Fundamental Differences between Web and Mobile Applications

by Thanh Pham | Aug 09, 2020 Fundamental Differences between Web and Mobile Applications

Web and mobile applications differences might be obvious to many, but there is a blur in distinction between them. This blur is particularly visible in today’s world where most people are using mobile devices to access the internet more than before.

While they may sound the same, the difference between web apps and mobile apps can be seen from the development process through the deployment phase and practical use of the app. This article aims to highlight some of the fundamental differences between web apps and mobile apps for proper distinction and ideal custom web applications development approach. 

Development differences

The differences are evident from the design phase. Web apps can be built quickly and easily, while mobile apps often take longer and are more complicated to design and develop.

Web app development begins by designing the architecture of the application, framing the links between the different features and how the application connects with the database. After that, the development is focused on building the front-end elements to achieve a great user experience. Essentially, web apps allow for more flexibility and variability in output.

For mobile apps, a lot of focus is always directed towards integrating native components like GPS, Camera, face/fingerprint ID, etc. that web apps don’t have. Additionally, there is a particular focus on configurations in design to make the apps functional in devices of varied specifications like screen sizes, software configurations and hardware components.

Notably, there now exist several tools and frameworks that allow developers to create both web and mobile applications.

User Interface (UI)

For web apps, the user interface is more flexible, especially with the adoption of responsive design in developing web applications. In most instances, a web app can be accessed across multiple devices – desktop, tablets and mobile phones. The look and feel are often the same.

For mobile apps, the design of the user interface has to take the platform design and structure into consideration. The focus is to make the application easy to load and view on mobile devices.

Speed and connectivity

Web apps are characteristically slower. The tasks one can perform on a web application are dependent on how fast the web server can manage requests. Every action is linked to server performance. That is why, in most instances, you need to be connected to a stable internet to use a web application.

Mobile apps are faster, friendlier and easily accessible. The faster speeds are attributable to the fact that when a user installs the app, data is stored locally in their device; hence the limits are only set by the strength of internet connection and the specifications of the device.

This also brings up the accessibility aspect. For mobile apps, accessibility is dependent on the device features and specifications such as storage, camera, GPS, etc.  However, web apps don’t have access to most native features in their device. Updates happen automatically without being limited by the specs of a device such as storage. The only factor that might influence its accessibility are web apps is the device processing speed.

For connectivity, some mobile applications can function without internet connection. The functions and features are inbuilt and not reliant on being connected to a remote server. For such apps, internet connection is only necessary when updating the app.

Web applications need continuous internet connection to function. They cannot be accessed when offline. However, the emergence of progressive web apps allows users to load and use web apps online. The application cache feature captures and stores bulk data offline, thus the ability to work offline. Additionally, these progressive web apps come with some native mobile app features like native audio and video capture and push notifications, among others.

Security risk

Security is one of the key elements developers focus on when developing both web and mobile applications. Essentially, anyone who accesses the internet faces the risk of cyberattacks, regardless of whether they are using a web app or a mobile app. Despite the security frameworks during development, there still exist different levels of thread between web apps and mobile apps.

Most mobile applications have to be downloaded through the apps stores (Apple Store or Google Play Store). These app stores have screening requirements that ensure all apps in the store and secure. The screening process is long and vigorous, with the key focus being to protect end-users from cyberattacks.

Web apps, on the other hand, can be launched without going through any screening process for assured security and safety for end-users. This puts users at a higher risk of cyberattacks, especially if there are insufficient security authentication features integrated into the design.

Expenditure differences

When hiring an app developer, you should expect to incur high costs if you want quality apps. However, mobile apps are often more expensive compared to web development, despite the process being faster. This is attributable to the fact that mobile apps have to be designed to function across a wide range of device specifications. Moreover, the maintenance for web apps is more complex since every phone platform has to be done separately, especially where cross-platform development was not employed.

Developing web apps, on the other hand, is less costly. The maintenance costs are also friendlier compared to mobile apps.


It is essential to understand the fundamental differences between web and mobile apps, especially if you want to build one for your business. A critical analysis of the differences and the pros and cons of the two types of applications will help inform the most suitable option for your business.

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