Differences between mobile applications and mobile websites
Although both are used on the same media (smartphones and tablets), mobile applications (apps) and mobile websites (also called Web Apps) are very different. A mobile app is a program that is downloaded and installed onto a user's mobile device, whereas a mobile website is simply a website adapted to tablet and smartphone formats.
A different means of access
A mobile website is accessed through an internet browser, by typing in the website's URL in the navigation bar. This means that no download is needed. However an internet connection is required in order to gain access.
A mobile application must be downloaded either from an online store such as the app store or google play. The application is then saved on the smartphone or the tablet, and in most cases it does not require an internet connection in order to work.
A different purpose
A mobile app, remains on the user's smartphone, and is therefore ideal for frequent and repeated use. It therefore answers a specific need, whilst increasing customer loyalty.
A mobile website however, is designed for mobile communication with the purpose of informing (large audience, large time window), or for specific events and promotion (targeted audience, limited time window).
Different updating setups
A mobile website update takes place without the user realizing it. It is an automatized, online process.
For mobile apps however, users are required to download and authorize each update. Increasing frustration for users and reducing flexibilty for companies.