Over the past several years, mobile app developers have been caught in an intense competition between the iOS and Android platforms. Apple and Google, which take control of the iOS and Android operating systems, respectively, have been working hard to make every app built on their platforms more accessible. Still, many companies are looking for ways on how they can reach more people through their mobile apps. While it is undeniable that native applications developed for the iOS and Android platforms have helped these companies, their existence might just be challenged this 2019 with the dawn of so-called Progressive Web Applications or PWAs.
We have witnessed some cool breakthroughs in web development in 2018, but this year, the groundbreaking changes might happen in our very smartphones and tablets. There is a chance that the native applications born out of the iOS vs. Android feud will be replaced by PWAs in 2019, which could bring some interesting changes in the web development industry.
Web Apps vs. Native Apps vs. Progressive Web Apps
It appears that companies slightly favor the use of native apps over web-based apps, mainly due to the former’s wider scope of functionalities. If there is one advantage in using a web app, it is the lack of need of downloading the app from an app store, which means less space occupied in the phone memory. All you need to get to use a web app is a relevant browser.
The hurdle in downloading a native app from an app store can be justified, however, as this kind of app already has access to a mobile device’s important hardware such as the camera, fingerprint sensor, and iris scanner.
Unlike a web app, a native app can be left running in the background, thus allowing interaction via push notification while the user is onto the other functions of his/her device. Also, a native app can still be used offline, whereas a web app requires internet connection.
Enter the Progressive Web Apps
The reasons for preferring native apps over web apps (or vice-versa) are valid. Some users might favor web apps mainly due to storage space issues, although they are missing a lot of user functionalities that a native app has to offer. In the app developer’s perspective, developing a native app is more expensive, and it will take much more time and effort to build apps for each of the iOS and Android operating systems. To note, Android apps are written on Java computer language, while iOS apps are based on Swift and Objective-C. With this, every time an app update has to be made, tweaks must be done for both the iOS and Android versions, thus causing higher development expenses.
Now, imagine the perks of both web and native apps all in one special type of application. In fact, this app already exists, and it is called a Progressive Web App. A PWA is similar to a web app, except that the former offers the same user functionalities of a native app such as push notification, working offline, and hardware access. The use of PWA indeed makes things a lot easier for users, just as easy when they plan to organize an event and browse party halls in Orange County.
Why Choose PWAs Over Native Apps?
For now, PWA still does not have access to other resources such as contacts and calendar, although improvements in the latest version of this app can be done down the road. At this point, a Progressive Web Application is showing up as a better alternative over native apps. For one, the use of PWA reduces storage requirement. Pinterest, which has already started using PWA, occupies more than 80MB as an iOS-based native app, but as a Progressive Web Application, it only takes as low as 150KB.
It is early to speculate if Progressive Web Apps will finally take over this year and eradicate native apps. There is still a long process for that, not to mention its huge effects in the ongoing iOS vs. Android war.
With companies using PWAs, there is no need to develop apps based on a specific operating system, thus shutting down app stores for good. This will also allow other operating systems shunned by the iOS and Android app wars to enter the scene once more, namely the Microsoft Windows and BlackBerry.