Native App vs Progressive Web App (PWA): Which one is right for your business?

Erin Scott
min read
Fun Facts

Every year, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are spending more time on their mobile devices to access the internet. According to Statista, the number of smartphone users will increase to 2.87 billion by the end of 2020. That means the number of mobile users is much greater than desktop users. Additionally, research shows that users prefer mobile apps over mobile websites. 

You may not have realized it, but there is more than one type of mobile app available. Most people are used to downloading apps from their respective app stores, either Apple or Google. But did you know there is an option to develop a website that acts as an app?

To help you determine which app is right for your business, this article will highlight the main differences and advantages of PWAs and Native apps. 

So what is a PWA?

A PWA is a web application designed to work on any device without needing to download anything from the app stores. PWAs are accessible from any web browser and can be added to your smartphone’s home screen, similar to a native app. Alternatively, users can scan the PWA’s unique QR code with their smartphone’s camera to access the app. To see an example of this, check out our portfolio.

According to Gartner Research, PWAs will replace 50% of consumer apps. At first glance, a user wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a PWA icon and a Native App icon on their home screen. Since the app icons are indistinguishable, you may have used a PWA app without even knowing it. PWAs give users the ability to leverage mobile websites as well as mobile apps, the best of both worlds. 

Although new to the scene, the concept of PWA was brought to our attention back in 2007 by Steve Jobs. Jobs introduced the term and innovative idea of web applications during the launch of the first iPhone. His vision included discarding the need for native apps and focusing app development around Safari. Ironically enough, Apple changed directions soon after that KeyNote and launched their famous App Store that has generated billions of dollars for the company.

The benefits of PWAs

  1. Save time and money: Unlike native apps, PWAs only need to be built and deployed once. Native apps require two separate developments; one for iOS, the other for Android. Therefore, PWAs take half the time to develop and deploy which significantly reduces the costs. The ease of deployment allows PWAs to be the most cost-effective option. 
  2. Websites under the hood: PWAs can be optimized for Search Engines and are favored by Google. That means your PWA can appear in the first Google search results which can drive traffic to your app and increase customer engagement.
  3. Easily accessible: Users can easily share your PWA on any device without going through the hassle of downloading it from an app store. Consequently, PWAs only take up a small portion of a phone’s memory.

The disadvantages of PWAs

  1. iOS restrictions: PWAs are functional on iOS but they are lacking the Service Worker, a type of JavaScript file, which is stopping them from leveraging 100% of the capabilities that Android provides. For instance, PWAs aren’t able to send push notifications to mobile iOS users (there are alternatives for communication such as SMS notifications). It has been reported that Apple is indeed working on the Service Worker feature.
  2. Feature restrictions: Since Apple doesn’t fully support PWAs (as of iOS version 13), they lack some features that native apps can offer. PWA users can’t leverage features such as FaceID, TouchID, Bluetooth, or push notifications in iOS. PWAs are making progress in regards to features and functionality, however, any business needing to send recommendations (push notifications) to users in a timely manner would need to build a native app.
  3. Unfamiliarity: Most people are familiar with native apps and downloading apps from the app store. Therefore, it might be a slight learning curve when introducing your PWA to consumers.

What about Native Apps?

Native applications are the most popular apps that have been developed for over 10 years. Once downloaded from an app store, they are installed directly to a mobile device and designed specifically for one platform. Some examples are Twitter, Instagram, and Google Maps, etc. These examples have both native Andriod and iOS apps.  

A native app has to be developed twice to be available for both Android and iOS devices. They are built to fully comply with the requirements and guidelines of an operating system. Therefore, native apps enable great performance, API access, and can take full advantage of a mobile device’s native features such as facial recognition. 

The benefits of Native Apps

  1. Great performance: Since native apps are developed and optimized for a specific operating system, they naturally provide a high level of performance. They also leverage the device’s processor speed enabling the app to be very fast and responsive.
  2. Interaction with apps: Native apps interact with other native apps, meaning you can easily connect to a third-party application or an external service. For example, allowing your app authorization to Facebook
  3. Mobile Device Features: Native apps have the advantage of utilizing the features of a mobile device such as the camera, phone calls, GPS, and contact list just to name a few. This allows the app to provide a fun, interactive user-experience. 

The disadvantages of Native Apps

  1. Costly investment: Native apps are complicated to develop and costly to maintain. Additionally, the development process for native apps takes longer than PWA because the process has to be duplicated for the app stores.
  2. Less accessible: Not all native apps are available in the app stores. For example, if your app is only available on the Google Play Store then you are ignoring half of the audience base which is iOS users. Unlike PWAs, native apps don’t work on all mobile devices unless they are specifically built for their operating system. 
  3. Size: On average, Native apps are much heavier than PWAs and take up more space on mobile devices. Users are required to download and install native apps from the app store, whereas PWAs can be used without downloading. 

So which mobile app is better for your business?

For businesses that already have a website and are looking to increase their online search rankings without the need for mobile-specific capabilities, PWAs may be the right choice. Not to mention that PWAs are the most cost-effective option, which is great for companies who don’t have a big budget for a mobile app. Meanwhile, native apps may be the best choice for a business looking to utilize features of modern mobile devices (i.e., push notifications on iOS) and monetize their app in an app store. 

So, do you know which app is best for your business? UpNext Designs is here to support you and increase your customer engagement as well as accessibility through a mobile app. Let us help you build the right mobile app for your business by contacting us today for a consultation! 

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