Progressive Web Apps: How They’re Transforming Mobile App Development

Progressive Web Apps are quickly gaining traction in the app and web development spheres.

With more businesses looking to use them in place of traditional apps, the the time to invest may just be now.

Read on to find out if PWAs can help your business flourish or if it just isn't going to cut it.

Progressive Web Apps: How They’re Transforming Mobile App Development

Mobile consumers have been familiar with applications on their phones for quite some time now. Ever since the Symbian mobile operating system, mobile apps found their way into everyone’s utility pockets. This was because they managed to replace existing methods of completing web or mobile tasks, or vastly improved them. But as Symbian saw its slow demise, consumers noted just how numerically disadvantaged the platform was. And with the iPhone and Android era ushering in, the idea of mobile apps became truly ubiquitous.

Fast-forward a decade or so and mobile app development became an industry term with fierce competition on every continent vying to build and market the next big app idea. The mere idea of owning a smartphone without a few dozen apps is a concept alien to most. And why not? They’re user-friendly, quick and convenient. Mobile apps have revolutionized the way we consume information and the internet today. But as someone who’s looking to develop an app, the process isn’t without its caveats. 


Apps Cost A Lot

Even though mobile apps have immense utility today, the costs involved to get a functional and clean app into the user’s hands is an expensive undertaking. Most people know this and when – the vast majority – decides to have one built, this is a huge stumbling block. After all the budget calculations, many find their existing websites or other online portfolios adequate enough and don’t venture into the app market.

This is especially true when an app is to be coded for both iOS and Android. Reusing codes for both platforms isn’t possible and UX/UI doesn’t translate well either. In this case, most businesses find they would either have to pick an OS to support or develop for both. And selecting between the two options isn’t straightforward either.

Android holds the majority of the market share in terms of devices-in-use with a 71 percent share compared to iOS’s rather modest 28 percent. So this would probably run anyone in the favor of Android, right? Not so. While the number of Android phones in use today may be significant, the amount of people who are willing to pay for apps is considerably larger on iOS. In 2017, app downloads on Android consisted of 70 percent of the total while the rest went to iOS. But during the same year, 66 percent of people on the iOS app store paid for their apps compared to 34 percent on Android. All of this makes the already-convoluted matter of selecting an OS platform much more difficult.


Apps Run Out Of Favor Quick

Compared to the early years of app development, the number of apps on every platform is a thousand times more than what it used to be. By the time the original iPhone came out in 2007, Symbian OS had an app library of 7000 apps only. Compared to today, both Android and iOS apps number in the millions. This makes the race to get your app in any category on the stores incredibly competitive. While your customers may want you to have an app for your business, there’s no guarantee they’ll even use it often enough to warrant them keeping it for long.

This is exactly the case with other apps you may not be competing with directly. Customers just aren’t willing to download apps if they don’t feel like they’re going to be using it regularly. And by that, they mean every day if not every other day. Users are also very quick to bin apps that aren’t being frequently used with many mobile companies now including storage-saving features of the sort in their OS too. Samsung, Xiaomi and Huawei all include their versions of storage cleaners that recommend users to delete apps that haven’t been in use for over a week. And if yours isn’t strictly social, the chances of it making the cut are high.

These two issues plague app developers today and make it very difficult for smaller businesses to overcome. But now, with the emergence of progressive web apps, the need for a mobile app is diminishing.


What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?


They're Transforming Mobile App Development


PWAs are apps that install on the system and use cached data from the user’s previous interactions that enable it to work offline. In its essence, progressive web apps are websites that function like native applications you’d install on your phone or tablet. They have most, if not all, of the functionalities of native apps but still deliver on usability as a traditional website would.

Through PWA mobile app development the aim is to bridge the gap between mobile apps and websites by providing the same levels of usability on desktops and mobile platforms. But despite the aforementioned claim, PWAs aren’t technically apps. They function as digital products that display content like a website on a desktop browser but mold their functionality as an app when used on mobile devices. 

Why PWAs?

Progressive Web Apps have a lot going for them. The biggest advantage is that they integrate app-like interfaces, push notifications and offline work modes seamlessly. Companies like Twitter, Uber, Pinterest and Forbes all utilize PWA mobile app development to make their App browsing experience as painless and simple as possible. Here’s why:

  • App Store Approvals Aren’t Needed
    Both the Google Play Store and Apple App store have a lot of hurdles in place that make getting your app published challenging at best. These caveats are usually on the development or content side and often helpful too (for consumers), but can prove to be a tricky environment to navigate around. Review processes for these apps are often fairly lengthy and can take up to several weeks to have your app approved or denied. This translates to future changes or updates you might want to make too. Every change goes through the same approval process and with businesses on less agile workflows, this can prove to be quite an ordeal to overcome.
    On the other hand, there are no restrictions on the web. This puts you in charge of the entire web process, and you can keep updating the features of your PWA based on your requirements.
  • Offline Capabilities
    Users love PWAs because these apps can be used without an internet connection, too. The caching functionality stores your layout elements and loads them into browsers, so users can access your website or store without having continual internet connectivity. 
  • Push Notifications
    PWAs allow you to send push notifications to your customers. You can send them push messages about your latest products and offers. Thus, push notifications will be a great marketing option for you. They will reduce your marketing expenditure for advertising a new product or offer.

Why Not PWAs?

While the benefits seem numerous and plenty, PWA mobile app development don’t come without it’s own set of restrictions and issues. Here are a few to see if it might not be the best option for you.

  • iOS Compatibility
    Apple enabled the use of PWAs to run since iOS 11.3. Any versions before it simply can’t display PWAs on devices. And even with running compatibility, Apple does not allow PWAs a host of important features that might be necessary to your business. Features like Touch ID, Face ID, ARKit, Bluetooth, serial, Beacons, altimeter sensor, and even battery information are all withheld from PWAs.
  • Issues With Legacy Devices
    Progressive Web Apps are new to the foray and with any new technology, support and functionality on legacy devices is always a concern. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that older mobile devices with outdated web browsers don’t support them too well. Now while this problem might not be a permanent one, it still may bring a host of customer complaints in the present.
  • PWAs Aren’t Limitless
    Despite their impressive nature compared to web applications, PWAs can’t do everything that traditional mobile apps have in their arsenal. This is largely due to the language they are written in: JavaScript. JavaScript isn’t as battery efficient or quick as apps written in native languages due to its single-threading programming nature. At the time of writing, PWAs also miss out on key device features like Bluetooth, proximity sensors, ambient light, advanced camera controls, and others.

An Alternative Use

For businesses that can afford to build mobile apps, there are clear benefits in going down that route. But even then, the case for PWAs is getting stronger.

Because of their shared similarities – in executing similar functions like apps, faster optimisations and changes and the reduced cost – PWAs are a strong asset for anyone looking to begin their venture into mobile apps. 

This shift in approach cultivates a focus on user experience and UX/UI. It also puts emphasis on the decision to actually go ahead and develop an app or not – especially if the PWA is sufficient to requirements. Not only does this help cut down costs considerably but has you up and running quickly too. PWAs are perfect for emerging services that are interested in an app-like service but are yet to test the market. They also enable small businesses to set up a functional output without having to shell out for a full-fledged app and the hurdles it brings.

The current outlook is promising in the world of PWA mobile app development and InvoZone is here for it. If you have an idea for your PWA, mobile app or website, shout us out and we’d love to get you started.

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