What is a mobile app? What isn’t a mobile app? What is a mobile app good for? Good questions! Here are the answers…

The concept and understanding of what an app is has gotten a little muddied and confusing over the past couple of years. An app (short for application) is a pretty generic term for a standalone bit of software that runs along with your device’s operating system.

But people have started to use ‘app’ to describe any kind of software, whether it be purely for content consumption (like the News apps) or act as more complex tools that emphasise interaction within the app. But the word ‘apps’ encompasses all operating system additional software in a generalised category.
 

So, what is a mobile app, really?

Well, it starts off pretty straightforward; a mobile app is software that runs on a handheld device that can connect to the Internet and has an operating system that supports standalone software. For example, mobile apps tend to be compatible with smartphones, tablets, e-readers, etc.

After that, however, it gets a little more complex, because mobile apps can either be a native app or a web app. Native apps are programs that run on mobile devices and are downloaded from app stores. But native apps are only compatible with one type of operating system, meaning separate apps need to be created for iOS, Android, Symbian, and Windows Phone. To make your app accessible to everyone, you will need to develop and maintain separate pieces of software, and therein lies the advantage to choosing a digital agency to create your website and apps, they’ll keep on top of it all for you!

A web app, however, while still a mobile app, is run within a mobile device’s web browser. This means they are delivered when needed via the Internet. They aren’t separate programs that get stored on the user’s mobile device, and so when people refer to ‘mobile apps’, most are thinking of native apps.

Now, to that contentious issue: responsive design versus web apps….
We know that not everyone needs an app. Apps are for a different kind of engagement than websites. Think of the powers of an app: they can send you notifications, they can feature ‘gameified’ elements, they can keep you on your consumers’ minds every time they unlock their phone. But you need to consider the value your app would have to consumers before you build it. If you just design an app to do all the same things your website can do, there is little point in building one! For more tips on how to build an app that your users actually appreciate, read our article here on how to create one that undeletable (not literally, though– sorry).

However, we know this: overwhelmingly, users prefer the experience of a native mobile app. In fact, over 86% of our time spent on mobile devices was spent in native apps, compared to just 14% in mobile web browsers. A responsively designed website is essential to ensure people click through and return to your website, but native apps take the mobile user experience a step further, presenting more content, functionality and navigation than websites, and are much easier to use for things like online shopping and bookings.

While you may think that a mobile app is just more work, but we know from experience that it is worth it for the engagement and profits native apps provide. Give your customers the gift of effortless user experience and they’ll reward you with loyalty. 

Got any more questions about apps or app development? We’d love to hear from you! Fill in the form and get a quick response– too easy!

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