Progressive Web Apps vs. Native Apps: How Do You Choose?

How do you choose between a PWA or Native app?

It’s now the end of 2019, and Progressive Web Apps are only a few years old. In that short time, PWAs have made a huge impact. They dot the social media landscape with Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest opting to develop a PWA app instead of building apps using native code. Tech companies like Uber and the staid Washington Post found PWAs offer several advantages to native apps.

A progressive web app takes a website to the next level, giving it the look and feel of a traditional mobile app. While PWAs run in a mobile device’s browser, dev shops building PWAs can use more of the device’s hardware functionality than a standard website. In many cases, PWAs cost less to develop than native apps, and they provide everything a brand needs in a mobile app.

Many brands, however, shy away from PWAs because there are a few common misconceptions that lead some companies to write off this technology.

Here are some common questions about PWAs:

Do Progressive Web Apps Work For ECommerce?

Some brands worry that PWAs require too much customization for a useful e-commerce platform. For instance, Progressive Web Apps don’t have an off-the-shelf payment system. If you want to use a PWA for eCommerce, you need to provide your own payment integration.

The reality, however, is that several solutions exist to handle payments. Adding an integration doesn’t require a lot of extra expense. If you partner with an experienced PWA dev shop, they will walk you through all your options. The fact is, many brands have found PWAs to work well as an eCommerce platform.

Are Progressive Web Apps Just Websites?

Progressive Web Apps do run in a browser like a regular website. The difference is that a PWA can do much more. Here are some key features that set PWAs apart from standard websites:
Progressive Web App: Not a website
Users can store PWAs on their home screen. Once saved, your PWA looks just like any other application. It works just like any other application, too.

PWA push notifications
PWAs allow for push notifications. These small messages enable you to reach your customers at any time with the information they need. Websites don’t have that functionality.

PWA offline

PWAs allow users to work offline. Typical websites require an internet connection to function. PWAs, however, use “Service Workers” to cache the data necessary to allow users to engage the site, even while offline. A Service Worker is a JavaScript file that runs separately from the main browser thread. It intercepts network requests, caches or retrieves resources from cache, and makes push notifications possible. Service Workers are essential to PWAs, and the ability for a user to work offline makes a PWA almost as functional as a native app.

Do I Need a Native App?

PWA or Native App

A “native app” is an app written in the programming language native to a platform. For iOS, that’s Objective-C or Swift, and for Android it’s Java. Building your app natively gives you the most flexibility and customization possible. The downside is that you’ll need to build a separate app for each platform where you need a presence, which usually increases the expense.

Some brands have requirements for their app that can only be achieved by building natively. In some cases, however, developers can mitigate the cost increase by building large parts of the app with a platform-independent framework, like React Native.

Are PWAs or Native apps the Only Choices For Mobile App Development?

The short answer to the question “are PWAs or native apps the only choices for building a mobile app?” is no. There’s actually a lot to consider when choosing a technology for your mobile app. Many dev shops, for instance, recommend their clients build their app using React Native. Depending on your needs, some features may require building your app natively.

All technologies come with limitations and tradeoffs, and this general rule is certainly true for mobile apps. As a custom software development company, the engineers at StudioLabs work hard to help you understand the tradeoffs and benefits of each technology. We are truly technology agnostic and expert in most of the technologies driving the web today. With StudioLabs, you’ll get a true technology and user experience partner. Some of our clients have been with us for nearly a decade. If you’re considering building a PWA for your brand, start the conversation! We think you’ll be glad you did.