What Is a Progressive Web App?
Our world is completely reliant to mobile these days. And a decent portion of our time spent on mobile is on mobile apps. But did you know there is more than one kind of mobile app? A Progressive Web App (PWA) is an app that is hosted on a web server and is accessible to all platforms. This is a completely different approach to how native apps are made and distributed. A native app is made for a specific operating system and hosted on that system’s app store environment. A native Android app will not run on an iPhone and vice versa. Instead, developers have to remake the app so that it can run on the other operating system.
With PWA apps, you access the app via a website. The app can still perform any function you would need, such as push notifications, but you don’t have to go through the store to access them.
Thanks to updates to Android and iOS over the years, Progressive Web App performance has improved considerably. Android has added functionality to host PWAs on the Play Store, and PWA support on iOS now includes gestures.
Alex Russell, former senior software engineer at Google, is on the PWA hype train. PWA pros and cons make it clear that this form of app development has a bright future.
In fact, these apps are so accessible to developers that even marketers are getting into the game. A simple Progressive Web App tutorial from Lumavate can make that clear.
The value of this form of app development makes a little more sense with some PWA examples. Take a look at this eBook for some examples on PWA pages that you can design yourself using Lumavate.
Forbes has measured a 100 percent increase in engagement and 43 percent increases in sessions per user.
Starbucks was able to double the number of daily active users by deploying a PWA, and it is less than one percent of the size of its native app.
Alibaba noted conversion increases in the realm of 75 percent and a quadrupled interaction rate when they deployed their PWAs.
Progressive Web Apps on mobile devices are proving to be what users really want. You can check out these emerging trends if you would like to know more about the specific PWA Android vs iOS benefits.
What Is a Web App?
A web app is an application that runs through a web server. The key software is not downloaded onto the device that uses the application. That does a few things. First, a web app is universal and can be used by any device. Second, web apps take up very little space on a device. For these advantages, the trade-off is that web apps only work when you have internet access.
A mobile web app is the same thing, but it is specifically designed for use on a mobile operating system.
Any mobile web app framework is going to build around touchscreens and gestures more than keyboards and mouse inputs. That’s why any mobile web app tutorial will emphasize the importance of the mobile user experience.
With a Progressive Web App, things are slightly different. Some of the key software is downloaded and installed on the phone (or other device), but as much as possible, the web server does the heavy lifting. This allows PWAs to function offline, and it gives the best of both worlds.
Mobile web application development has broadly embraced PWA principles in recent years, which is made clear in the Mobile Matters podcast.
Web App Examples
A few web app examples can help lock down these ideas, especially when comparing them to websites. From a development standpoint, websites and web apps are very similar. From the point of a user experience, they feel completely different.
One of the best examples of web apps is Evernote. It’s a popular note-taking app that has powerful features and is very interactive. Yet, you don’t have to go through an app store to use it. Neither do you have to visit the Evernote website to use the features.
Google Docs and Netflix are two more prominent examples. In each case, you launch a specific app on your phone to use them, but they are designed so that virtually all of the work is done by servers, not the phone. You don’t go to the Netflix website to browse videos. You use the app, yet from Netflix’s perspective, you’re browsing videos on their servers.
Maybe the best way to clarify a mobile web app definition is whether or not you type in a web address to use the app. If you have to Google the site or type in an address, it’s a website. If you just tap an app and it works, it’s a web app.
What Is a Native Mobile App?
A native mobile app is one that is designed specifically for an operating system — typically for Android or iOS.
Here’s the easiest way to understand native app design. If you make an app for Android and get it on the Google Play Store, that app will not function on an iPhone. At all. Instead, the app has to be remade from the ground up to work on iOS. This is because Android and iOS use completely different systems to run apps. You can see how this drives up development costs. However long it takes to develop the app once, you have to double that time (and cost) to be on both major mobile platforms. If you want a Windows version too, then you get to triple your costs.
