andrea_sandra_asper
29 Jul 2021 16 min to read

PWA vs Native App – Differences and Similarities for Business, Performance and User Experience

Smartphones changed the way businesses interact with their customers. It’s not easy to be a growing business and ignore the ‘mobile’ opportunity.

Users are spending more time on their mobiles than ever. Ericsson Mobility Report predicts a 25% increase is expected in mobile traffic by 2025. Also, an average person is spending more time on their phone than before.

mobile spent time

Source: MarketingCharts.com

With more attention on mobile, users love businesses that have mobile apps and promise a great experience on mobile. Native apps offer an amazing end-user experience – better mobile UX and greater features, but PWAs help you ship faster, keep costs under control and reach out to users on multiple platforms.

What should be your mobile app development plan? Should you have a progressive web app, or should you stick to a native app? Let’s compare PWAs and native apps and see what’s best for your business growth and what your users prefer.

 

What is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

A progressive web app is a hybrid between a responsive website and a mobile app. PWAs are designed and developed as a website but offer an app-like experience when visited via mobile. They can also be placed as an app on the home screen by the users without needing to install the app.

PWAs are developed using modern JavaScript frameworks – designed to give a near-native experience and can be installed on a mobile device instantly.

Rolled out by Google in 2015, the PWA technology improves the mobile web experience and offers the following advantages:

  • Boosts Conversions & Retention: PWAs load faster, help find information instantly and increase time spent by the user by up to 40%, according to industry estimates.
  • Improves Engagement: PWAs can be designed to boost engagement through push notifications and faster load timings on mobile phones.
  • Promotes Offline Usage: PWAs can work on unstable connections and even when users are offline (thanks to pre-caching). So, the website loads reliably and is never down.

Progressive web apps have a single codebase and help a business rank higher on search engines due to Google’s mobile-first indexing approach. Plus, users love that PWAs needn’t be installed to use. So, that’s a win-win for both businesses and their customers.

Brands have been using PWAs for a while now. The major ones include AliExpress, Starbucks, Twitter, and Forbes.  And that’s not the end. There are hundreds of successful PWA app examples globally.

According to various PWA statistics and studies, progressive web apps require 33% less maintenance costs compared to their native counterpart. One of the biggest reasons why is because you don´t have to maintain different apps across different app stores – with their specialized development tools, coding languages and resources. With PWAs, you only have to maintain a single web app.

source: beezer.com

 

What is a Native App?

You’ve been using native mobile apps since the beginning of the smartphone era. A native mobile app is installed from app stores on iOS or Android. They’re built to utilize the hardware capabilities of a particular mobile device and deliver an engaging user experience.

As native apps are developed for a specific OS, they promise faster performance and can use the hardware’s capabilities more effectively. Native apps for iOS and Android platforms are developed separately, which means more investment in terms of money, time and effort.

Also, launching a native mobile app requires validation from app stores and massive app store optimization for marketing and making it a success.

 

PWA vs Native App for Businesses: Which one’s better?

Progressive web apps and native apps both have their own pros and cons. But which one should you develop for your business? Here are some pointers to help you choose between developing a PWA or a native app:

Time to Market

If you’re still early and want to ship quickly (or get initial traction), PWAs may be the right choice for you.

The native approach requires dedicated development teams for launching Android and iOS apps. Plus, the approval part from app stores can take more time than expected.

On the other hand, progressive web apps are faster to build and ship because, essentially, a PWA is a website. It can be quickly developed and launched for getting much-needed market and user insights. Also, you don’t need to wait for app store validation, which is mandatory for launching and distributing native apps through Google’s Play Store and Apple’s app store.

 

We often advise our clients to choose PWA as the optimal solution for the initial development phase of a project. It is a cost-optimal approach that allows you to launch the project and collect the first feedback from the market. Of course, every business reality is different, so sometimes, it is advisable to develop native applications from the very beginning. It all depends on your digital product development strategy. Paul Jackowski CEO, ASPER BROTHERS

Cost of Development

Native apps are costly to build because if you want truly native features, you need to build both versions separately.

While Java or Kotlin programming language is used for native app development for Android, Objective-C or Swift is used for developing apps for iOS users. Two different development tech stacks mean more people on the team and an increase in cost. Also, the cost of maintenance is high due to separate codebases. The high cost is a risky barrier to cross for early-stage startups who want initial traction and feedback from real users.

Building PWAs, on the other hand, is easier and costs less as it is essentially a web app designed to function like an app on any mobile, irrespective of the platform.

Cross-platform Availability

If you want to reach more people and/or your audience is divided, you can’t focus on a single platform and launch a native app for just Android or iOS. You will have to design & build the apps separately for both platforms to reach your customers and offer a better experience on mobile devices, but it will take more time and resources.

Progressive web apps are being designed to be responsive and can make it easier (and faster) to reach out to users, irrespective of the platform they’re on.

PWAs have the potential to boost engagement rates off the charts because of their universal appeal and availability.

