Native vs PWA apps – A complete Guide
- Web & App
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have provided another opportunity for developers to improve the quality of their user experience. Delivering seamless web pages into a users’ browser can enable them to access mobile apps with ease while increasing their engagement and session time. Let’s take the example of Tinder – it was found that its PWA version halved the loading time in comparison to the native app and reduced the size from 30 MB to 2.8 MB. The online dating app also saw an improvement in the session time with PWA and an increase in engagement in terms of more swipes and messages. Besides, a performance case study shows that Pinterest users spent 40 percent more time on the PWA version of the platform than their mobile website – leading to a 44 percent increase in the core engagement.
However, it’s never this simple. A key decision that business leaders have to take today is to choose between progressive web apps vs. native apps.
There still are some developers who would prefer building a native app looking at several benefits that PWAs cannot replicate. When it comes to mobile app development, every developer’s preference will differ based on the functions of the app that they are developing. Hence, developers need to consider the difference between app and website or web app for each project. This helps ensure you are spending resources on building digital products that best serve your users and optimize the overall app’s performance.
In this article, we have put together a complete guide, giving you an overview of PWAs and native apps, sharing insights for each, to help you choose which type of app would best suit your business needs.
What is a Progressive Web App?
Progressive web apps are an alternative approach to websites, and they improve an app’s cross-platform performance within web and mobile. PWAs use up much less storage space on users’ devices in comparison to native apps. They use service workers or scripts that browsers run in separate browser threads to cater to requests, caching, and storing data in a cache. Users even have the choice to save the app onto the home screen of their devices without having to fully download the app.
PWAs give developers a lot of ways to improve the user experience of the app. Google describes Progressive Web Apps as “reliable, fast, and engaging.” The tech giant offers a checklist that helps developers to take a baseline PWA, fully optimize it, and turn it into an exemplary PWA.
Moreover, PWAs enable developers to create their apps without needing two separate teams for Android and iOS. This is one of the reasons, along with performance improvement statistics from Twitter – a 75 percent increase in Tweets sent and a 20 percent decrease in bounce rate – that a large group of developers support this approach. However, before making any decision, you should understand the advantages of both PWAs and native apps.
What is a native app?
Native apps have been built for a particular operating system and coded in a specific programming language. This is the reason why native apps are usually created twice to cater to audiences of two dominating OS. Hence, the functions of native apps are fully optimized for its operating system, as they can effectively utilize the system’s framework and tools. Developers can incorporate the unique characteristics of the particular hardware and allow the personalized experience to users according to their preferred device.
For example, a native app for Android can be coded in Java, and an iOS app can be developed using Objective C. They are available for download on App Store and Google Play for iOS and Android, respectively.
Benefits of a native app
Smooth interaction with other native apps
One of the significant benefits of building a native iOS or Android app is that they allow smoother and more natural interaction with other native apps. For example, a developer may choose to create a native app if they want the app to seamlessly connect with Facebook.
A native app and easily integrate with the payment process of a user’s app store, making it easy to purchase and sign up for subscriptions. Whereas, if you want to build a monetization system in a PWA, you will need to integrate your payment system at the time of mobile app development. However, the increase in engagement and longer session times may balance out this lacking of PWAs. The above mentioned Tinder’s Performance Case Study shows that purchases on the web version were on par as the company’s native app.
Tools and frameworks
With your native app development, you use a range of technical means according to the respective operating system. On the other hand, building PWA doesn’t include the same variety of simplified tools and streamlined app development processes, as they are not built on one platform.
Visibility on App store
According to a mobile app usage survey by GoodFirms, 60.08 percent of users find out about new apps by browsing on the app store.
Even though you can publish both native apps and PWAs on the App Store, the process for a PWA is not as simple as a native app. For a PWA, you will have to write a native wrapper, which includes your app’s native iOS capabilities. Moreover, you are also required to provide valid evidence of being a legal, registered business. If you want to learn more about these limitations and processes in detail read this article.
That said, with quickly established visibility on the app store, building a native app allows you to focus more on App Store Optimization and Apple Search Ads to further improve your app presence. This is a cost-effective way to acquire more targeted, high-value users and enhance visibility for users who have shown interest in similar services as your app.
Native app development makes it easier to integrate dynamic security features like two-factor authentication, as the app has all the necessary device information available. Whereas native apps can use TLS certificates and ensure high-security standards are met, PWAs require their security certifications.
Efficient battery consumption is not possible with PWAs, as they are not written in native hardware language. This may be the reason why some users reduce their frequency of activity on a PWA, and you can avoid this problem with native app development.
Benefits of a Progressive Web App
Even though native apps are still primarily used around the globe, and many developers opt for it, there are different ways in which PWAs outperform native apps.
As mentioned earlier, PWAs use service workers for caching, managing requests, and the storage of shell data. Hence, this means the app shell for PWA will load faster than a native app even when a user is not connected to the internet, and the loading speed will be faster. However, they will have to reconnect to the internet to access new information on the app. Leading speed has a significant impact on user retention and engagement, which is why this is a critical benefit when it comes to deciding between progressive web app vs. native app.
You can offer users a unified user experience with PWAs by delivering the same interface on the browser and the app installed on their smartphones. This means users don’t have to learn more than one app interface, which often is a frustrating experience when they use the mobile web and native versions of the app.
Downloading a native app requires more storage space on the user’s device. Hence, a lot of users with limited storage space prefer using the PWA version. PWAs allows users the complete app functionality without having to worry about storage space or a long and annoying downloading process.
App developing cost
The development of a progressive web app that seamlessly functions on multiple platforms and operating systems makes it a cost-effective choice that drastically reduces your workload. Furthermore, building custom native apps for iOS and Android will require you to invest more time and resources to incorporate new features and regular updates according to the operating system.
Indexed by Google
PWAs are more like index-able websites, with a live URL, that can be indexed by Google and easily shared. The pages or screens and content on PWAs are visible to search engine crawlers and accessible for all connected devices.
PWAs are made up of app-imitating web pages, which means users can find it on app store and search engines, giving them overall excellent visibility. You can use SEO practices to reach more targeted users and make it easy for users to share the URL, increasing the opportunities for organic visibility and user engagement.
Will PWAs replace native apps?
Moving forward, native apps will continue to grow and evolve in terms of variety and functionality, mainly because the connected devices they run on are adding new features, enhancements and improving processing power. Hence, native apps often have a little edge over PWAs at first when it comes to capabilities.
However, the gap between native apps and progressive web apps is continuously decreasing, as the PWAs are becoming a standard practice for developers. Looking at the journey of native apps and PWAs, it is likely that the apps we will use in the future will be a mix of native software and web-based technologies such as PWAs – to leverage the unique benefits that both offer to users and developers.
About the Author
Asim Rais Siddiqui is living his passion for emerging technologies and software as the Co-Founder and CTO at TekRevol. An expert in next-generation technology and software solutions, he has over a decade’s worth of experience in development and enterprise digitalization.
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