Section 508

December 9th, 2016

Will Progressive Web Apps Fill the Role of Native Apps?

6 years ago, apps were pronounced dead as they were going to be replaced by HTML5. Earlier this year chat bots were announced as the new app-killer. Now there’s a new killer in town.

Over the past couple of weeks, the development community has been buzzing about Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). It was the headline at the Chrome Dev Summit, Google’s conference in San Francisco for programmers who want to figure out where Google is taking browser technology. They showcased how Washington Post, AliExpress and Flipkart increased usage and conversion rates with PWA. Other examples of companies that use PWA include Financial Times and Flipboard.

What is Progressive Web Apps?

PWAs are essentially websites that are truly optimized for mobile including speed, reliability, security and being lightweight. The core concept with is that a web service is available to start using before the app/website has fully loaded. In addition to this, Chrome now offers support for web notifications which has previously been a main argument for going native. Finally, PWAs allow the user to add the app icon to their home screen which to most users makes it equivalent to a native app.

Google who is the main promotor provides an excellent overview highlighting the benefits, the guidelines and tools to help developers. Another more technical overview of the benefits of PWAs comes from JavaScript author Eric Elliott although he clearly has self-interest in the success.

The full PWA specification is currently supported by Chrome, Mozilla and Microsoft Edge. Apple has not publically stated if they plan to support the standard, but PWA does improve performance on iOS as well.

Will PWAs Replace Mobile Apps?

Definitely not within the next 3-5 years. People including myself have been talking about the death of native apps for 5 years due to improvements of HTML5, but we forget that the capabilities of native apps are improving as well and probably at an even faster pace.

We do however believe that progressive web apps are a better alternative than responsive web, low-budget native apps and apps that don’t benefit from native functionality or being on the app store. PWAs will also provide a much better starting point for creating hybrid apps with e.g. PhoneGap/Cordova.

So should your next app be a Progressive Web, Native or Hybrid? Your first priority should be delivering a great customer experience for as many customers as possible. Then decide on which technology will help you accomplish this.

Share your thoughts and feel welcome to contact us to discuss the pros and cons further.

Magnus Jern, President DMI International

Note: Confused about Instant Android apps vs. Progressive Web Apps? PWAs are available now whereas instant Android apps are work in progress by Google.

Tags: mobile websites native apps Progressive web

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