  • Hulu saw a rise of 27% in returning visitors when they moved from platform-specific experience to PWAs
  • Nikkei’s organic traffic grew 3x, and daily users grew by 50% on the launch of PWAs
  • Forbes engagement rates grew by 100% after the launch of its PWA

 

PWA vs Native Apps for End Users: What’s Better?

Your users are important for business and growth. So, the decision to choose a progressive web application or a native app isn’t complete without looking at the pros and cons from a user’s perspective. So, let’s see how both compare from an end-user perspective:

Download & Installation

Mobile users love simple workflows and ease of usage. Not everyone wants to install an app just for information or one-time use – most are looking for a solution on the go. Also, with increasing privacy concerns, users are wary of granting permissions to a native app for accessing their phone storage, location, etc.

PWAs give you an edge in this scenario. A user doesn’t have to install a PWA to find some info, interacting with a business or make a purchase, as in the case with native mobile apps.

Nau – a Swiss News website saw a spike (400x) in-app users, within two days of the launch of its PWA – just because people didn’t need to install the mobile app and could directly put a link on their home screen.

nau pwa

 

On the ease and convenience scale, progressive web apps rank much higher than native apps. They don’t waste time and save storage space on a user’s device. PWAs are hybrid apps, always ready for iOS and Android users.

 

Performance

Progressive web apps load faster, but they run on a third-party browser. This means there will always be chances of latency and significant battery consumption.

On the other hand, a native app integrates seamlessly as a part of the smartphone once installed. It can use the hardware and device features better than PWAs. Also, native mobile applications are more powerful and score high on performance because of the platform-centric code.

Features & Functionalities

A native app can provide a better set of features and functionalities than a progressive web application. Features like geofencing, mobile payments via NFCs, inter-app functionality, and smart sensor usage doesn’t work well with a PWA.

Also, delivering push notifications on iOS isn’t possible using a PWA. You need a native app for that. So, if you’re thinking of leveraging push notifications or any of the above features, you should think of moving ahead with native apps.

Offline availability

PWAs can promise offline functionality by delivering certain parts of the web app at a time. However, if the user requests any info (or feature) which isn’t part of the natural caching system, PWAs have limitations. Think of it like that – you can browse the static pages of the app but can’t submit a form until connectivity is restored.

On the other hand, native apps fare far better on this front. A native app will deliver a consistent experience (information and offline functionality) even when the user is not connected to the internet 24×7.

PWA vs Native App: Detailed Comparison

 

PWA Native App
Installation

No Installation Needed

Download from App Stores

Feature Access

Limited Access

Can Access all Hardware Features and Custom System Settings

Offline Mode

Pre-caching allows offline usage but PWAs have limited offline functionality

Offline mode is available

Updates

Automated and instant updates

Manual updates to be made by the user

Time to Market

Easy and fast development

Takes longer to develop and ship

Security

HTTPS encryption

Additional security features can be embedded (based on device and OS)

Push Notifications

Not possible for iOS devices

Available on all platforms

What Should You Choose- Progressive Web App or Native App?

The decision about progressive web apps or native apps should be taken based on the goals of your app. To make it easier, we’ve highlighted few general goals and the most valid choice in these scenarios as an entrepreneur.

 

PWA vs native comparison

FAQ- PWA vs Native App

Will PWA replace native apps?

No. It doesn’t seem like it. Both native apps and PWAs have separate use cases and are ideal for different goals (and business lifecycles). While progressive web apps can work on simple websites (and web apps) that also want to offer a great mobile experience to users without needing to install, a native app is suitable for businesses who want more from features, better performance and integration with mobile hardware and device features.

What is the advantage of PWA over a native app?

Progressive web apps can be used without installing them from app stores. For businesses, the cost of development is less, and they’re not bound to the validation policies of the app stores if they choose to go with the decision to develop a native app.

Why is a Progressive Web App better than a native app?

A progressive web app is better than a native app because it promises faster time to market and reduced cost of development. For businesses who can’t spend a lot on native app development for Android & iOS but still want to deliver a mobile experience to their users, PWA provides a viable alternative.

Is PWA dead?

No. PWAs are very much alive and buzzing in 2021. Several big startups like Tinder, Twitter, etc. use PWAs at different stages of their product journeys, especially because of the convenience and ease of developing and shipping a PWA, universal appeal and the boost it promises to conversion and user engagement.

Final Words

Making a mobile app development decision for your startup or business shouldn’t be rushed. You should weigh all the pros and cons before you move on to the development of a native app or a progressive web app.

If your users are data-conscious and value their time, you should go with a progressive web app as it requires no downloads. But if you have complex functionality and want to be on the app store for brand credibility, you should think of going forward with a native app.

I hope this blog gave answers to the different opinions on the PWA vs Native debate and will help you make an informed decision. Let us know in the comments if you’re a fan of progressive web apps or native apps and how’s it working for your business and users on different mobile devices.

 

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