PWA or Native Apps - Which Path to Choose?


Sep 18, 2023

Hi! I'm Alex Timoshenko, a Flutter Developer at Nyoka. Today, I'm going to share some insights about the types of applications you might consider for your business: Native, Cross-Platform, or Progressive Web Apps (PWA). The question of the ratio of native to cross-platform applications has already been exhausted on the vastness of the internet, so let's move on to discussing the ratio of native to PWAs.

What Are PWAs?

Progressive Web Apps aren't tied to a specific technology or toolkit. Rather, they represent a modern approach to building web applications. In essence, they are websites that behave like mobile apps when accessed on a smartphone. This means they can run on a variety of devices, from PCs to tablets and phones.

Technologically speaking, PWAs leverage the latest web technologies, including HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. They can be single-page or multi-page applications, and they don't have any special requirements.

One of the standout features of PWAs is their ability to function offline, thanks to Service Workers. Companies like Tinder, Pinterest, and Forbes have already adopted this technology.

Comparing PWAs and Native Apps

PWA: The Upsides

  • Universal Compatibility: PWAs are versatile, functioning seamlessly across a plethora of browsers (like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox) and operating systems (including iOS, Android, macOS, and Linux).

  • Swift Rollout: The development cycle for PWAs is generally shorter than that for native apps tailored for individual platforms.

  • Performance Nuances: While PWAs are essentially web-based and might not rival the speed of native apps, when juxtaposed with React Native, the difference is negligible. Interestingly, PWAs exhibit superior performance when compared to React Native apps if developed with Flutter.

  • Notifications: Service Workers empower PWAs to dispatch push notifications. This functionality, however, is contingent on the platform. Major browsers support this, and on the mobile front, Android has robust support, while iOS has embraced this feature since its 16.4 update.

  • Bypassing App Store Hurdles: PWAs sidestep the rigorous scrutiny and potential delays of app store evaluations. They're essentially browser-based apps, and launching them is as simple as hosting on a domain.

PWA: The Downsides

  1. Speed Bumps: PWAs might occasionally lag behind traditional websites in terms of speed, primarily because they fetch all necessary resources, from images to scripts.

  2. Inconsistent Feature Support: Not all devices or browsers support every PWA feature, which can lead to discrepancies in user experience.

  3. Security Reliance: While PWAs employ HTTPS, Service Workers, and web app manifests for security, they lean heavily on browser-provided protection and necessitate safeguards against common web threats.

Native Apps: The Advantages

  • Optimized Performance: Native apps are tailored for devices, ensuring they harness the full potential of device capabilities, resulting in top-tier performance.

  • Deep Device Integration: From cameras and sensors to geolocation, native apps can tap into a broad spectrum of device features.

  • Tailored User Interactions: Given their platform-specific design, native apps can offer an unparalleled user experience.

  • App Store Visibility: Being listed on app stores can bolster an app's credibility and visibility.

  • Fortified Security: Native apps generally offer enhanced security. They often incorporate multi-factor authentication, SSL certificates, and adhere to stringent app store security guidelines.

Native Apps: The Shortcomings

  1. Platform-Specific Development: Crafting native apps for different platforms (like iOS and Android) can be resource-intensive.

  2. Update Delays: Any updates to native apps must pass through app store evaluations, potentially causing lags.

  3. Installation Barriers: The need to download and install might be a deterrent for potential users.

I'd like to emphasize the limitations of basic platform functions on iOS and Android. The limitations and features unavailable as of April 2023 are highlighted.

So, What to Choose?

To wrap things up, let's delve into scenarios where progressive web apps (PWAs) might be your best bet.

Budget and Time Constraints: If you're working with a tight budget or a looming deadline, PWAs can be a lifesaver. Opting for a PWA, especially when developed using the Flutter framework, offers a trifecta: Web, Mobile, and PWA. This is a more cost-effective route compared to juggling three separate development teams for Android (Kotlin), iOS (Swift), and Web (JavaScript).

Aiming for User Simplicity: If you're looking to offer a hassle-free experience, PWAs are the way to go. They eliminate the need for downloads and still facilitate user engagement via push notifications. Additionally, PWAs can be a magnet for those users who predominantly interact with websites. While a significant chunk of these users (around 30-60%) might be hesitant to transition to mobile apps, PWAs can bridge this gap, increasing the chances of them using both the web and app versions.

Seeking Platform Neutrality: PWAs shine when it comes to platform independence. Crafted to function on both Android and iOS through browsers, the origin platform becomes inconsequential once the app is up and running.

For other requirements, it may be more appropriate to lean towards native or even cross-platform solutions. If you don't know what to choose or have an idea you want to implement, don't hesitate to contact us.

Alex Timoshenko

Mobile developer

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