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What is the difference between an APP and a mobile website?

What is the difference between an APP and a mobile website?

Do you need an APP or a mobile website?

If you haven’t already, you should be planning a mobile strategy for your business. When considering mobile, many people instantly think App. We know, we get a lot of calls from businesses who want an APP. But, is it an APP that you really want or is it a mobile website?

Apps and Mobile websites are suited to very different purposes. We do not favour one or the other, we just want to present the facts so that you may make a better informed business decision for your mobile strategy.

Let’s start with the major differences.

What is an APP?

An APP is a software application that is developed to operate on a particular platform, most commonly an Apple iOS or Android Tablet or Smartphone.

For a more detailed explanation please read our article:
How much is an APP? Why there is no simple answer.

The advantages of an APP:

  • The application is loaded to the Smartphone and may utilise native functions such as the Camera or local storage.
  • A fee can be charged for download of the APP.
  • It can work offline, though often APPs do hook in to live data.
  • Push message marketing can be integrated to the APP.
  • No connection required, except, of course, where an APP is designed to access live data.

An APP also has some major disadvantages:

  • An APP will only work on one platform. You will require additional development for each Platform.
    This means that an Apple iOS APP will not work on an Android or Windows Smartphone.
  • The development skills required are highly specialised and the development lead time considerably more complicated than a mobile website, and as such command a higher development cost.
  • Your app cannot be found directly via a domain name, or web address. Additional investment in marketing will be required to promote your APP.
  • Updates to the content of the APP will need to be performed by the developers.
  • Apple iOS updates must go through Apple’s approval process which will take a few days. Android updates are usually same day.


What is a mobile website?

A mobile website can be reached directly through the Smartphone’s web browser in the same way you load any website. A mobile website will be optimised for the Smartphone so that it is fast loading, the functions are clear and content is clearly legible.

The advantages of a mobile website:

  • A mobile website will work on any platform and does not require any additional development.
  • Mobile websites can be developed as database-driven web applications that act in a similar way to APPs.
  • It is considerably faster and more cost effective to develop a mobile site.
  • A mobile website will be visible to a Search Engines such as Google.
  • Updates can be made immediately and it can be built on a Content Management System (CMS) so that you can update and maintain the content in-house.

The disadvantages of a mobile website:

  • The native functionality of the Smartphone such as the Camera is not available.
  • It is not as easy, or perhaps not as readily accepted, to charge for use.
  • Push message marketing is not possible outside of an APP.
  • A connection is always required.



An APP will nearly always cost considerably more to develop than a mobile website. So you need to think carefully about the options available to you. There are clearly cost benefits to having a mobile website, but there are some things only an APP can do.

Finally, just to confuse things a little, it is possible to deploy a mobile website application and an APP to run in unison, as we have done twice recently, for very specific purposes.

If you would like some advice on whether an APP or Mobile website is right for you, please feel free to contact us. All enquiries will be treated in the strictest of confidence.

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