Meanwhile, web apps don’t have this issue. This is because web apps don’t run on the phone itself. You can design the app to work on your own web servers. Then, any device that has a browser can run your app. Even though a Progressive Web App runs in its own window, it’s taking advantage of the universality of web browsing to communicate with the phones.
With Lumavate, every app built is deployed as a PWA. You get to save endless time and money on app development because you only have to build an app once. On top of that, Lumavate makes it very easy to build the app — putting power in the hands of the people who will use it the most thanks to no code technology.
Native App Examples
A few native app examples will really drive these ideas home.
One of the most used native apps in existence is Google Maps. This app allows you to navigate anywhere in the world, and it’s extremely popular on both Android and iOS. Yet, the code for each version is completely different. In order to work on iOS, Google had to totally redesign the app.
Uber is another big one. You get Uber from your respective app store, and everything runs right there on the phone. Yet again, Uber had to independently develop separate versions of this app.
Instagram is also native (as are the majority of social media apps). When Instagram was first developed, native apps were better for features that would use a phone’s camera. That is no longer the case, but Instagram had to invest heavily in app development because better options weren’t as available a decade ago.
Conversely, you have something like the Starbucks native mobile app or the Starbucks PWA. With this app, you can order and pay for coffee, manage your Starbucks account, get rewards and more. Users have found the Starbucks PWA runs significantly faster than its native mobile app counterpart.
The BMW app is also a PWA. This app allows you to interact with your car, including tracking performance data. None of it is native.
These are just a couple of mobile web app examples.
Will PWA Replace Native Apps?
So, what’s the best way forward? Are Progressive Web Apps dead, or are they the future? When looking at PWA vs native development, you have to consider a lot.
The primary difference between PWA and native app development is time. PWAs can be built in days (although weeks is probably a better average). Native apps take months, sometimes years. This is because PWA development can use open source code and pre-made functions that severely shorten development time. For a native app, everything has to be made from scratch.
There is also how the apps use hardware. PWAs try to minimize hardware usage. Native apps put everything on the local device. For most PWA vs native apps comparisons, this is important. If you want to make a game for a phone, native might be the better choice. If you’re trying to make it easy for customers to interact with your company, PWAs are definitely better. And if you’re wondering, “Is PWA secure,” you’re not alone; PWAs are in fact secure over HTTPs.
You also need to consider a mobile app vs Progressive Web App. A PWA can effectively be a mobile app, but you could design it for desktop computer usage if you wanted.
When you look at all of the PWA vs native pros and cons, there are a lot of reasons to go with a PWA. With lower development costs, faster development times, and universality, it’s an obvious choice for any app that doesn’t have specific hardware integration needs.
Native App vs Hybrid App
Native vs hybrid app development is another important consideration. When you know how to identify if an app is native or hybrid, it clarifies the situation. Let’s take a look at this native vs hybrid app comparison.
Hybrid apps are designed to provide an identical experience across platforms. Native apps are designed specifically for each platform.
Still wondering, “How to identify app is native or hybrid?” Let’s take a look at an example. Gmail is one of the best examples of a hybrid app. It is basically the same app everywhere, just ported into the right code for each operating system. This is different from Google Maps where the iPhone experience is noticeably different from the Android experience.
When comparing PWA vs native vs hybrid, it’s all about the app goals. If you need the app quickly or at a low cost, PWAs are better. If you want heavy integration of phone hardware, native is the only choice. If you’re somewhere in between, you can aim for a hybrid app.
Native App vs Web App
Let’s look at some of the most obvious native app vs web app pros and cons.
A major difference between native and and web app experiences is the size of the app. Native apps are typically larger than web app.
Another difference web app and native app developers will notice is app speed. Web apps usually run faster because the servers doing the work are so much more powerful than any individual phone.
Continuing on, you can consider this difference between web application and mobile application development. It’s easier to push web app updates because they run through the webserver. Native updates have to be run through app stores.
The last comparison between a native app vs web app is development. Native apps only work on one platform. Web apps work on all platforms.
Want to get a jump start on your PWA journey? Sign up for a free account on Lumavate today!