Progressive Web Apps VS Native Apps: What Is Right For Your Mobile App?
If you’re looking to build a mobile-app, or looking for a mobile-app developer, it’s critical to understand the foundational elements of what a mobile app is and the types of mobile app approaches that exist.
Mobile app development has emerged as a powerful catalyst for businesses, start-ups and would-be entrepreneurs alike - it’s as hot of a topic as it was 10 years ago, aiming to jettison peoples ideas and brands into the hands of billions of smart phone users across the globe.
In this blog post, we'll explore the key differences between the two core types of mobile apps people build; Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) versus that of Native Apps.
The intent is to help you build an initial view on how you may go about progressing your mobile app idea.
Why do people develop mobile apps?
Harnessing the full potential of users devices, and accessing billions of people at home, on the couch, on the train or in the midst of their day to day is compelling. Smartphones are now essentially classified as ‘must have’ to billions of people across the globe. Mobile apps provide a seamless and customised user experience for brands, businesses, start ups and entrepreneurs.
Whether it's a feature-rich e-commerce app that simplifies shopping or a fitness tracker that monitors your health journey, mobile apps bring functionality and accessibility to your fingertips. In addition to the unparalleled user experience, mobile apps offer businesses a unique opportunity to strengthen their brand, engage customers more effectively, and tap into new revenue streams.
What are the two key methods of building a mobile app?
When it comes to developing mobile applications, there are two primary options: Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and Native Apps. Each approach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one can significantly impact your company's success, and overarching user experience of those whom download your mobile app.
Option 1: Progressive web apps (PWAs)
PWAs are essentially web applications (or to be super simple, websites that mimic an app like experience) that leverage modern web technologies to deliver a native app-like experience through web browsers. They are designed to work seamlessly across various devices and platforms, making them a popular choice for companies looking to reach a broad audience.
The pro’s of progressive web apps (PWAs):
PWAs are mobile applications that run in web browsers, across all devices. They can work on smartphones, tablets and even desktops - mimicking a very “native like” mobile experience. The application can be saved to the users mobile home screen as an icon, or alternatively distributed via the iOS and Android stores.
Updating a PWA is as simple as updating a website, as users receive the latest version automatically when they visit the app. This ensures that all users have access to the most up-to-date content and features without tedious deployments to the app stores of Apple and Google.
PWAs are essentially mini websites. They can be access online, via the web, on any devices and can even be found in major search engines like Google.
Lower development costs
Developing a PWA generally requires a smaller development team and less specialised knowledge compared to native app development, which can be cost-effective for smaller businesses or start ups looking to rapidly prototype version 1 of their app.
The con’s of progressive web apps (PWAs):
Limited native device access
PWAs may have limited access to device hardware and features compared to native apps, which can impact their functionality and user experience.
PWAs can sometimes feel like PWAs, and the user senses they are not truly using a custom web-app designed for their native device. Case in point; Amazon.com.au for the longest time utilised PWAs and it felt like you were just browsing a mobile version of the store front.
Option 2: Native apps
A native app is just that; native to the operating system it sits on. In the case of mobiles, we are talking native iOS (Apple) or native Android (Google). Native apps are downloaded from their respective app stores, and can leverage full functionality of the device makers choosing for a more extensive and beneficial user experience.
The pro’s of native apps:
Native apps outperform PWAs nearly all of the time. They are localised copies of the application on the users phone, creating a tailored experience that leverages the cool functionality of the smartphone makers discretion. Things like camera, GPS, sensors, touch and biometrics.
Rich user experience
Again, the user experience is often more optimal. Smoother responsiveness, load times, animations and interactions ladder up to make the overall user experience nicer.
Access to app stores
Native apps (as with PWAs) can leverage the app stores (Apple App Store, Google Play Store) to increase reach and downloads. Users are also very very very critical of apps in the stores, so a native app, if built correctly, will potentially result in better reviews and thus better signals to the stores to promote your app.
The con’s of native apps:
Building native apps for multiple platforms requires separate development efforts, leading to higher costs and longer development times.
Updates and bug fixes must go through app store approval processes, which can result in delays in delivering critical updates to users.
Users must download and install native apps, which can create friction and reduce user acquisition compared to the seamless access of PWAs.
Which approach is better, PWA’s or Native Apps?
The choice between PWAs and Native Apps ultimately depends on your company's goals, resources, and target audience. Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:
If you aim to reach a broad audience across various devices and platforms, PWAs may be the better choice. For a more specialised or performance-critical audience, native apps could be the way to go.
Budget and timeline
Assess your budget and project timeline carefully. PWAs often offer cost savings and faster development, making them suitable for startups and small businesses with limited resources.
Consider the level of user experience you want to provide. If your app requires extensive use of device features or demands high performance, native apps might be the preferred option.
App store presence
If visibility and credibility through app stores are essential for your app's success, native apps are the obvious choice.
In summary, what does it all mean?
Progressive Web Apps and Native Apps both have their merits.
- If you want to be fast, agile, budget driven; PWAs are your candidate.
- If you want to create a beautiful user experience; native apps are your candidate.
Before you jump head first into mobile app development, or search for a mobile app developer, consider these learnings to refine your brief when talking to a digital app developer.
Oh yeah, we build apps if you want to chat.