Should I consider a native app or a progressive web app?
If you’re deciding between creating a progressive web app vs native app, this guide should help make that choice easier. You'll be well informed in the key advantages and disadvantages, what both choices can offer your business, and what the future will look like for the solution you choose.
What are native apps?
A native app is a software application developed in a specific programming language for a specific platform. It is downloaded from an app store onto a device and can integrate with the device functionality, such as alarms, calendars and photos.
To work on a specific platform, i.e. iOS and Android, a native app will need to be recreated multiple times.
What are Progressive Web Apps?
A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a combination of a native app and a website. Google coined the concept so that content would only need to be created once, rather than multiple times for different platforms.
PWAs load from a web browser through the internet, or another network, so they don't have to be downloaded like native apps. This also means they can be updated in real time, without the need to download an update.
Good examples of PWAs are Pinterest and Twitter. Pinterest was looking to grow their international traffic outside of the USA. Using a PWA provides their international users with a rich, interactive experience regardless of their connectivity strength. In Twitter’s case, their PWA boasts functionality like adding a shortcut to your home screen, push notifications, and even offline use of the platform.
Advantages of native apps
Native apps are created using a specific programming language for a specific platform. This means developers tailor the app to operate at peak performance.
Native apps seamlessly integrate with other native apps and functionality on the user’s device, such as their calendar, contacts and location. This provides you with extra information about your users, and can in turn enhance their experience.
The level of security provided to your business and the user is determined by how the software is coded. It’s easier to implement security features, such as multi-factor authentication, for an enhanced level of security.
Being part of an app store allows users to search for apps like yours. Equally, there are opportunities to feature in app store Google Ads. You can pay for your app to be featured at the top of relevant search results, ensuring you’re seen on Google as well as an app store.
Disadvantages of native apps
Native Apps often require regular updates, development and multiple versions for different platforms. For this reason, the cost of development is much higher than the PWA alternative.
As innovation is commonplace in the tech-sector, we can expect more app integration in our daily lives. Native apps are limited as they are coded in a specific language for a specific platform, which could hinder scalability in the future. PWAs are likely to have a much longer shelf life as they aren’t tied to a specific platform.
Users have more steps to work through before they can download your native app. Whilst downloading apps from an app store is commonplace, the more steps you include, the less likely the user will be to download your app.
Advantages of Progressive Web Apps
Being a fully responsive solution, you only need to develop your PWA once. Unlike the native app, you won’t need to recreate your PWA to work on multiple platforms. With no app distribution services involved, such as the iOS App Store or Google Play Store, you can bypass further development to meet their approval requirements.
No download needed
The user can simply head to their browser and add your PWA to their home screen. This is a bonus for easy accessibility.
Less data required
The user’s device won’t use as much data as a native app by default thanks to service workers. A service worker is a script run on a browser that caches features and functionality. When a user tries to access your PWA they’ll see the latest cached version. Therefore, data isn’t being fetched and loaded from the server.
This benefit is great for making updates as users will be able to view your PWA in real-time. They won’t even have to wait to download an update to access new functionality, content or products.
PWAs are safe as they only work on trusted https connections. Serving your PWA over a secure connection means your users know they can trust your PWA. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind that there won’t be any breaches with the served content.
A huge benefit of PWAs is that, unlike native apps, they’re indexable by Google. As the PWA uses a browser, Google can crawl it as it would any other website. You can create campaigns leading to certain pages, improve organic search traffic, and send traffic to specific links within your PWA.
The beauty of PWAs is that you’re not restricted to one platform or device. As they are built to be served across a variety of screen sizes, platforms and technologies, PWAs are fully responsive. They can be used on desktop, mobile, smart TVs and wearable technology. This means your user will always receive a rich experience no matter where they’re using your PWA from.
Disadvantages of Progressive Web Apps
Less functionality (especially for iOS)
PWA push notifications don’t work on iOS, which could be a key consideration in your decision between PWAs and Native. Equally, PWAs don’t integrate with native apps such as alarms, calendars or contacts.
No app store exposure
The freedom of driving organic traffic to your PWA is a bonus, but it’s worth noting that what you gain in SEO capabilities, you lose in app store exposure.
There are still some technologies which aren’t compatible with PWAs, such as Bluetooth and advanced controls on the user’s phone.
What is the future for PWAs and native apps?
Whilst it may seem that progressive web apps are the future, it’s important to remember why we use native apps. They have the ability to provide users with more functionality, higher levels of performance, and integration with other native apps.
Apple have released a feature called App Clips, which allows users to quickly use an app’s functionality without downloading it. The user can experience the best your native app has to offer, and can download it once they've finished. This new Apple feature signals that developers are paving the way for easier app interaction, rather than replacing native apps.
PWAs will also be sticking around as technology advances and their use can be broadened outside of smartphones and desktops. Being more holistic in nature, sending data to a device rather than holding that data on the device, means they’re future-proofed and adaptable to technological innovations.
Your PWA could be viewed on a user’s smart TV, smartwatch, and new innovative wearable technologies. If you’re looking to take your business down the PWA route, it’s important to review how you want your app to be visited, viewed and experienced in the future.
Should you consider a PWA or native app?
The question of progressive web apps vs native apps can only be answered when considering your business needs and strategy. If you have plans to scale across multiple platforms, PWAs could be the solution for you. Equally, if you want to provide your user’s with a central experience that allows them to connect with other apps, a native app would be worth consideration.
You don’t have to struggle with making the decision on your own, Versantus are here to help. Our highly skilled team creates both native apps and PWA solutions that work for businesses and their specific requirements.
For more information on how Versantus can help you choose the right solution, give the team a call on 01865 422112 or tell us more about the project you’d like to discuss.