Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Google Drive Resurfaces as a PWA

We all know the immense impact  Google has on the tech industry. Google is one of the top thought-leaders in the industry along with Apple, Microsoft, and Salesforce. So it’s only natural to look to Google for the next biggest tech trend and  on January 22, 2020, they decided to show their hand a bit by releasing a new version of Google Drive that might cause you to take another look at your mobile strategy.

Google Drive is Now a Progressive Web App (PWA)

That’s right. Google Drive can now be used as a Progressive Web App (PWA)! You might be asking…What does this mean? Why did Google decide to do this? Will it change how I use this application? Does it work on my device? Don’t worry. We have all the answers.

What Are PWAs?

First let’s look at what PWAs actually are. Below are some key benefits to using PWAs:

  1. PWAs are usually a much smaller file size compared to a native mobile app. The Starbucks PWA is a great example of this benefit. Their PWA is only .4% of the native mobile app size and it does pretty much the exact same thing! PWAs mean no more needing to delete photos and videos to free up space!
  2. Service workers can cache data to allow the PWA to be used offline. This means you can still access some of the functionality of the app while in airplane mode or disconnected to a network. Plus, PWAs are designed to work in low connectivity and need to load in 10 seconds or less on a 3G network.
  3. PWAs also have capabilities similar to a native mobile apps – think camera integration, geolocation, save to home screen, etc.

In the Mobile Matters podcast episode, Progressive Web Apps: The Future of Mobile Web, Alex Russell, Senior Staff Engineer at Google, shares with us how PWAs are fundamentally changing the mobile web. You can read more in depth about the State of PWAs here!

How are PWAs Changing Google Drive?

First, Google created the option to use Google Drive as a PWA. This means Google is not forcing anybody to use it as a PWA and you can still access it the way you always have on the web if you want.  You can now install Google Drive to your computer on MacOS, Windows 10, and Chrome OS. Which also means you no longer have to view it in a browser! The Google Drive can now function more like a native application on your computer and be available to use offline due to cached data. You will be able to access previously accessed documents when offline but will not be able to edit offline with the PWA.

Installing Google Drive from the web isn’t too difficult.

  1. Go to your Google Drive online
  2. A ‘+’ will appear to the right side of your browser
  3. Click on the ‘+’ and then click on the blue button ‘Install’

Google Drive PWA installation is in the browser with the '+' sign outlined in a red box. Install blue button outlined in red box.

However, the circle is not complete yet. At the moment other applications like Google Docs and Sheets are still only available as web applications and will only be editable through a web browser. Hopefully Google gets those applications running as PWAs in the near future so that there can be a seamless user experience when working within Google Drive and editing material within PWAs.

This PWA is not the first for Google to roll out. Google has rolled out other PWAs in the past such as YouTube Music, Google Photos, and Google Maps Go. It will be interesting to see where Google goes with Sheets and Docs in the near future. Keep up to date on industry news by following Lumavate on LinkedIn and Twitter!