Difference between a Mobile App and a Mobile Website?

mobile-appsMany people are confused and are looking for clarity regarding what is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website.


An app is short for ‘application’ and it works very similarly to user-installed software on a computer. An app allows the phone to perform specific tasks. Users may have to purchase an app for a small or it can be freely downloaded through the phones ‘app store’ by the means of a user’s app store account. A mobile website is simply a website that work and is optimized for a small screen of a smart phone.


Usually mobile websites have just key information and main pages that would be necessary to a visitor using a phone. Its functionality should work on all phones as opposed to the main website which is full of hundreds of pages of information, does not fit the phone screen, and many functions in the online website may not be compatible with a phone such as button not being clickable on, or flash banner not playing.


Mobile App:

1. Pro’s:

  • Easy to get to desktop icon
  • Trendy and considered ‘cool’
  • Loads faster due to the app being pre downloaded which means only certain info within the app is updated during a sync
  • An app works offline (meaning even when there is no internet connection – it just cant sync to get the latest data but it still works)
  • On an app there is only ever need to login once and all is saved
  • You can save preferences on an app

2. Con’s:

  • Have to apply through an app store to get approval meaning you have to play by the app store rules
  • App stores such as iStore take a huge percentage of sale price of the app which can make the selling of an online service through an app unprofitable (iStore have many strict and crippling rules blocking difference in prices in the app store and online etc)
  • You need to build an app per platform – one for iOS, one for android, one for blackberry etc etc etc which gets expensive and time consuming
  • All changes to an app have to go back through a submission to the app store and then get re-downloaded by the user


Mobile Website:

1. Pro’s:

  • All changes and updates are instantaneous to all users
  • One mobile site can be programmed to work on all platforms instead of building an app for each platform
  • Mobile sites rank better in search engine allowing businesses to get organic traffic instead of just service current users/members
  • Users don’t need to download App, they can simply use it
  • No need for submission and wait for apps store approval
  • No need to comply with Apps store requirements
  • Normally mobile sites need less development time  and are quicker to launch hence are more cost effective
  • Using HTML 5 websites can be built with many of the beneficial features of an app written above – such as the FT App is really just an HTML 5 website that is built very intelligently to gain the benefits of both an app and a mobile website.

2. Con’s:

  • Downloadable desktop item only if the user decides to add it to their phone’s desktop
  • Can not work when there is no data coverage or reception
  • Can not save things like logins or preferences (although cookies do work)


In the end, when choosing between a mobile app and a mobile website it is important to be clear about what your goals are in building this app/website and what are the benefits to your current and potential visitors. Of course since this development will cost money and time, it is also important to do a cost/benefit analysis to see exactly if it is worth investing in an app or mobile website and if so, for which platforms are you going to build an app. In August 2011, Comscore calculated that in the US smartphone market 43.7% had an Android device and 27.7% had an iPhone (iOS operating system). BlackBerry numbers are lower and the BlackBerry apps store is smaller and has less downloads than android or iOS app stores.

Paul Vesely has over 12 years experience in the dynamic online marketing environment instigating marketing solutions for a wide range of businesses to suit their goals. Through understanding a company's target market and aims, Paul has managed to launch a wide variety of online marketing campaigns to increase sales, generate leads, and increase bottom line profit. Paul Vesely's expertise lie in inbound marketing and focus on utilizing search engine optimization, PPC, PR, Social Media and online campaigns to accomplish the client's business goals through online means. The author's views expressed in this blog are his own and do not represent anyone or any other organization's views even if the author is associated with those organizations.