PWA vs Native App: How to Choose the Right Mobile Applications
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Native applications were once the only existing format of mobile software solutions. They were created for specific platforms, taking into account specific design requirements, Google Play/App Store policies, and the nuances of the device hardware.
Today, there is a worthy alternative to this basic type of apps – Progressive Web Apps. First introduced by Google in 2015, these are characterized by high performance, they practically don’t consume storage device memory, are compatible with any OS, and are better promoted through the Google search engine.
From a technical point of view, they are presented in the format of a regular web page that can be opened in any web browser. Such a page is built using technologies and solutions such as Service Worker, Push Notifications, HTTPS, App Shell, etc., thereby achieving the capabilities typical of mobile software.
Another distinguishing feature of such apps is the focus on three underlying properties: Reliable (a number of essential app features should be available even at poor or complete lack of network connection), Fast (users get maximum interactivity, most requests are processed extremely quickly right on the client side), and Engaging (an app should motivate to launch it again and again; the UI should combine aesthetics and intuitive navigation).
In this brief feature, we dive into more detail concerning the classic stand between progressive web apps vs native apps and try to objectively evaluate all the pros and cons of these two types of mobile app solutions.
Main Differences Between PWAs & Native Apps
Let’s start figuring out who will become the winner of the PWA vs Native battle with finding out the main differences between the two essential formats.
Native tools and environments are used create a native application, including Java/Kotlin languages along with Android Studio (for the Android platform) and Swift/Objective-C paired with Xcode (for the iOS platform).
Obviously, finding experts who are competent in one of the top tools for web development is much easier than those who understand the intricacies of working with particular mobile platforms.
When it comes to native software, caching can be implemented in various ways, which are far from guaranteed 100% successful for end users. As for PWA caching, modern web browsers allow you to build web pages in such a way that part of their functionality remains available offline (if there is no network connection, data that was loaded during the preliminary page refresh can be used, which means that instead of an error message, users get a standard software reaction to their actions).
Speed & performance
The high speed of native software performance used to be a decisive factor in favor of this application format in many cases. Nevertheless, with the introduction of PWAs, which are specifically designed for multi-user access (which means improved performance), the smoothness and speed of both native and PWA principles became equal. The only two niches where native applications still win are the game industry and solutions that interact with the smartphone hardware.
PWA definitely gets a prize in this aspect. The thing is, promoting apps through the App Store and Google Play is not an easy task. Not only does the application have to comply with the numerous policies of these stores in order to be at least uploaded. Descriptions with strong keywords don’t really work there as well.
Everything is completely different with PWA. The Google search engine is specifically “tuned” to promote such software. Therefore, the efforts of a single hired competent SEO specialist will be quite enough to reach the top of search results.
Have you always truly enjoyed the user experience in most mobile apps? If the answer were a definite “yes”, no one would create applications with the same yet more polished functionality over and over (take numerous fitness trackers, for instance). PWA is different here, too.
The concept of progressive web software itself involves the use of technologies to provide the top-end UX design – take Push Notifications, immersive full-screen experience, etc. Yeah, and you don’t need to download them, which means no occupying excessive user smartphone memory.
PWAs employ HTTPS by default to meet the high security standards put forward by Google. As for native applications, developers for iOS and Android often overlook some crucial vulnerabilities that are subsequently exploited by hackers and other scammers.
The accessibility factor, in this case, is generally based on the question – “Do native apps handle offline better than PWA?”. So, in this regard, PWA cannot be matched by the native solutions (some of which, nonetheless, may have certain available offline features as well).
As we mention above, PWA caching powered by Service Worker allows client-side processing of requests offline, providing flexible autonomous capabilities.
PWA or Native App?
Speaking about what is better – native software or PWA – the first question that may be raised by practical-minded business people is about the cost of the project that is equal in terms of availability, reliability, speed, performance, and other indicators of a quality solution. Native software downsides are immediately evident here.
As we pointed out in the previous paragraph, finding GOOD Java or Objective-C developers is much more difficult than getting JS developers. Moreover, the services of the first will cost you much more. If we add to this the fact that for each individual platform you need a separate team of programmers, it becomes obvious that you will require some pretty penny to implement a native application for both iOS and Android may be prohibitive.
Surely, a kind of compromise can be found in cross-platform or hybrid concepts, but then your dilemma will come down to picking between the PWA vs React Native (or any other JS library or framework) and additional converting of existing software will still be required. When you create a PWA, you create it ONCE for all the browsers and operating systems available out there.
Moreover, in order to comply with the policies of official mobile app stores, you may be obliged to sacrifice some of the features because not all capabilities allow uploading a new app to these digital markets. PWAs, however, are not subject to such strict control, which significantly expands the possibilities for the implementation of the basic concept.
Lastly, users of your PWA will never have to bother with its updates, which is a serious step towards increasing the overall loyalty of your target audience.
So, what about the future of PWA and, in general – will PWA replace native apps? So far, there are not so many truly prominent examples of PWAs because the technology is still relatively new to most web developers.
Nevertheless, in 90% of cases, PWA development is a much more rational (budget, quick to execute, simple, etc.) approach to the implementation of your mobile software idea, unless we are talking about interactive games or software that requires access to the “insides” of the smartphone.
Contact us and you will see how cool and high-quality non-native applications can be!