“PWA Vs. Native Apps” is the most frequently asked question when it comes to choosing the right mobile apps.
Are you looking to develop an app like UberEats, Swiggy or Zomato? Or are you looking to develop an app like Trivago, MakeMyTrip, etc.?
Whatever is the case, you need to find out which app is the best for your new product. Also, if you are looking to upgrade the existing one, it becomes crucial to find out which is the right mobile app for your business growth.
But, why there is so much confusion on which app is the best: Native apps or PWAs?
Let’s figure out-
There is a lot of discussion going on over Reddit, Quora, etc. about whether to have Native mobile apps or Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).
Native apps are the ones that you download for use, not the PWAs.
To use a native app, the process starts by downloading it from the app store, then creating an account or logging into it to look at the features available inside.
PWAs are different. They are more like a combination of a native app and a website altogether.
In other words, they are like a website that functions like an app.
You might have even heard some people questioning if PWAs are better than native apps or vice versa.
After all, you need to adopt the latest technology as well as keep your users engaged.
This need calls for an in-depth comparison between the two in terms of various parameters. This way, you will get to understand them both before you make your final decision.
Let’s dive in then.
Understand what simple web apps are first.
Since the time the world first saw HTML5 started making a new form over the web in 2014 ( Source ), web apps became popular.
These apps are merely computer programs designed to perform diverse tasks over the Internet.
A key point to understand here is that they are more of a website than an app.
This way may make you feel confused about the differences between a website and a web-app. They are quite blurry in nature.
Web apps are interactive in nature, but websites may or may not. Websites are educational and hardly interactive.
One of the best examples of a web app that you might be using is Gmail.
Even if you do not have Gmail as an app installed in your phone, you can still use in your computer system as a web app.
With time, more and more people prefer giving priority to mobile first for all the activities they do, as per Gartner.
The main problem with this is that users do not expect even the slightest of delay while using web apps, which can happen.
This is where Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) came into being.
Ideally, a PWA is more like a combination of a web app and a native app in terms of functions. It may look like a web app, but makes a user feels as if he is using a native app.
1. It Works Like a Native App
PWAs are accessible online, just like their native alternatives.
Not only this, they use the data that has been cached in its last interaction with the Internet. This means a PWA built for your business will be accessible to your end customers even during limited Internet connectivity.
For eCommerce businesses that have a catalog of products to be sold, this feature is highly beneficial as it increases user retention rate.
It would not be wrong to say that a PWA mimics the speed and performance of a native app.
2. No Need to Install PWAs from App Stores
Not everyone has the required patience to download, install and then use an app in mobile phones.
With PWAs, it is not needed at all. Visitors do not need to reach the app stores first to use them.
Being hosted on a web server, they do not need much space inside your phone’s memory as native apps do.
You can even find specific directories where PWAs are readily available for use.
3. Optimizing PWAs for Search Engines is Possible
Another key benefit of Progressive web apps is an SEO advantage.
When a native app ranks on search engines, most probably you will get to see the link of app stores it is available on.
But just like websites, PWAs have unique URLs which are indexable and linkable too.
Since SEO is essential for a business to gain popularity over the web, you can optimize a PWA and apply different SEO techniques to build its web presence.
Even search engines can track user behavior on a PWA, which is not possible when a customer is using an application. You can extract useful insights from the user data to make changes in your business marketing strategies.
4. Send Push Notifications
You might have seen short messages that come up on your mobile device because an app installed in it. These messages are called ‘Push Notifications.’
They look like a message, notifying users about app-related deals, events, etc.
You might be receiving the same from Amazon, UberEats, etc.
The best part- they are not just limited to native applications. Even PWAs can send these notifications to the end users.
So, now, your marketing activities are even supported by PWAs.
5. It Works Without Internet Connection
One of the top benefits of using PWAs is that the app content is showcased to the users even when there is no internet connectivity.
