What is the Difference Between Web App & Mobile App?


What is the Difference Between Web App & Mobile App?

There always seem to be two terms, web applications and mobile applications. Though it is clear that both terms refer to applications, they are not the same. Today we look at web app v mobile app.

When you ask a person which they use the most, laptop or mobile, you probably will get the latter as the answer from the majority. According to recently taken statistics, 50.59% of the total web visits are mobile, compared to 49.41% from desktops. This is no surprise since most of us spend time browsing through applications on mobiles, aside from work.

What Is a Web Application?

A web application is a program stored on a remote server and delivered to the user via a browser. Similar to a website, but not entirely. 

A website is content displayed to the user and is not meant for interactions. The purpose of websites is to display static content to the user—for example, portfolios, official websites of brands, etc.  

Web application, however, is intended for interaction between the user and the application. To explain it more clearly, let’s take a social media platform like Instagram. What will you usually do on Instagram? You scroll through various posts and reels, send messages to your friends, and share your day. These activities are the interactions from your side with the web application. This usually is not possible on websites. Hence the difference.

How Does a Web Application Work?

One of the unique aspects of web applications that differentiate them from mobile applications is that it does not need to be installed as a separate application on the desktop and can be accessed via browser in the following way:

  1. The user sends a query to the web server through a browser using the internet.
  2. After receiving the request, the server prepares to deliver the requested request.
  3. The requested information later sends results from the web application server to the server.
  4. The web server then displays the requested information to the user.

Examples of Web Applications 

There are a plethora of web applications we are not aware of and still are using every day. Some of them are:

  • Online shopping carts
  • Email
  • Word processors
  • Photo and video editing
  • File scanning
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations

Programming Languages for Web Application Development

For a smooth and flawless experience and surfing, specific programming languages are used to develop the web application. Some of them are:

Some of the popular web applications built using the mentioned programming languages are Pinterest, Twitter, Yahoo, MailChimp, Spotify, and others.

Pros and Cons of Web Applications

Web applications have the following set of pros and cons. They are:


  • Web applications are flexible. They can be accessed via any browser on mobile and desktop.
  • Web applications need not need to be updated manually as the web application updates on its own.
  • They don’t require to be installed on mobile; thus, the memory and data are also saved.
  • The applications are cross-platform and can be run on any OS.


  • Web applications are accessed via browsers; hence they rely on the internet and cannot be accessed offline.
  • If any website of the web application experiences even a slight error, the whole application will likely experience performance lag.
  • Web applications run at a relatively slower speed.
  • Web applications are highly likely to experience security breaches.

What Is a Mobile Application?

In theoretical terms, a mobile application is a software application designed to deliver services run on mobile.

When compared, there is not much difference between a mobile application and a web application. Their role is the same. Display content to the user, deliver optimised responses tailored to their request and provide a seamless browsing experience. 

However, there is one difference. A major one.

Mobile applications are specifically designed for mobile use alone. Unlike web applications which can be browsed via any browser on desktop or mobile, mobile applications can only be installed on mobile and only be browsed through them.

To explain mobile applications more clearly, let’s take a popular mobile application, Instagram. The popular social media platform has over a billion users and is well renowned for its deliverance of quality services. However, you cannot download the mobile application on PC. for a PC; there is a separate version of the application available designed to accommodate the PC; the exact mobile application cannot be downloaded. 

How Does a Mobile Application Work?

Mobile applications tend to lead faster and give the user a more sophisticated feel of browsing for the users. They also use less internet and work in the following way:

  1. The user downloads the application from the app store if using iPhones or the google play store if using android phones.
  2. To download the application requires a certain amount of data and storage space. After making sure that the mobile has enough space to accommodate the application, the download process starts.
  3. After downloading, the user is asked for login details or signs up before accessing the applications.
  4. Finally, the application is ready to display its content and deliver its services while also providing an enhanced user experience.

Types of Mobile Applications

As you may have already known, there are two types of mobile OS, iOS and Android. In terms of service, features, and environment, both operating systems differ significantly.

At first, developers had to develop the same application as two separate applications where each was released on the appropriate OS. however the process has changed. The tedious process is now changed as developers now create hybrid apps. 

