Mobile site versus app: which to choose?

Mobile site versus app: which to choose? - Lovefone, London

Studies show that of all the time we spend on our phones, a whopping 86% is spent in apps, while just 14% is spent in our web browsers. A great argument for the app team, but the discussion doesn’t end there. With new technologies such as HTML5 (which programming experts have been perfecting for eight years now), your phone will soon be much better equipped to surf the web.

Apps: Accessibility, familiarity, and convenience

We all know that apps like Facebook and Instagram connect us to friends and family in ways more easy and fun than ever before—over 60% of UK residents have a Facebook account—and many of us use them daily.

Additionally, apps that use “the cloud” can provide excellent performance and higher adaptability. According to Ira Brodsky, senior analyst at DataComm Research, “Apps can upload data to the cloud for analysis and provide links to related Web sites. Vendors can distribute processing between their servers in the cloud and smartphones running their mobile app for greater computing power and efficiency.

Apps are especially convenient to find as well. Whether you’re learning Italian with DuoLingo, using Habitica to stay productive, playing Crossy Road, or making your way around London with CityMapper, millions of apps are available at a tap, all in one place right on your phone.

However there are definitely cons to apps. For one thing, all apps will not simply work on all smartphones. Some apps overwhelm your phone and crash, nearly all need frequent updates—which at times can change the appearance or general use of the app in frustrating ways—and in a lot of cases, not all of the features function properly. (I love Tumblr, but my smartphone simply won’t refresh to the newest feed, rendering it basically unusable.) This is especially frustrating for users with tablets seeking a desktop and browser experience only to be redirected to “mobile” versions. 

Mobile Web: Evolving into a richer, more usable platform

The mobile web also has its share of pros and cons, and has evolved in surprising ways to accommodate smartphone users.

Mobile web sites can update without using any of your mobile data, and you don’t need a different version for different devices.

HTML5 claims to bridge the divide between old-school mobile web and apps by allowing browser-based apps, and providing enhanced user interaction and stunning, high performance video without plugins. 

Obviously though, mobile web still has some drawbacks. Not all HTML5 features are supported on every browser. Plus, bookmarking an app inside your mobile browser will never match the ease of simply tapping an app icon, requiring an entire change to your phone’s main interface to even level the playing field.

It all comes down to what you need

When you are trying to choose whether to use the mobile web or an app, it will most likely come down to which will serve your needs better in that specific instance.

For example, I have an Indian cook book written entirely in Punjabi, and I wanted to translate some recipes. I went to my mobile web first, and nothing existed that could help me. I was forced to search for an app. Punjabi to English translation with a built-in Punjabi alphabet? Yes! There is an app for that!

However, when it comes to searching for obscure information, nothing beats the instant reliability of Google, already there in your web browser, ready for whatever ridiculous question you desperately need answered.

September 30, 2016
Rae Avery