.

It’s clear from the data that mobile devices are more popular than ever. As a business, the 30% growth in the Chinese and Indian markets is an extremely appealing statistic, and here at Buena Digital, our own research for a client’s mobile app/site led us to some pretty interesting statistics as well. As of March 2012 China passed 1 billion total mobile phone subscribers at a growing rate of 1.18% per month and Chinese smartphone market has grown on average, 81% year to year while the U.S. growth rate is only 5%. It’s clear as a business that mobile is the future, but how do we connect with these customers? With an app or a mobile site? Let’s weigh the pros and cons. 

App Pros

Using native code usually results in higher performance.
App is distributed through native app stores and potentially enhances distribution.
It can work offline.
Single click launch from icon.
Utilize native functionality (camera, gyroscope, and push notifications).
Quality of app guaranteed through app marketplace

App Cons

Cost more to develop.
Takes more time to develop.
Code must be developed separately for each platform.
App stores charge fees for publishing or certifying.
Require approval of platform before you can distribute.
Requires manual download.

Mobile Website Pros

A single mobile site can work on any mobile platform 
Less expense to develop than an app.
Can be found and accessed via search engines, websites, and blogs.
No outside authority needed to distribute.
Content managed from your existing content management system.

Mobile Website Cons

Not being listed in an app store can reduce visibility.
You cannot access all of the smartphone’s native functionality (camera, gyroscope, and push notifications).

In conclusion, I believe both platforms have their specific advantages, if budget is not a concern then why not have one of each? However cost is typically the deciding factor. Determining what quality work you can get for your dollar can be extremely difficult and time consuming, but you don't have to do it alone, I hope this article helps if you're trying to make a decision, if you have more questions please contact us at Buena Digital, we would love to help. 

Category: Mobile , Web