There are three different types of mobile applications. They are:

  • Native: The native application refers to the application which is built to serve one OS alone. Either ios or android. The native applications are developed using the platform’s native APIs. Code cannot be reused for other platforms.
  • Hybrid: Hybrid applications refer to the applications that can be run on any platform, ios or android. The application also has access to the native APIs, and the code can be reused on any platform.
  • Mobile Web: The mobile web applications refer to the web applications browsed via the browser on the mobile. Since most web applications are built with responsive design, the mobile web applications appear like mobile applications. Mobile web applications usually don’t have a separate mobile app. It is also used by users who do not want to install a particular mobile application. 

Examples of Mobile Applications

Many mobile applications are downloaded in large numbers every day in the app stores. Among them, some of the popular genres of mobile applications are:

  • Lifestyle
  • Social media
  • Ecommerce
  • Utility
  • Games
  • Educational
  • Communication
  • Entertainment
  • Productivity 
  • News

Programming Languages for Mobile Application Development

Mobile applications have a vivid and interactive UI and deliver an optimal performance tailored to user interests. The following are the programming languages used for developing mobile applications:

  • Python
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Javascript
  • Java
  • Kotlin
  • C++
  • Swift
  • C#
  • Dart

TikTok, Spotify, Amazon, Whatsapp, Telegram, and Snapchat are some of the popular mobile applications used by millions of users and are well known for their delivery of optimal performance.

Pros and Cons of Mobile Applications

Mobile applications have the following set of pros and cons. They are:


  • Mobile applications are easy to access with one click instead of painstakingly searching and browsing the web application through a browser.
  • Data like favourites, display settings, etc., can be saved in the mobile application and can be accessed at any time.
  • Brands that are looking for positive brand exposure can offer a personalised experience to their customers. 


  • Developing a mobile application is quite a challenging feat.
  • Mobile applications need to be updated frequently.
  • Some mobile applications are not cross-platform.

Differences Between Web and Mobile Applications 

Needless to say, web applications and mobile applications are both efficient in their way and provide a sophisticated user experience. So which should you use?

That depends on you; anyways, we have included some of the differences between a web application and mobile applications for you to learn more differences between them:

  • Mobile applications are specifically created to be operated from mobile. In contrast, web applications are created with the purpose of the content and services being browsed by the user from any device via browsers.
  • Mobile applications need to be installed from the app store, while web applications can be easily viewed from any browser and thus do not need to be installed.
  • Mobile applications can be accessed even offline, and that’s not the case with web applications since browsers do not work without a proper internet connection.
  • Mobile applications are faster to browse, while web applications may take a while to load.
  • Mobile applications need to be approved by the app store. Since web applications are browsed through browsers, they need not require approval from the app store.
  • Mobile applications have more sophisticated security, while web applications may not have that level of heightened security compared to mobile applications.
  • Mobile apps need to be updated frequently. Web apps will take care of updates themselves.


Mobile applications and web applications both provide an enhanced experience to the user in terms of delivering services. We hope you understand the difference between both web and mobile applications. If you want to find out what a web app developer does, click here

Five days as a Web App Developer

As mentioned above, the first step in becoming a web app developer is to learn some of the basics of code to see if you have an aptitude. Our free 5 Day Coding Challenge will allow you to build your first ever web page after just one hour a day over five days. Register now through the form below. 

Coding the Future: Developer Spotlight - Sian C.

In October 2022, Sian C. joined Code Institute’s Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development programme, which is run in association with Cardiff and Vale College and is funded via the Welsh Government’s Personal Learning Accounts (PLA) initiative. The course aims to equip learners with full-stack software development skills, preparing them to enter the digital […]

Coding the Future: Developer Spotlight - Nathan Parsley

In May 2023, Nathan Parsley joined the Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development programme, delivered at East Kent College Group (Ashford) by Rachel Furlong using the Code Institute learning platform. The course equips learners with full-stack software development skills, preparing them to enter the digital workforce in various roles. Nathan has completed the programme […]

Coding the Future: Developer Spotlight - Wendy Bovill

In March 2023, Wendy Bovill joined the Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development programme, which is delivered at Westminster Adult Education Service (WAES) using the Code Institute learning platform. The course equips learners with full-stack software development skills, making them ready to enter the digital workforce in various roles. Digital Academy leader Candice Fanning […]