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Do you really need to build that iPhone app?

June 1, 2020 No Comments

Featured article by Guy Cooper, Managing Director of Wave Digital


Many of us use mobile apps every day. In fact, in 2019, according to App Annie’s latest State of Mobile report, there were 204 billion downloads from app stores worldwide. It’s not surprising then, that businesses typically approach app developers asking for an iPhone app (and an Android app if there’s budget). But there’s a third option. And if you’re a small business or start-up, the money and time saved could be the difference between building your app … or not.

What’s a web app versus an iPhone or Android app?

A web app is an application that runs in a web browser, such as Chrome, Firefox or Edge. This is distinct from an iPhone or Android app that are downloaded from an app store.

While web apps are easily displayed on a desktop browser, you can build a web app that is designed for mobile first. Using a responsive design – a layout that changes based on the size of the screen – an experienced app developer can create a web app that looks and feels very similar to an iPhone or Android app. Provided your users have access to the internet on their phone, a web app can be an enticing alternative.

What are the benefits of a web app over iPhone and Android apps?

When it comes to building an app, the number one benefit of a web app is its simplicity. This can have a significant impact on time and cost.

How is it simpler than building an iPhone and Android app?

There are four reasons.

First, businesses or startups looking to build an app, tend to want to release both an iOS and Android app to capture more users. While an option may be to stage the release, where you release to one platform first, you are still paying for app design and development on two platforms.

The higher the number of platforms, the more resources required and the more technologies used. This often translates to a greater cost, lengthier delivery schedule and more risk. Building a web app means you are building for one platform that can cater to all users regardless of the type of phone they own.

Second, it is rare that an iPhone or Android app does not require some form of web app component. This is because the web app allows businesses and startups to easily manage the app content, users and data. So, developing a simple web app is often already on the cards.

Third, deploying a web app is quick and easy. Compared with the Apple App Store or Google Play Store where it may take a few weeks for your app to be released, it takes less than an hour to deploy a web app. When timeframes are tight, this can be an important difference.

Finally, and perhaps most attractive to businesses and startups, is that ongoing maintenance costs for web apps are often lower than iPhone and Android apps. Like any new asset, an app requires app support and maintenance. For example, app developers will need to review your mobile app following major iOS and Android updates and device releases and fix any impaired or broken functionality.

For web apps, device compatibility maintenance is not required. Of course the web apps still need to be updated to keep them secure and compatible with the different internet browsers but the ongoing maintenance will be far less supporting one technology platform over two or three. Over the long term these cost savings can add up a lot.

When is a web app a better option than an iPhone or Android app?

Web apps should always be on the table as an alternative to building an iPhone or Android app. While platform decisions will depend on business goals and user requirements, there are some general scenarios where a web app provides an effective approach. These include for businesses or startups looking to achieve business process digitisation or optimisation, where users are generally accessing information by desktop or tablet, or where user requirements centre around content, management of content or communication and search of significant amounts of information.

The decision will always come down to a thorough understanding of the goals of your app and matching those to your customers/users. Then balancing the trade off between cost, time and user experience. An app developers role as a technology expert and adviser is to provide you with the information to make the most informed decision.

About the Author

Guy Cooper, Managing Director, Wave Digital

Guy Cooper is Managing Director of Wave Digital, an Australian app development company founded in 2000. He is a business owner and tech entrepreneur who works with founders, executives and fellow business owners to bring their app idea to life.


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