Will Progressive Web Apps Topple Native Mobile Apps

Progressive Web Apps vs Native Mobile Apps. What are the key differences?


Published on: 25 Jun 2019

By Anish Kumar

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There is an app for literally everything nowadays, from reminders to hydrate yourself to banking. In the past 5 years, there has been a huge increase in mobile applications with the total number of apps on the Google Play Store alone crossing 2.8 million. But with so many applications in the market, and so little storage on the phone, how does one determine which ones to keep on the phone. That’s where Progressive Web Apps come in handy. These are web pages that are not only lightweight but when loaded on your browser act exactly like an app. Some of them load faster than an app, use less space and data, and a few can even work offline.

How do they work?

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) use JavaScript and that’s a big reason why the user experience is very smooth when using them. JS typically loads only the necessary resources when a user interacts with a UI element. Another feature of JS is it allows PWAs to work offline and loads the website much faster than native mobile apps.

So, why these aren’t being used far and wide? The technology and the concept have been around for quite some time, 2005 to be exact, but recent innovations with HTML5 have made it far easier to build or convert your website into a PWA. Let’s also not forget that Google talked about PWAs at Google IO 2017. A lot of developers started making robust Progressive Web Apps since then.

Where PWAs are better than native mobile apps

There are many reasons why a PWA is just so much easier to develop and use than a native application. For example, if you had to build a native app, you’d have to build it for 3 of the popular mobile operating systems, which are Android, iOS and Windows. With a PWA you’d just have to build one. It takes about 6 clicks to install a native application and it is estimated that you can potentially lose 20% of your users with each click. But these are not the only advantages that PWAs have over native mobile apps. Here’s a few more:

  1. Search engine compatible
    Search engines can crawl PWAs, which can be quite useful. Ever look for something to buy on a native application and it doesn’t show up? Well that won’t happen with a PWA. Because if you can find it on a search engine, you can get results from inside your progressive app as well.
  2. Allows web notifications
    Now that browsers support push notifications, PWAs also support them. Those small clickable pop ups that appear on your web or mobile browser when you’re online can be used for the progressive app you’re working on. Here’s another reason why PWAs are catching up with native applications.
  3. Installation is non-existent
    When it comes to native apps, storage is not a problem these days, to be fair. With network problems, large native applications are a hassle to download. Progressive apps do away with the frustration of installation. This in turn guarantees more downloads for progressive applications.
  4. You never need to update it
    A progressive app will automatically update in the background with minimal data usage. You won’t have to worry about auto-update settings like you do for native apps. It’s always up-to-date.
  5. Inexpensive to make
    If you’re a business owner looking to build a mobile app, and you are not able to spend a lot of money, a PWA is a great alternative. You don’t have to worry about porting your app to other operating systems. They are cost effective to develop and you don’t need to invest too much money into developing a mobile solution using PWA.
Anish Kumar Anish Kumar