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Benefits and Drawbacks of Progressive Web Apps

“There’s an app for that!” has become one of, if not the most-famous five-word phrases that we just can’t escape since the steep rise of mobile device use. (We know this because we consulted an app). Today, there’s an app for just about everything – from entertainment to business management anyone can often find what they’re looking for in a public application marketplace like Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Yet, despite their popularity, businesses have been looking for a solid substitute, and Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) might just be it.

PWAs are a type of application software delivered through the web, built using common web technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and WebAssembly. It’s built and designed with modern integrations and APIs to deliver enhanced capabilities, reliability, and installability while reaching anyone, anywhere, on any device with a single codebase, and works on any platform with a standards-compliant browser on both desktop and mobile devices.

Take Pinterest, for example. With the launch of their PWA, they’ve been able to witness significant results:

  • time spent is up by 40% compared to the previous mobile web

  • user-generated ad revenue is up 44% and core engagements are up 60%

Benefits of PWAs

PWAs combine the greatest features of online and mobile apps using cutting-edge technology, mimicking the looks and behaviors of a website through app technologies. Compared to native apps, a software program that is developed for use on a particular platform or device (i.e.WhatsApp):

No Installation is Required

Native apps lose 20% of their users on average for each step that occurs between the user’s initial interaction with the app and the user’s actual use of the app. When downloading a native app, the software has to be located in some application marketplace, downloaded, installed, and only then opened. When it comes to PWAs, users won’t need to download or install an application beforehand because they can start using the app right away. When the user returns to the app, they will be prompted to upgrade to a full-screen experience.

PWAs leverage the qualities of a mobile app, resulting in enhanced user engagement and performance without the complexities of maintaining a digital property. The hardest aspect of developing, utilizing, and selling native apps aren’t actually development, but rather convincing users to download and regularly use an app.

57% of users’ digital time is spent on apps, according to 2017 ComScore research, whereas 51% of users download no apps at all. Only 24% of consumers say they download more than one app every month. Most individuals are content with the apps they currently have on their phones.

Offline Mode

PWAs can be cached by web browsers and used even when offline. Businesses with product catalogs will benefit significantly as customers can view products even if they’re not connected to the internet, increasing user engagement rates and potentially leading to increased conversions by extension.

Low on Data

There is a huge price difference between mobile data charges in emerging markets like India, Pakistan, or South Africa, compared to developed markets. As a result of caching, PWAs are much faster and require less bandwidth than traditional web apps.

PWA Drawbacks

Compatibility with iOS

PWAs are not compatible with older Apple operating systems (older than iOS 11.3). Moreover, Apple doesn’t allow web apps to access many vital features, including Touch ID, Face ID, ARKit, Bluetooth, altimeter sensor, and others.

PWAs Cannot do Everything

In spite of their capabilities, PWAs cannot replace mobile apps in every aspect. Unlike native apps written in languages like Kotlin or Swift, PWAs use JavaScript, which consumes more power. Native apps also perform better than web apps.

The Future of PWAs

The advantages of PWAs far outweigh their disadvantages and will likely be the future of mobile phone use. In 2017, Gartner predicted that PWAs would replace 50% of mobile applications by 2020, While that has yet to prove true, the continued growth of PWAs is profound. Further evidence suggests that we are well beyond on our way to realizing the long-term value of PWAs.

By fusing the web experience with native app capabilities, PWAs will upend the mobile app paradigm. Application leaders who are in charge of developing mobile app strategies should be choosing when, not if, they should include PWAs in their overall mobile development plan.

If you’re unhappy with your current mobile experience, reach out to Designer's ID today.

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