Considering a wrapper app? In this article we're going to explain all you need to know about wrapper apps (aka an app wrapper or web wrapper), and why app wrappers are an underrated way to approach mobile app development.
We'll start by explaining what a wrapper mobile app is (also known as a webview) – and contrast that with traditional native mobile applications.
We'll share the pros and cons of wrapper apps, explain why the most common concerns about wrapper apps are misguided, then show how in MobiLoud we’ve built the ultimate app wrapper, that gives you a great way to get your app on iOS and Android devices, efficiently and affordably.
By the end of the article you’ll know if this route is right for you. Read on for all you need to know.
Want to check out how your site will look and perform as a wrapper app? Click here to book a free consultation.
What is an App Wrapper?
Wrapper apps, also known as “webview” apps, are websites or web applications inside a native container which is analogous to a dedicated browser.
The underlying website/web app works the same way that it does on the web. However, it’s inside a native application that you can install on a mobile device in the same way as a traditional app.
Wrapper apps do not have to just be the website running inside a container. It’s possible to combine the web code with native-specific features to create a good app user experience and add features to enhance the functionality and user interface.
Wrapper Apps vs Native Apps
In order to clarify this a little better, let’s contrast wrapper apps with traditional native applications.
Native mobile apps are the “original” apps. Rather than being built to run on a web browser, they use programming languages that interact directly with the device’s operating system.
For example, native iOS apps are built with languages that are native to Apple’s platform – Objective-C and Swift. The Android equivalent would be Java and Kotlin. Native apps are built “from the ground up” to directly interface with the hardware of the device through the iOS or Android operating systems.
Wrapper apps on the other hand are built with web languages. They were already a website or web app that could be accessed through a mobile browser. Then they were “wrapped” within a webview that displays them in native app form. The wrapper itself is native, and generally so are parts of its UI, but it displays web content.
This could also be classed as a “hybrid” app, although there is some controversy over the term.
App Wrapper Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons of wrapper apps. Whether these are an issue for you depends on your specific business and the job that you want a mobile app to do for your organization. Let’s take a look at them.
Wrapper App Pros
- Extremely efficient. You can build a wrapper app and have it live on the App Stores and installed on users devices in just a matter of weeks, whilst saving 90% of the cost of native app development.
- Far less to rebuild and manage. The apps reflect the existing content and logic of the website and update with anything you change on the web. You can run everything from a single core codebase.
Wrapper App Cons
- Hybrid apps made with a webview wrapper can offer worse performance compared to native apps. Webview technology has evolved a lot over the past few years though. Provided the underlying web platform is fast and well-built, and the wrapper app is high-quality, performance can be more than satisfactory.
- Feature limitations. As wrapper apps are built with web technologies, they are somewhat limited by the features possible on the original web platform. If you want to access native APIs of the device like GPS, facial recognition or the accelerometer, it will be very challenging and require custom work and compromises.
Is a Web Wrapper Good Enough For Your App?
A wrapper app is not better or worse than a native app. They are simply different, with relative advantages and disadvantages, and ideal for different use cases.
Wrapper apps are not just hack jobs for companies that cannot afford native apps. They are a 100% legitimate technology choice in the appropriate situation.
If time and cost were no consideration, native apps would indeed be better. In the real world though, the vast difference in investment required to bring native apps live compared to wrapper apps requires consideration.
Do you need a native app?
If you want apps that perform similarly to your existing web app or site, a wrapper app is a great choice.
You can save tens of thousands of dollars, get to market in just weeks, and make your life easier going forward with just one codebase to manage and maintain. You can build wrapper apps for iOS and Android that reflect the best of what you’ve built for the web, with native UI features added to ensure a good experience.
If, on the other hand, you want to build mobile apps that differ significantly from your web platform, and you absolutely must have native only features – you will need to invest in native mobile apps.
If what you want is your web app converted into mobile apps, so that you can make it installable on your users’ devices, send push notifications, and build an App Store presence, a wrapper app is for you.
This works great for businesses that are already thriving on the web. The “app version” of that is generally all you need. This allows you the most important benefits of mobile apps, like a better UX, push notifications, an App Store brand presence and higher loyalty and engagement rates.
Examples of Wrapper Apps
If you build a wrapper mobile app, you’ll be in good company. Many large tech companies went the wrapper route too, because of the efficiency and the fact that it matched their requirements.
According to UX Matters:
“Quora is a webview app of some sort, with a few clearly native components along the edges”
Instead of building native apps from scratch for iOS and Android, then going through the challenge of hooking them up to their existing backend, Quora made a smart choice and used a web wrapper.
And they're not alone.
“We know that Facebook, Evernote, Instagram, LinkedIn, Uber, Slack, Twitter, Gmail, the Amazon Appstore, and many others are or have been webview apps”
Amazon relies heavily on webview wrappers for their mobile apps. Basecamp also does this and wrote extensively about their app wrapper project.
These brands did not go with webview wrappers because they lack capital or technical talent. They did so because it simply made sense in the context of their goals and priorities.
You can see more examples of businesses who have successfully launched wrapper apps here.
If you want to replicate this with your own business, your best bet is MobiLoud. Let’s see why.
