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Are Progressive Web Apps The Future?

6 June 2022

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Progressive Web Apps

Are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) the future? This is a question we’ve been asked by our clients and one that we have been considering for while, even as native apps dominate.

In this short article we will discuss the Pros and Cons and try to answer this question. But first of all, some background…

What Are Progressive We Apps?

Native apps are the apps that you download from the App Store or Google Play and then install on your iOS or Android device. PWAs bridge the gap between native apps and websites and web applications. Simply put, they are websites with extra layers of development so they act like native apps.

A PWA is ‘installed’ by visiting a businesses website and adding it to the home screen of your device. In comparison, installing a native app requires visiting an app store, downloading and installing it.  A PWA, like a native app, lets you access the product whenever they want.

If the PWA is well designed you won’t even know it’s not a native app. 

Are PWAs New? 

Apple’s Steve Jobs first presented the idea of PWAs when they were exploring a web application alternative They subsequently scrapped the idea and introduced the Apple App for apps native to Apple iOS.

The reason given was ‘quality issues’. Given that Apple takes 30% commission on App sales and generated an estimated $85 billion from App sales in 2021, I will let you decide.

So much is their market share that they, at times, seem to discourage the development of PWAs or apps for other platforms.

Benefits of PWAs

The most significant benefit for building PWAs is cost.

For native apps you need an iOS version, an Android version and a web version. More developers and more time are needed to build these apps and maintain them.

This results in longer product development as three codebases (iOS, Android and Web) need to be built and maintained. A PWA has one codebase that works on mobile devices, tablets, and websites. Because there is only one codebase, fixing bugs and adding new features takes less time.

PWAs offer the native app experience with a lot (but not all) of the same functionality such as hardware access and push notifications for example.

Are PWAs a Replacement for Native Apps?

There are compelling reasons why companies have replaced native apps with PWAs. While PWAs are much lighter than native apps there are still limitations, especially on iOS devices. 

For example, as I write this article, Apple only allows PWAs to store 50Mb of data for offline access and doesn’t allow access to Bluetooth and Face ID. 

Are Progressive Web Apps the Future?

If BMW, George at Asda, Starbucks, Pinterest and Uber are anything to go by then yes.

However, before taking the leap you need to carefully consider your needs, technical requirements and your user base. 

In conclusion, native apps can still be a valuable asset for most businesses but PWAs combine the accessibility and reach of web development with the intuitive user experience and engagement of native apps. You can capitalise on the fast time to market and avoid the expense and complexity of developing a native app.

If you need advice or help with a PWA then get in touch with the OwlTree team.