Have you noticed an “Add To Home Screen” notification while you were browsing websites on your smartphone?
If you clicked on it, you would see a shortcut on your device’s home screen just like a native app does. Yet the site sits bookmarked alongside all other apps. The only oddity is that you haven’t downloaded anything from app stores. This is how PWAs work.
In this article, we will dig into application development software Progressive Web Apps and native apps, bump their heads together, and draw comparisons to determine which technology is the winner of the contest: tried-and-true native applications or brand new progressive ones.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Native Apps: A Quick Overview
A native app is a software program coded in a particular programming language that is created for use on a specific device or platform (Android, Windows, or iOS).
On the tech side, in order to build a native app, developers make use of dedicated frameworks and programming languages. For instance, they employ the combination of Kotlin and Java for creating Android apps, while React native and Swift are commonly used for iOS development. Thus, a native app is developed at least twice: once for iOS and the other time for Android so that a user has access to the app regardless of what their mobile OS is.
Once built, the app should be submitted to Google Play or/and AppStore to ensure that it is set up to each store’s standards. This process can take several months.
Progressive Web Apps: A Quick Overview
Progressive Apps that are built with modern frameworks such as React.js or Angular, give websites the look and feel of regular smartphone apps when accessing them on a mobile web browser with no need to be downloaded from stores.
This makes Progressive Apps:
● easy to install
● discoverable for search engines
● accessible without the Internet
● able to send push notifications
● able to provide access to hardware and software within a user’s device such as a camera, mic, or GPS.
Kindly note that a PWA has a single database for all platforms. The app basically works as a responsive site on desktops or as a native app on mobile devices. Because it doesn’t require a download, users may have no idea that they are using a progressive app.
The solution was introduced by Google in 2015. Right off the bat, the biggest brands such as Lancome, Adidas, END Clothing, Flipkart jumped on the bandwagon and now this relatively new tech is becoming incredibly popular.
But do progressive web apps compare to native ones?
What is the Difference?
In order to choose between a progressive and native app for your company’s mobile presence, it is essential to know the difference between them as far as each development methodology has both its pros and cons. We are going to break out the core differentiators:
● Offline Usage
● Push Notification
● Device features
1. Installation process
Native apps can be found and installed through either Google Play or App Store. End users can find them by typing popular keywords or a brand name in a store’s search bar. It should be mentioned that native apps are massive. For example, the average Android app file size is 11 MB, while the weight of the average iOS app is 34 MB. Needless to say that in this scenario the installation process can take a lot of time. Besides, most mobile users open the native app once or twice a month. At other times, it remains unused “collecting dust” and taking effective disk space.
A PWA is a different story. Since they are downloaded and run on a mobile browser, they take a little space. Thus, the average PWA file size is just 350 KB so the installation process takes a few seconds and can be done in a click without visiting an app store (as you can see at the screenshot). So, progressive applications are the clear winners in this category.
2. Offline Usage
Some time ago, the ability to access the content users want without an Internet connection remained the prerogative of native apps. But things have changed. The uprise of PWAs can boast the same capabilities. They utilize cached data to provide offline use.
But here is the thing. A progressive app can serve only certain parts of the content to users when their device is disconnected. As such, anything that is not part of the page’s caching system will be unavailable until connectivity is restored. For example, if a user wants to submit a request through the contact form or make a reservation, they will be unable to do so.
In this scenario, native apps win when it comes to offline usage. Even though the PWA technology is caching up some content and allowing users to access it, it is still kiss up to native apps in providing offline functionality.
3. Push Notifications
Push notifications are robust re-engagement tools and the key reasons why many e-commerce website owners are building an app. A successful push notification strategy will result in better engagement with your content.
With native apps, you can build the required functionality from the ground up or integrate it into an app with the help of third-party services such as PushBots or OneSignal.
With PWAs, the push notification functionality can be implemented thanks to service workers. However, the truth is that at this point, this functionality is still limited to Chrome, Opera, Safari, and Mozilla browsers and practically is not available on iOS devices. Of course, you can use push-notification with a PWA to re-engage your Android customers, but you can’t do the same for your iOS users for a while.
Native apps are the clear winners in this category as far as they support push-notifications on both Android and iOS devices.
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4. Device features
When we say that an app is “native”, that means it is developed to run in a specific software environment. As such, a native iOS app is tailored to Apple’s hardware, as well as incorporates Apple-specific features, say, its Face ID. The same goes for Android and Windows apps.
Thus, native apps can use the:
● fingerprint scanner
● contact list
● mobile payments, and so on.
Progressive apps use HTML, JS, and CSS to build out many of the same features contained in a native app. However, PWAs can’t take advantage of these features to its full extent. Of course, you can make some connections through APIs to improve the UX, but still limitations exist. As such, progressive apps can use the device’s hardware, say, mic or camera, but they can’t take advantage of low-level hardware features like a fingerprint scanner, GPS, or 3D graphics rendering.
The updating process is automated for both native and progressive apps and users can hardly detect that an update occurs. So it is nothing to do for users when it comes to updating web and progressive apps as for the most part, this process will go unnoticed. As such, there are no winners in this category.
Native apps are designed taking into account hardware’s specific capacities so that they can make use of a device to its full extent. Thanks to the fact that the interface is smoothly combined with a smartphone, this creates a perfect UX. However, in order to develop an interface for at least two platforms from the ground up, solid knowledge of native mobile languages, for example, Swift or React Native is required.
As far as PWAs are concerned, their code can be reused for different platforms. You are free to use the same functionality and UI template for Android, iOS, desktops. All in all, progressive web apps provide an app-like experience to their users: they look and feel exactly like native apps but the development cost is less.
Look at this Alibaba’s PWA which interface is absolutely identical to their native app.
If you are doing to create a native app for your business by an expert agency, you have to be prepared to spend more than $100,000. The more features your app have, the higher is the price. Besides, don’t forget that if you want to create a native app for an iPhone and the same for an Android, you will need to create two separate native apps for this purpose.
The average PWA development price is $15,000 – $50,00. It is much cheaper than native apps offer. Moreover, with a PWA developed, you will get a responsive website, as a bonus. With PWAs, the development process is not only cheaper but easier. For instance, if you already have a mobile website on Magento, you can hire a Magento front-end developer to build a PWA on top of your existing website.
As you can see, there is a great difference between native apps and the growing in popularity web app format. If you are still hesitating between those two, here is the summarizing.
Opt for a native app, if:
● your app is expected to use platform-specific hardware features and requires tight integration with the device hardware
● you already have targeted users who are likely to download your app from app stores
● your business consider the store presence as a must
● you are planning to create AR rendering application or online game
● you’d like to monetize your app
● your app is expected to benefit from biometric authentication.
Opt for a PWA, if:
● your budget is limited
● you want desktop users to access your app, as well
● you would like to provide your users with perfect UX
● push-notifications on iOS is not essential for your business
● you want to reach a large audience with a cross-platform solution
● there is no need for tight integration with the hardware of a user’s device.