Smartphone ownership is steadily growing and many marketers are wondering what the best method is to produce content for mobile phones – Mobile Web sites or Mobile Apps?
Either way you look at it, businesses need to address how they are going to provide consumers with mobile content. It has been estimated that by 2014, half of Americans’ Web browsing will be done on mobile devices. With that being said, one of the biggest decisions for mobile marketers is whether you should build a mobile site or app – or both.
Before making your decision on which mobile presence you want to cater to, several criteria should be discussed. Here are the pros and cons for mobile sites and apps:
Most apps don’t achieve critical success and fade into the world of anonymity. Research by Pinch Media shows that less than 5% of downloaded apps continue to be used 30 days after being downloaded.
People can find your mobile site by using any of the search engines and via links from other Web sites, blogs, Twitter and links embedded in e-mails.
Distribution & Market Size
Distribution of apps require users to download and can be limited to the number of users on the released platform. If you are thinking about releasing on multiple platforms, think again. Google’s VP of Engineering, Vic Gundotra, stated “even Google isn’t rich enough to create apps for every smartphone platform.” Also, your app is at the mercy of the “App Store police” and may or may not get in.
Mobile sites grant access to anyone on the Web.
Usage of Device Capabilities
Apps are able to use all device capabilities (GPS, camera, voice, RFID, address book, calendar, etc).
Mobile sites have the possibility to use features like GPS, offline data storage and video from within mobile sites that use the latest mobile browsers which support HTML5. Access from the Web to device is still somewhat limited due to security and privacy concerns.
Supportability & Upgradeability
It can be difficult to support and maintain apps after users have downloaded them. Every new release with bug fixes require users to go through an approval process. Anyone who has upgraded an iPhone app knows how much of a pain that can be.
Web sites are easier to support and maintain as developers have complete access to the site and site goers just see the updated site version.
Some app stores charge extra fees for publishing or certifying your app (Apple charges developers $99 and enterprises $299, RIM charges $200).
There are no entry costs for mobile Web sites.
Advertisers need to share sales revenue with app stores while revenue generated from your mobile Web site is all yours.
Apps are able to achieve high performance through app code that runs locally on the device.
Mobile Web sites performance will depend on how the site is designed.
If you are identifying new possible sources of revenue and deep user engagement a mobile app may make sense. However, if you are looking to make your content more accessible across the web then you may want to go with a mobile site.
It is still not clear which platform consumers will prefer. Because of this split mobile browsing experience, developing a mobile solution can seem like a huge commitment to marketers. Decision making can be even more daunting with the number of different devices, operating systems and screen sizes available.
With the evergrowing slew of app stores it doesn’t look like the app is going anywhere, but in the coming year it will be interesting to follow the debate on the future of mobile.