In recent years, especially in the aftermath of the rise of so-called responsive web design, mobile web has come closer to mobile apps, and today’s websites “know” how to adapt to any type or format of mobile devices. But while there are scenarios which make relying on the mobile version of websites a logical, economical and satisfactory option, there is also a whole range of advantages that native apps bring to the table.
1. Limits of (web) technology
An obvious disadvantage of mobile web is the practicality and speed of loading the apps. A mobile app is just a tap away from the user and it can be found right on the desktop, whereas to gain access to mobile web, you usually have to first open the browser and then use the search engine or find the link in bookmarks.
Notifications are one of the strongest channels of communication for users, and open engagement rates are several times bigger than the classic email or Facebook page channels. They are not accessible on mobile web pages and therefore present what is probably the biggest disadvantage in comparison with applications.
What really sets mobile apps apart, and it is connected to the two previous points, are accessibility and user experience. Native applications allow far more options of building interfaces adapted to mobile devices; use touchscreens (multi-touch gestures), and facilitate the manufacture of more attractive, interactive, complex and richer interactive user interfaces which reflect the wishes and visions of users much better than mobile websites do. Most importantly, they function better, faster, more robustly and more elegantly than web applications.
If a mobile app is not just an additional service that goes with your product or a part of the strategy you use to promote that product, but instead something you intend to monetize and make money off of – then it opens up far more possibilities. The concept of paywall has never come to life fully on the web, but mobile platforms have their own ecosystems of charging for apps. Even if you want to offer a free app, extra options and contents can be charged through in-app purchases, and naturally there is always the option of putting in ads. The so-called freemium applications now take in a share of over 90% of the total profit generated through mobile apps.
5. Users just like apps better
Internet use on mobile devices is still rapidly growing, and more users are using applications than classic web. The average American user now spends 2 hours and 42 minutes a day on their mobile devices, which is 4 minutes longer than what the same research showed last year. The share of time spent on apps started growing years ago, and the trend has not changed since. According to the research of Flurry Analytics, last year users were spending 80% more time on mobile apps, while this year the share has increased an additional 6%. The statistic, however, does take into account the apps that are difficult to realize through mobile web – like games or Instant Messaging services – yet the data shows that users prefer mobile apps even in cases where there is a comparable service realized through the mobile website.
For example, even YouTube, Yahoo and CNN – platforms and media which offer practically identical content on their mobile apps and mobile websites – receive more views through mobile apps. When it comes to Facebook, the ratio is significantly higher – almost 9 out of 10 users prefer to use the mobile app. Although you can now also use the Facebook mobile website for a quick look of your friends’ statuses or to share your comments – you can do that more simply, rapidly and elegantly through the official application.