While many companies know the value of having a mobile presence, deciding what will best fit their needs and budgets can be challenging. Most companies believe a native app is the best option because it purportedly has more capabilities and works faster than the mobile web. But new advances in technology are leveling the mobile playing field.
If you have been asking, “What mobile option should I use?” the answer is, “It depends.”
A native app is an application that is downloaded from an online application store and installed and run directly on the specific mobile device for which it was created.
A mobile website is a site that has been adapted to fit a smaller screen for enhanced usability. Mobile websites usually include some of the capabilities of the desktop website, and will occasionally offer additional mobile-specific features like click-to-call phone numbers and location-based mapping.
Native apps used to be far faster than mobile web, but the widespread availability of WiFi, increased network speeds and phones with higher processing capabilities have made the mobile web experience faster than ever. Utilizing HTML5, mobile websites are also able to recreate the same kind of user experience as a native app.
Mobile web has a number of advantages over native apps:
- Mobile websites are more agile and immediate — they can be launched and updated quickly because there are no application processes to contend with.
- A mobile site is built once and can be accessed on the ever-growing number of devices, while native apps must be built and maintained differently for each different device.
- Mobile sites are easier to locate and share. They can be optimized to be found through search engines. It is much easier for a user to link to a mobile site than to a mobile app.
This is not to say that native apps are going away. In fact, they offer a number of special features — and opportunities — that mobile sites don’t offer. These include:
- Push notifications, which are useful for social or connectivity apps.
- Speed — an essential feature for gaming apps or apps that require complex data processing.
- Offline access — ideal for apps that need to run while an Internet connection is not available.
Ultimately, when it comes down to choosing between a native app and a mobile website, there are no easy answers or wrong choices. It all boils down to finding your mobile comfort zone. That said, it is important to note that many businesses are moving toward mobile sites. After all, with the growing number of devices entering the marketplace, many companies find it daunting and costly to create and maintain multiple versions of native apps with the same broad range that a single mobile site can deliver. In addition, as network speeds increase and web technologies (like HTML5) evolve, the mobile web experience will only become better in the future.