What is MobiLoud?
MobiLoud is our take on the app wrapper, a platform that turns any website or web app into iOS and Android apps. We built the best wrapper solution on the market, and have refined the platform over 10 years and more than 2000 apps (see some examples here).
MobiLoud doesn’t just take your web app and put it in a native box. It adds the native features that you need to get the most important business benefits while also giving your users a great app experience.
With MobiLoud you don’t just get software either. It's a fully managed service. You get a team of app experts working with you to make the project a success, both in development and after launch.
If you decide you want to build a wrapper app, MobiLoud is for you. MobiLoud has been used to turn WordPress sites, Laravel web apps, eLearning platforms, social networks, ecommerce stores and everything in between into iOS and Android apps. We can do the same for your site.
Although building your own wrapper apps yourself would be much easier than building native apps from scratch, it would still be a fiddly process and require technical ability to get a good result. You’d struggle to property integrate some features from your site. As a result, the apps might end up looking like an “obvious” webview.
MobiLoud eliminates all this, automating the tricky parts of wrapper app development. We do everything for you, building a wrapper app for your site to your specifications, with zero coding, technical knowledge or time investment needed from you.
Every feature, plugin, integration and functionality from your site works straight out of the box. Our team helps you create a wrapper app that looks and feels to mobile users like a fully custom native app.
Your app can be ready for testing in just days, and we also handle the tricky process of submitting them to the App Store and Google Play Store. Once the apps are live you can manage them easily. This includes sending push notifications, adding custom code through our editor, and accessing app store analytics through our dashboard.
The apps will update automatically with your site, so there’s little to add to your existing workflow, and our team handles all ongoing updates and maintenance as part of our license.
How to Build Wrapper Apps with MobiLoud
Building apps with MobiLoud is simple.
1. Optimize Your Site for Mobile
First, make sure your site is mobile-friendly, optimized and responsive for mobile devices.
Your apps will essentially show your website as it would appear in mobile web browsers, with just a few added elements and the browser tabs removed.
Most site owners will be able to skip this step, because it’s likely something you’ve already done. Mobile optimization today is not a “nice to have”, it’s a "must-have".
But if you don't have a responsive website that looks and works well for smartphone users, do that before anything else.
2. Talk To Us
To start the process, get on a call with one of our project managers.
This call will help us understand your goals and any unique needs or desires you have from your app, and help you understand the process, and ensure you're comfortable that MobiLoud is the right option for you.
If you're happy, you can sign on to a MobiLoud subscription. Subscriptions require no long-term commitments, and come with a 60 day money-back guarantee, making the decision to build an app completely risk-free.
Your subscription also enables you to receive full support, including updates and maintenance for your app after launch, at a fraction of what it would cost to keep mobile app developers on staff.
3. Hand Off to Our Team
Once you sign up you can hand off the project to our team.
We'll start with custom design work to tweak and improve your mobile website and make sure the web UI is as good as it can be.
Then we code the backend of your apps, along with all the minor touches and tweaks that make your mobile apps look and feel 100% native.
This includes a native tab menu and navigation and mobile UI elements such as progress indicators, back button behavior, loading animations and spinners.
We also enable push notifications in your app. Push is a powerful communication channel to use to reach out to your app users, boost engagement, and get people opening your app more often.
You can, of course, change how your push notifications work later. You can also send unlimited push notifications from your WordPress dashboard once your app is live, as well as setting up personalized workflows with our push notification partner, OneSignal.
4. Test the Initial Version of Your App
In approximately two weeks, your apps should be ready for testing.
Download the app onto your own devices, and play around to see how they look, act and feel. If you have any change requests or things you want to add, you can do so at this point before sending your apps out for the world to see.
5. Finish Up and Launch
Now it’s time to publish your apps and make them available in the app stores. From start to finish, it will take less than a month, which is significantly faster than if you were to build an app from scratch.
We also take care of the notoriously difficult process of submitting your apps to the Apple App Store and Google Play, ensuring your app store listings get approved minimal fuss.
Done! Start Building Wrapper Apps today with MobiLoud
Congratulations – you’ve built iOS and Android apps with MobiLoud, in just days, with minimal time and money invested. Now you can start promoting your apps and enjoy the benefits they bring to your brand.
MobiLoud takes all the hassle out of app development, and gives you a result that you can be proud of. As we’ve refined and optimized the platform over the years, our app wrapper performs just as good as your site or web app. If your web platform runs lightning fast, so will the apps.
The apps will have the exact same features you have on the web, and all the features you need to create a solid app experience - like unlimited push notifications, a native tab bar and navigation, message center and push preferences, image and video galleries, and much more.
Going forward, we’ll work with you to make the apps a success. You’ll know our team by name, and we’re never more than an email or a Zoom call away – we never leave your side!
If you're convinced, now it’s time to get started. There’s no risk with MobiLoud. We don’t do long term contracts and you can cancel and receive a full refund for any reason within 60 days.
It all starts with a consultation with one of our app experts. We walk you through the process, answer any questions you may have, and start working on a plan to bring your vision of the apps to life. Book your demo now and see the potential that wrapper apps bring to your business.