Why You Should Build a Wrapper App with MobiLoud Canvas

Considering a wrapper app? In this article we’re going to look at a few key points that will help you to make a decision on what kind of apps you should build. 

Firstly we’re going to look at what a wrapper mobile app is (also known as a webview) – and contrast that with traditional native mobile applications. We’re then going to introduce our own app wrapper solution, Canvas, and explain how we’ve built the ultimate app wrapper that can get you top class iOS and Android apps efficiently and affordably. 

We’ll take an objective look at some of the pros and cons of wrapper apps. By the end of the article you’ll know if this route is right for you.

Want to check out how your site will look and perform as a wrapper app? Click here to book a free demo.

What is an App Wrapper? 

Wrapper apps, also known as “webview” apps, are apps that are converted from the web into apps that run natively on the operating system of a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. 

The apps run on web code like HTML, CSS and JavaScript – sharing the same database and codebase as the original web app – but are “wrapped” in a native container so that they look and function similarly to applications native to the operating system. 

Instagram is an example of a popular native app (credit)
Instagram is an example of a popular native app (credit)

Wrapper 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 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 UI. 

Wrapper Apps vs Native Apps

In order to clarify this a little better, let’s contrast wrapper apps with traditional native applications. 

Native 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 Wrapper App Good Enough?

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. 

Wrapper apps are a great choice for eCommerce stores, marketplaces, communities, news sites, learning platforms or any kind of web app or site.

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.

Wrapper Apps Examples

If you build a wrapper mobile app, you’ll be in good company. Lot’s of 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”

It’s true, the Quora app is a webview wrapper app with some extra native elements added to ensure a good UX. Instead of building native apps from scratch for iOS and Android, then going through the challenge of hooking them up to their existing backend – they made a smart choice and wrapped the main web app. It isn’t just Quora either. 

“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. 

Quora app is a webview wrapper app with some extra native elements added to ensure a good UX

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 Canvas. Let’s see why. 

What is Canvas? 

Canvas is our take on the app wrapper. We built it as 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 7 years and more than 1000 apps. 

Canvas 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 Canvas you don’t just get software either. You get a team of app experts working with you to make the project a success, both in development and after launch. 

Why Canvas?

If you decide that you want to build a wrapper app – then Canvas is for you. Canvas 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. And it 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 take technical talent 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. 

An eLearning platform transformed into a Canvas wrapper app
An eLearning platform transformed into a Canvas wrapper app

Canvas eliminates all this, automating the tricky parts of wrapper app development. All you need to do is configure and customize the apps on the Canvas platform, and Canvas does the rest. There’s zero coding required.

Every feature, plugin, integration and functionality from your site will work straight out of the box. Our team will be on hand throughout the whole process to help out and handle any challenges that crop up. 

Within just days your apps will be ready to test on your own devices. From there we handle the often tricky process of submitting them to the App Store and Google Play. 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 Canvas

The process for building apps with Canvas is simple. It goes something like this:

Step 1: Schedule a Consultation Call

Request a demo here

One of the great things about Canvas is how quick and easy it is to get started. All you need to do is request a demo with one of our app team.

During your demo, we will talk about your site, your goals, and what you want from an app. We’ll go over our plans and all the options open to you. You’ll decide if Canvas is right for you. Then it’s just a case of signing up and starting the app build.

Step 2: Your Mobile App Gets Built By MobiLoud

In this next step, there is nothing for you to do. Our app development team will take the information you provided, along with your site, and build the first version of your mobile app.

Step 3: Configure Your Mobile Apps

Within a few days’ time, you will get access to your new mobile app through the Canvas dashbord. This is where you’ll be able to review the app we’ve built and customize it to your liking.

You’ll see a screen like this:

mobiloud menu tabs

From here, you can customize each corner and setting of your app to your liking. This includes:

  • Menus
  • Navigation
  • Color palette
  • Push notification settings (though our integration with OneSignal)
  • Login page
  • Analytics
  • Automatic ratings prompts (great for app store optimization)

You can also use the advanced editor to add or change custom code, if you or your developer want to add additional customizations to the mobile app, or would rather just work in the code rather than the builder.

Step 4: Test Your Mobile App

Once you have completed configuration, it’s time to test the mobile app using the live demo in Canvas.

Test it out in both the iOS and Android experiences, and make sure every part of the app experience is to your liking.

Step 5: Publish Your Mobile App

After you (and your key stakeholders) are happy, it’s time to publish it to the app stores.

This will send your fully configured app to the MobiLoud team to finish building the app. We’ll also publish it to the app stores, which generally takes a few more business days.

Usually preparing all the necessities and communicating with Google and Apple is a lot of hassle. We’ve navigated the process more than a thousand timesm and know it as well as anybody. This is all done for you.

Step 6: Optimize Your App Store Descriptions

With your mobile app available in store, give some love to its title and description. By optimizing its appearance inside the app store, you can make it all the more appealing for brand new users to discover it even when surrounded by the competition.

The description, screenshots, and ratings will then get potential users get excited about hitting that download button. We can offer you training materials on app marketing and App Store Optimization to help you succeed.

Step 7: Download and Use Your Mobile App

Once MobiLoud has completed publishing your app, you will be notified. And once it is available in the app store… Well, now it’s time for you to download and start using it!

And – Done!

Congratulations – you’ve built iOS and Android apps with Canvas, in just days with minimal fiddling. Now you can get to work promoting your apps, getting more downloads and engagement, and enjoying the business benefits of a great mobile UX.

Canvas 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, performance will be just as good as that of your site or web app. If your web platform runs lightning fast – so will the apps. The apps will also have all the exact same features that 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.

An eCommerce wrapper app built with Canvas
An eCommerce wrapper app built with Canvas

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!

Start Building Wrapper Apps today with Canvas

We’ve covered some important points about webview/wrapper apps in this article, and shown how Canvas makes app development easy. Now it’s time to get started. There’s no risk with Canvas. 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 a Demo Today!