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#FridayFacts: Desktop Apps vs. Web Apps vs. Mobile Apps

‘Apps’ is a word that gets thrown around quite often. However, only a few actually know that it’s more of an umbrella term for software that allows users to perform specific functions. Therefore, the word ‘app’ isn’t limited to a single device. If you want to make sure that you don’t confuse others, consider adding the following terms to your dictionary.

Desktop Applications

A desktop application is a standalone application that is installed on a desktop or laptop computer. It can be full-featured like Microsoft Excel or perform one or two functions like the calendar app.

Usually, desktops apps are limited by the hardware they run on. Combined with the legacy of mainframe terminal applications, they have a less complex user interface. They can also be a hassle to update, especially if hardware upgrades are necessary for the apps to work.

Web-based Applications

Web apps are those which download some parts of the program from the web onto devices every time they run. These apps are becoming more popular these days as they don’t require installation, manual updates, or hardware upgrades.

Now there are two types of web apps:

  1. Browser Based Web Apps – Written in a combination of HTML and JavaScript, browser-based applications run within web browsers. They aren’t platform dependent, which means that you can run these in a Windows PC, Mac or Linux machine. There may be a few differences in the way these apps may appear on different browsers, but they’re negligible.
  2. Client Based Web Apps – While they require an internet connection, client based applications don’t need a browser to run. Instead, you can install them onto your device (computer or mobile device). This is similar to the client/server architecture which companies used before the internet. The only difference is that the server is online rather than the local network. As for data storage, you can choose to store locally or remotely.

Mobile Applications

Mobile apps, by definition, are software applications that run on portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. These apps are available for download through device-specific portals like Google Play Store and are installed onto users’ devices.

There are two types of mobile applications you can pick from:

  1. Native Apps – Native mobile apps are programmed in the recommended language for a specific operating system. For example, Android native applications are programmed using Java. These applications are compatible with the device’s hardware and features. They’re also faster and more efficient because they work in tandem with the device they’re developed for. In some cases, this speed can be the result of their limited need for internet connectivity. However, native apps will need user permission to download updates.
  2. Web Apps – Mobile web applications are websites that look and feel like native applications. However, they have limited access to the device’s features and require permission before interacting with them. Written in HTML 5 most of the time, they require your device’s native browser to run. A good example of this is Google Maps. Whether you use the app or the website, you won’t see much of a difference.

There is a third type that experts tend to add to this list: hybrid apps. These applications are available through the app store and allow users to interact with the device’s features. However, they rely on HTML being rendered in a browser that’s embedded within the app. A good example of hybrid applications is the Netflix app, which uses the same code to run on both desktop and mobile devices.

The Bottom Line

After this quick overview of the different apps available, make sure to carefully select the right type of app according to your needs. For instance, if you’re planning on implementing an enterprise mobility model, you may want to take your pick from the three types of mobile applications. So, plan according to your organization’s goals, your audience’s needs, and your expectations from the solution.

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