So, this benefit is undoubtedly to grab loyal customers.
Let’s move on to the disadvantages of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs):
For some businesses, progressive apps may seem like the perfect choice, owing to their multiple features and performance. But, they have a few drawbacks:
That’s true, as detailed below –
1. No, Reach Through App Store
When a user thinks of an app, the first thing he does is to go to the app store in his smartphone and search for it.
Since PWAs are not available in these stores, they lose a good proportion of end users searching for them online.
2. Inability to Access Features of a Smart Device
You might have witnessed that when you download an app through an app store, it asks for certain permissions, like accessing your contacts, phone’s camera, your location, etc.
These apps are not PWAs, but the native ones.
For some business-specific needs, you may want your business app to ask for such permissions from the user to serve him well. Ultimately, that can’t be made possible with a PWA.
Now, moving on to the native apps-
Unlike PWAs, native apps are platform-specific.
Yes, the ones that a user can download through an app store are all native apps. They are coded specially for a platform, be it Android or iOS.
At their backend, a native app developed for one platform differs from the other in terms of the programming language used.
For instance, the apps for Android are developed using Java. For a windows phone, they are built with C#. Similarly, they used Objective C or Swift for iOS.
Because native apps are developed for devices running on a specific platform or OS, they can use the features of the device.
Remember about the user permissions we talked about above?
Native apps ask for them and can use a device’s camera, contact list, GPS, etc.
Other than these basic facts about native apps, you should also know how they can benefit your business, as detailed below –
1. Higher Speed of Functioning
Being native to just a specific platform, native apps work faster.
Also, they make use of a device’s built-in features to lead to fast performance.
2. Easy to Recognize and Use
Just like the default apps in a smart device, it is easy to use a native app.
The more you use a native app and perform some functions, the better you will understand its flow of functions.
Also, because of the catchy icons that visible inside a smartphone, they are easily recognizable too.
3. Responsive in Nature
Numerous smartphones, each with different screen sizes and resolutions are available in the market.
Does that mean an app has to be re-coded for them all?
Not at all!
In technical terms, ‘responsive’ means the ability to work over devices that have different screen sizes or resolutions.
Native apps are responsive. They maintain aspect ratios to work well upon all devices based on a specific platform.
While developing a native app, the developers get the access to layout features and Dots Per Inch (DPI).
This means that while working on a specific device, a native app maintains the aspect ratio as per its screen size.
Next, to all the benefits of getting a native app developed, they are still not flawless. Here are the disadvantages of native mobile apps:
1. Takes a Long Time to Start Using Them
Every user knows well that apps of diverse kinds are available in the app stores.
But, they also know that most of the apps can only be used when their lengthy download and activation process gets completed.
Reaching to an app store, downloading an app, signing up into it, etc., not all people have the patience to follow these steps.
They just stop in between and uninstall the app.
The higher the number of these steps, the higher is the loss of users on the way.
2. Time-Consuming to Develop These Apps
Well, the developers need to write separate code for the native apps built for Android and iOS devices.
So, you will need to hire two developers to get two native apps developed for your business – one for Android and one for iOS.
Accordingly, the cost of mobile app development also goes up.
3. Require Frequent Upgrades
After the initial launch of a native app related to a business, the developers may find a bug in it later in time.
Similarly, they may want to add more features into it as per the business objectives.
In both cases, they need to update the app’s code, submit the updates to the app stores and then hope the end users will get their apps updated to the newer versions accordingly.
This is something you must have done on an individual level for the apps you use.
But what if the end users of your business app won’t update it as required?
Glitches in the app’s performance may occur, and you may lose your customers for a bad experience.
Here is the winner is: Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
Looking at the changing user needs, it seems the benefits of PWAs are more promising compared to the Native apps.
Also, the disadvantages of Native Apps are quite crucial compared to PWAs.
Now, why should you have a PWA for your business? Because the top market leaders to make a move towards the same: