PWA vs Mobile App

published on: January 17th 2020

Mobile is king and everyone agrees. The number of people with a smartphone has reached roughly 3 billion worldwide. According to Pew Research 81% of U.S adults has a smartphone and 74% own a laptop or computer. So, the need to engage customers on their phones is vital to a business' successful online presence. This is the space where having a mobile app or a PWA fits in.

Let's briefly define the two.

Native mobile apps are developed to operate on specific device's native operating systems, either Apple or Android. Not on Windows that a PC uses to run . This difference allows the app to use All your phones functionality in creative ways. Your phone's camera and GPS are examples an app would use. They are created by anyone and marketed to users on Google's Play Store or Apple's App Store (iTunes), respectively. Users have to go there and download the app to use it. They offer user's a convenient means to interact with your content and business.

PWAs are progressive web apps. These are enhanced websites that can mimic and act a lot like a typical Mobile App. They are created by website developers and use the phones browser, not the operating system, to operate. Because of this, they are not marketed on the App stores, instead they are distributed to user's when visiting a business' website. They use a Service Worker to cache usage data and vital information on the device. This allows offline usage.

Let's hash out the major difference that distinguishes the two.

Native mobile apps can use all of a smartphones functionality. Progressive web apps can not. PWAs can not access a user's contacts, calendar, or bookmarks, etc... All of which could be useful to a business when deciding what features their app needs to be effective.

Why PWAs are awesome.

Seo. Progressive web apps actual websites that get indexed by Google and other search engines. Does your website have a great ranking? Well, so will your PWA.

Development. They use the same code base as your website. This makes them very easy much cheaper to build and maintain. We add some more JavaScript to your website's code-base and wallah a PWA is born.

Offline. Yep, allows your website and business to work offline. Twitter uses a PWA for this reason. As does Uber, Forbes, and Zillow to name a few big companies that a PWA works great for.

Accessibility. Unlike a native app, users easily acquire your PWA when visiting your site. They just have to agree. It stays on their phone as long as they use it. If not it disappears. The user, unlike a native app, never has to update or maintain a PWA. It just happens.

Why PWA's suck.

Functionality. Let's be perfectly clear. They can do less than half of what a native app can.

Why Native apps are awesome.

Functionality. Having been designed and developed for specific devices, a native app has unlimited capabilities and possibilities. They are only limited to the phone's limitations.

Performance. They become a part of the phone. They live on the phone. They work on the phone. When going to work...they don't have far to go. Why Native apps suck.

Effectiveness. Very few apps are successful. This is explained in the next section.

Maintainability. The user is responsible for updating the app and must give permission. Rarely ever happens.

Development. All that code doesn't fall from the sky. You'll pay. Native app development is a big project and takes a lot to develop.

The skinny

-All businesses should have a PWA. Very few should have a native app.

The painful truth is that most businesses get zero benefits from having a native app. They are ineffective. People won't use it. They only have so much real-estate on their devices and are not setting any aside for 'Calla Lilly's Glorious Floral Boutique'. They will, at a far greater rate, choose to accept a PWA and actually use it. There is no going to an app store, discovering the app, choosing to download it, giving permissions to modify device, and ultimately being responsible to update it. PWA's are simply acquired by interested parties already on your site. Next time they visit your business, online or offline, they will be on your website disguised as an app.