PWA vs Native App: Which One Should You Go For?

Did you know that the emergence of the first mobile apps can be traced back to 2008? But it wasn’t really until around 2013 that the App store started to become mainstream. The popular game “Angry Birds” came out in 2009 and it became so popular that it was able to gain 3 billion downloads in 2015 worldwide.

Progressive Web Apps, however, are a very recent development. In fact, the term was only coined in 2015 by Chrome developer Alex Russel and designer Frances Berriman while explaining the advantages of new features supported by modern browsers.

Let’s understand a thing or 2 about both of these before we compare both of them.

PWA (Progressive Web App)

PWA is an app that’s built with web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You can easily use technologies like React to build a PWA. It sells for its feel and functionality that competes with an actual native app. Thanks to the smart integrations, now any web app can be turned into a progressive web app.

eCommerce websites like Amazon and AliExpress and social sites like Twitter Lite and Pinterest are all PWAs. Features like push notifications, camera access, the ability to add the mobile experience to your home screen among other things are what PWAs can support.

Features of PWA

Let’s look at some of the advantages of Progressive Web Applications. You can look at React vs Vue vs Angular to get a better idea of the technologies behind the most popular web apps.

Core Features

Works Offline – Since the data is stored offline, it doesn’t require the app to have an internet connection. Besides, PWAs have light web pages so they can even function properly with a terrible internet connection.
Discoverability and Easy Installation – PWA is just a regular website with some additional features, so it can easily be discovered on search engines like Google or Bing.
No Feature Compromise – PWAs get access to several features of your OS like camera, GPS, fingerprint scanner, etc, because of which it’s able to deliver features like a native app.
Automatic Updates – Updating an app is complicated because you have to strictly comply with Google and the Apple store’s guidelines, which isn’t the case with PWAs. All you have to do is upload new files to your server, and the app gets updated instantly.
Safety – Because of the HTTPS protocol, the data that’s transmitted is encrypted, which makes it difficult to change, let alone intercept. The use of HTTPS helps users trust the PWA and even helps them rank better on search engines.

Cost-Effective

Considering that there are 3.1 million apps on Google’s Play Store, and more than 2 million on Apple’s app store, it isn’t a shock that they’ll be making strict policies to flush out the apps that aren’t performing well.

The companies putting forth their apps on these stores have a hard time complying and getting approved. Forget the R&D that goes into it, but the app development costs, let alone the fee they have to pay to these platforms, got them to look for alternative solutions.

Money is the number 1 reason why entrepreneurs go with a Progressive Web App. Since it takes less time and effort to be built, and you don’t have to have a separate app for every platform, it costs way less than a native app.

Effortless Built and Launch

Progressive Web Apps are based on HTML, CSS, and Javascript, the most founding programming languages that are now so sophisticated, that they require less effort, and make the website more dynamic.

Moreover, each additional step towards downloading an app reduces its number of potential users by 20 percent. Because PWAs don’t have to be installed on a device, their customers are several steps closer to launching them.

The potential users don’t have to visit an app store, click the “install” button, and accept various permissions. Instead, they can simply visit the website, add the app to their home screen, and open the website from there.

Native App

A native app is one that is designed for a particular platform (Android or iOS for instance) and can be installed directly onto the smartphone and can work. Most native apps usually don’t require internet connectivity since the cache is stored in the device.

Native apps require dedicated iOS and Android developers that will work on building 2 different apps for these platforms.

Native applications are installed through an app store (Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store). Because these apps are designed for that particular operating system, they can take full advantage of the device features, more on that later.

Features of Native App

Let’s look at some of the advantages of Native Mobile Applications:-

Leverage Built-in Features

Native Apps are able to utilize the built-in features of a mobile device such as the GPS, movement detector, camera, etc. These apps are designed to deliver an exceptional user experience, utilizing the potential of their device as much as possible.

With a native mobile app, you can even provide users with functionalities that are unique to the smartphone environment (hardware or OS, etc.).

Security and Support

Since the data resides on the mobile, Native apps are usually quite safe and secure. Apart from that, they also get complete support from their respective app store or marketplace, which is why they’re always up-to-date.

If there are any issues with an app, you can always raise a concern to the OS’s respective app store. There’s huge community support for Native Apps more than there is for PWAs.

Efficient

There’s no comparison when it comes to the performance of native apps. They perform better because they are designed for a particular platform. When it comes to running heavy animations and building games, Native Apps have always been a go-to for companies because of the tight coupling with the device’s built-in features.

Updates

Since Native Apps operate in standalone mode, they need regular updates to be downloaded from time to time. The app sends a prompt to the user to accept the update and you’ll have a new version installed in no time.

There are several apps that are configured to update themselves automatically, but there will always be a notification sent to the user before taking that action.

PWA vs Native App

Based on a few parameters, let’s look at the pros and cons of both applications:-

PWA pros

Quick and easy to develop and support.
Inexpensive to develop and support.
Easy to adapt for different platforms.
Can augment existing site or service.
Can be introduced gradually.
Good for marketing.
No store restrictions.

Native App Pros

Best performance.
Effective device resource usage.
Access to app stores.
Best possible security.
Best UI customizability and user experience.
Good for online and offline.

PWA Cons

Limited device resource utilization.
Limited offline functionality.
Responsiveness issues.
Harder to monetize.
Decent security but worse than native.

Native App Cons

Expensive to develop and support.
Hard to patch and support.
Hart to multiplatform.
Creates ineffective workstyle.
Has to go through store approval
Can be time-consuming to develop.

Wrapping Up

Here’s the most anticipated answer – Both native apps and PWAs have their strengths and drawbacks. Shocker. I know.

But for real, when choosing between them, consider the aspects that each option excels in (provided the opportunity cost is doable), and how they fit in with your vision of your app.

Consider PWA if:

You’re starting out and want a simple app for your user: PWA doesn’t require any download and allows you to interact with the user via push notifications.
Time and budget are an issue. A Progressive Web App takes less time and money to be developed and published.
PWA is similar to any website and reaches a wide audience. Hence, if you want to improve brand awareness and SEO, you should go for it.

Consider a Native App if:

You want to build brand awareness. Publishing your app on an app store increases credibility and native apps have more security options.
You want to get the most out of a user’s smartphone. If geofencing and sensor/detection are prerequisites for the UX or if your product requires great computing power.

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