Mobile WAP vs Mobile App

As some of you know, I have recently started doing some consulting with a mobile applications developer, Fig1 (www.Fig1.us).  In this work, we talk to clients every day who come to us and ask us to make iPhone / iPad apps for them.  They come to us with an idea for an app; but rarely with a clear idea of why they are doing it, who they are doing it for, and what the benefit is to that potential user.

As you can probably tell from the last sentence, I would encourage you to ask yourself 4 questions before you start your mobile application development: why, who, what’s in it for the user and how does your mobile strategy fit into your overall marketing plan?  Once you have resolved those questions, you can ponder which way to deliver the content or entertainment you think your audience will want.

WAP or wireless application protocols are basically websites designed to function on a mobile phone.  Apps are typically downloaded to the phone from an app store (like Apple, Android and Blackberry).

So what are the main differences in experience?

Mobile Web / WAP

  • Faster and less expensive to develop.
  • Less device specific configurations.
  • Need Wifi or 3G connection to access the sites.

Applications

  • Tend to have stickier interfaces, higher engagement and repeat usage.
  • Some features can be accessed when not connected to Wifi or 3G
  • Connected to advanced phone features – GPS, Contact List, etc.

For many companies, an effective mobile  strategy will have good engagement apps with an efficient WAP site as well.  It really depends on what you are offering to the consumer and how they want to engage with you.  Is what you are offering something they want to have with them all the time?  Is your content something they want to have access to when they don’t have a Wifi or 3G connection?

For most e-commerce (now m-commerce) companies, unless someone is a regular shopper with you, they will most likely just want to go to a WAP site when they are ready to buy.  But if you do it right, you can create a WAP site that nicely mimics the features of an app and make that shopping experience smooth and efficient (my old friends at FTD.com did a nice job with their mobile site for iPhones).  On the other hand, if you have content or functionality that provides a benefit or fun entertainment for the users that they will want to interact with on a daily basis, then an app will most likely make sense.

I have seen quite a bit written on this topic and the programming and technology seem to be changing daily (especially as the picture of what iPad’s can do becomes more clear and developers explore the boundaries there).  So in a few weeks, this blog will most likely be out of date.  I will do my best to keep you posted on the changes as they come and invite you to participate in the conversation.

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