While we were developing Autoblynk, we were faced with a critical decision:
Do we make Autoblynk available as a mobile-responsive site, or native application?
There’s an “app” for everything these days. One of the Autoblynk team members went to a shoe store the other day, and the clerk proudly announced during the fitting that they had an app now. All anyone would have to do, they said, was download it and they’d be able to earn points towards future purchases, get new product updates, and be notified of “exclusive” specials and discounts.
Yawn. Another app? And one that I might use once every couple of years? Nah. Pass.
There are a lot of studies that show that while people do spend a lot of time using apps installed on their mobile phones, they spend most of that time using just a handful of different apps – with Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Google, Amazon Mobile, Pandora Radio, and Pinterest leading the usage and penetration charts.
What people are not doing is adding dozens of smaller apps that may be used infrequently, or not at all after a single usage. Let’s outline some of the differences between mobile websites and apps and how and why we ultimately made the decision to make Autoblynk available as browser-based links, rather than apps.
Understanding the Difference Between a Mobile Website and an App
Mobile websites and apps are both accessed on mobile devices, most typically on smartphones and tablets.
A mobile website is a collection of HTML pages that can be accessed over any internet connection, such as 3G, 4G, or Wi-Fi.
Alternately, an app is an actual program or application that must be downloaded and installed on the device (or multiple devices) that you wish to use it on, rather than using a browser for access as with a mobile website.
Advantages of a Mobile Website vs. Native App
Advantage #1 – Access – Mobile Websites Are Browser Accessed
A mobile website can be accessed instantly on any device that has a browser. Native apps, on the other hand, require first to be discovered, then downloaded, then installed, and are more susceptible to performance issues such as load balancing and traffic spikes.
Advantage #2 – Integration – Mobile Websites Offer Easier Integrations
Mobile websites offer easier integration with other mobile technologies such as NFC, SMS, and QR Codes, for example.
Advantage #3 – Compatibility – Mobile Websites are Compatible with All Devices
No matter the device, if it has an updated browser, it can access any web address or URL freely and easily.
Advantage #4 – Dynamic – Mobile Websites Can Be Changed and Updated Quickly
Apps require an update to be published and pushed out to active subscribers of the application. Subscribers are required to then download and install that update for the changes to take effect. Mobile websites, however, do not suffer from this multi-step active process. Mobile websites can be easily updated behind the scenes, and those changes will be updated in real-time as accessed in browsers, and require no user input.
Advantage #5 – Social Sharing – A Browser-Based URL Means Easy Shareability
Any web address has the unique advantage of acting like a single “always on, always available” beacon, of sorts. URLs can be linked to easily by other websites, and shared on social media or in email or texts with a quick copy and paste of that URL. Apps have no such advantage.
Autoblynk Links even makes use of what is generally considered an “app advantage”, in that apps are typically specified for programs that will require personalization on the part of the user, such as default personalization. A name and address serve as good examples of that.
Autoblynk, however, makes use of something called “Autofill” and effectively eliminates any advantage an app might provide. Autofill is a function found on virtually all devices (and configured by default) which fills in fields automatically on web forms through pre-population. Once you’ve used your name, address, phone number, and email in a form, Autofill remembers those entries and makes them available in a single click for subsequent forms.