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Alterian has waded into the mobile web vs app debate with a nice, tube map-style infographic which takes the view that a mobile website is the way forward. 

We've talked about the apps vs web debate on this blog for some time, and we tend to lean towards a mobile website, certainly as a first step into mobile commerce, but we also think there is plenty of room for both. 

As Stefan Tornquist wrote in a recent post on the issue, there is a middle ground here, and apps still have a role in companies' retention strategies, if there is a compelling reason to download and use them. 

There are also some features of apps that currently cannot be replicated so easily on the mobile web, such as barcode readers like the ones used in the Amazon and Debenhams apps. 

Other pros of apps include better functionality, the extra visibility afforded by the App Store, and the ability to appeal to a more affluent audience of smartphone users. 

However, while many early apps were releases on the back of figures showing large numbers of visits from iPhone users, the growth of Android means this is not such a compelling argument anymore. 

The greater reach, findability, the potential of HTML5, and the ability to sidestep the App Store approval process means that, at least for a first move into mobile, the website wins the argument.

The infographic does make its point, but ignores some of the potential drawbacks of mobile web, such as variable mobile internet connections and page load times.

It is possible to see the drawbacks of both approaches and still decide that a mobile website is the best first step. See this version of the same infographic from @timmcdunn for an alternative view. 

Here are 10 other mobile infographics on QR codes, mobile retail and marketing if you want more...

Graham Charlton

Published 12 July, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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JOHN

To look at the latter would be true but apps are here to stay.

about 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Worth checking out @timmcdunn's alternative take on this infographic: http://yfrog.com/z/khta8rwj

about 5 years ago

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Dermot Daly

This is a very imbalanced infographic - which highlights potential points of failure when loading an app (most of which are untrue), and then ignores the same points of failure for the side of the argument it agrees with.
The most important piece of the article above is this quote:
"The infographic does ignore some of the potential drawbacks of mobile web, such as variable mobile internet connections and page load times"

Which is of course something that will never make it into the inforgraphic.

In a word, Dumb

about 5 years ago

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tim

Thanks Graham - I would have done a nice full colour version but it's a busy afternoon!

I think this does merit much fuller discussion (could be time for that first blog article...) as evolution of mobile web standards, not to mention devices, does slide the argument back towards mobile web on a number of fronts. Of course, none of the above takes into account discoverability and re-use which in our media-heavy landscape is all-important.

Let me give it some thought...

about 5 years ago

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Ben Childs

I agree with Dermot.

I'm happy to have a foot in both camps - and hope that users continue to use both and service providers continue to deliver each/both wherever appropriate - but visualising such a one-sided argument without presenting any of the flaws of mobile internet just undermines the credibility of an otherwise nice infographic.

about 5 years ago

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Eskil

Its becoming less and less of an issue with newer phones, but a serious drawback on my HTC Desire is the very limited space that's set aside for apps. Even if I move apps to the SD card (which only about half of apps allow), they still leave a significant footprint on the phone memory.

So that's another plus for the web app.

That said, I generally like having specialised apps for things that I do often (social networks, e-mail, wikipedia searches, etc)

about 5 years ago

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Dan Hinchliffe

Why not have both?!

Surely this gives you the optimum reach. So mobile users get presented your mobile friendly site with an option to download the app. This way you don't force an app download on a user but it's easily accessible if they do want it & they have an intuative site to use either way.

about 5 years ago

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Killian @ Open Plus

I tend to agree that the mobile site is a little better than an app due to interoperability and ease of development issues. The relative simplicity of mobile site design is well illustrated by looking at the Guardian site on a laptop or desktop and clicking 'mobile site' in the top left corner. However, what is often overlooked about the app option, I think, is the fact that while numbers of viewer is almost certainly lower, an app is in some ways like a website with a 100% conversion rate, since downloading is a little like subscribing (at least until it's deleted!). This is potentially a huge advantage. Anyway, there's my tuppence. Thanks for the article!

about 5 years ago

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BlueTrain Mobile

What people don't realize is that many businesses can benefit from utilizing both a mobile app and mobile website. A mobile websites primary function should be to facilitate the user in finding information or a location quickly and easily. Obviously, a mobile optimized website is much easier to implement as well as afford, but both function in the same facet; to bring more traffic and thus business to your company.

--
Conductor
BlueTrain Mobile

about 5 years ago

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Karim Dia Toubajie

Definitely depends on the circumstances and requirements of your application. If you wanted to use some of the hardware on the devices (e.g. camera, gyroscope etc) then you would go down the native road. Some visualisations or transitions may be difficult to achieve through web and easier to implement through a native app.

There are some really good mobile frameworks now which make the web feel "app-like" and a lot of clients are going down this route.

about 5 years ago

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Mike Peterson

its really a great infographic comparison i really like it

about 5 years ago

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