Progressive web apps vs Native mobile apps

Redbee Software

There are millions of apps on the market. Literally. There are 2.56 million apps in Google Play according to AppBrain, while the Apple App Store lists about 4.74 million mobile applications, as Statista indicates. What does this mean for a business looking to develop a mobile app? The competition is higher than ever, so the app must be unique and extremely valuable for its target audience, in order for the users to install it. Even if these two criteria are met, the app will still need a considerable budget for advertising. As in most cases, this is the only way to make it noticeable in an app store. 

The development project you are working on has limited resources for the moment, but your client still wants to reap the benefits of a multi-platform launch in order to reach an extensive audience? Then, you may want to fully understand the differences between a native mobile app and a progressive web app. Let’s take a look at each:

What is a progressive web app?

As the name suggests, a progressive web app is the next generation of a website that, although runs in a browser, functions much more like a native mobile app. Google brought up this technology and it really takes the best of both worlds. This works like a website but provides an almost full native mobile app experience while allowing users to work or just stay up to date even if their Internet connection is poor or missing.

Advantages of developing a progressive web app:

  • Reliable: progressive web apps work even without an Internet connection, thus never shows that a website is down.
  • Fast: PWA loads immediately and responds quickly to any user interactions, preventing users from giving up the application.
  • Engaging: it feels like a usual mobile app, with push notifications and an intuitive user experience, which actively contribute to increasing customer engagement.
  • Accessibility: PWAs are independent of app stores. As they are launched through a URL link and web browser, and don’t need to be downloaded in order to be used.
  • SEO optimization: PWAs are still websites, which means that they have URLs that are indexed by Google. Users can easily find them when searching for information on a search engine.
  • Lower development costs: developing a web app, even if it has next-level features, will still imply a lower development cost than developing a native mobile app. Moreover, seeing that PWAs are revolutionising business around the world, ReactJS has expanded its services and now offers React PWA. This is a technology stack that offers support in developing the next generation of mobile apps. Along with a platform called Create React App, it creates your project as a Progressive Web App by default.
  • Storage friendly: PWAs only take a small portion of the device’s storage.

On the other hand, progressive web apps also have a few drawbacks:

  • Limited functionality: some Operating Systems can limit a PWA functionality.
  • Battery draining: a PWA requires more CPU, which means that users will face fast battery consumption.

What is a native mobile app?

A native app is a software application that is specially built for a specific platform (either iOS or Android) and users must find it in an online app store in order to install it on their mobile device. Furthermore, a native mobile app can take full advantage of all the features of a mobile device, such as camera, gallery, contact list, GPS etc.

Benefits of native mobile apps:

  • Enhanced performance: the loading speed of a native mobile app is much higher than that of a Progressive Web App.
  • High security: respecting multiple standards set by Apple Store and Play Store, a native mobile app will keep users’ data much safer compared to a PWA.
  • Diversity of features: as native mobile apps usually have access to all the features of a mobile device, like the camera, GPS, NFC or Bluetooth, users will often find native apps much more convenient and purposeful compared to a progressive web app.
  • Monetization: users can make purchases or buy subscriptions with ease in a native app. This is unlike a PWA that requires a custom payment processing solution.

Disadvantages of building a native mobile app:

  • Higher development costs: native apps are developed for one platform in particular. This means your app development team must use a specific programming language to create a native app (Swift or Objective-C for iOS, and Java or Kotlin for Android). However, if your client really wants to launch its own mobile app, we at Redbee Software usually recommend using a cross-platform framework like React Native. That allows developers to build hybrid mobile apps and submit them to both Android and iOS platform.
  • Needs more time to be launched: native apps have to be approved by Google Play or App Store. In many cases, apps can be rejected if they don’t respect the store terms and conditions. This is why our team of app developers always follow a risk management strategy when it comes to iOS App Development. This is helpful in order to identify potential problems in the early stages of development.
  • Needs to be promoted: did you know native apps cannot be found in a search engine? Which means the brand that launches the app needs to invest in promoting it on different media channels in order to encourage users to download the app.

When to use a progressive web app and when to use a native app

1. If you need to reach more people in a shorter amount of time, choose a progressive web app. Once published, they are instantly available on the web, not needing to wait for an app store approval. They can be easily promoted and accessed by everyone out there, no matter the device one uses

2. If you are a start-up or have a limited budget for app development, go with a progressive web app instead. This way, you’ll save not only money but also time. Developing a progressive web app comes with a much lower cost and does not need that many software development resources. However, a mobile app development process does, because it helps you to release it faster on the market.

3. If the app’s performance is more important than its development costs, go with a native mobile app. It is well known that native apps offer a higher level of functionality and performance, because they are designed and optimised for a specific platform.

So, in the end, what’s better, developing a Progressive Web App or a Native Mobile App? Well, there is no winner here as the answer depends on your business needs. Software development comes with many challenges. One that determines how successful the project will be is to decide the goals, the expectations, and the available resources. Only then you can start researching what is the best solution for your app development project. If you feel you need the help of an experienced team of developers, schedule a meeting with Redbee Software.

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