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Mobile App or Mobile Website, Which Do You Need?

January 2, 2013 By Robert Patrick
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Pros and Cons of a Mobile Website
A mobile website can typically be brought to market quicker because you don't need to submit it to the app stores for approval and it is developed using widely familiar HTML and CSS languages. Another advantage is that if you build a mobile website once, it can run on nearly all devices with no additional work required (assuming you stick to proper W3C standards). With the emergence of HTML5, the mobile website is more powerful than ever. It can now access nearly all advanced features of mobile devices, like the accelerometer to see if the device is being tilted, and the GPS to see where the device is currently.

One important advantage in choosing a mobile website is that you can always build a native app that "wraps" the mobile website and simply displays the screens you've already built. This is a less expensive variant of building a customized native app and it gets you a place in the app store.

The disadvantage of the mobile website is that you cannot take full advantage of advanced UI features available on the native device, and you don't get priority access to the CPU—so if you want to do something CPU-intensive, a mobile website is not currently the best choice. 

And the Winner is ...
If you are cost conscious or on a short timeframe, then a mobile website is going to be the best fit. If you just want to be in the app store, and you don't care about the speed or advanced UI features available through the native app, you can build an app that "wraps" your mobile website and you get best of both worlds.

If you're looking to build a very customized or CPU-intensive user experience, then you should stick with a mobile app. And don't underestimate the power of being in the app store and having a direct presence on the "deck" of your users' mobile devices.

Robert Patrick is founder and chief architect of Ontario, Cal.-based social media, mobile apps and Web development company PhD Labs. Reach him at


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