Progressive Apps vs. Native Apps: Who wins?
Dedicated, native apps are the measure of all things – or at least that’s how many IT managers and developers want it. But is this statement still relevant today? Aren’t PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) perhaps already much more suitable for delivering programs today – not to mention in the future? Let’s just take a look at this idea!
Progressive Web Apps: trend or real added value?
Today, if you ask competent developers what kind of app they develop for a company, the answer is probably common enough: a progressive web app. If you then ask why it has to be such an app, you’ll probably get an answer: “Because PWAs are the future.” That may be true, but few developers really want to dive deep into that argument. As if it’s simply a law set in stone, many developers today will focus more equally on progressive web apps.
Perhaps these developers are right – but we still want to put the benefits of PWAs on a more solid footing and explore their advantages compared to native apps.
Will native apps disappear completely?
Maybe, but that will take time. Today, it’s probably rare enough that you’ll stumble across a website that isn’t 100% responsive (even though the original design may not have been created with smartphones and tablets in mind). But that’s not quite enough, and it still doesn’t show the advantages of a PWA: namely, its speed and the fact that it’s built into an app shell.
One huge disadvantage of native apps remains, of course, regardless of PWAs: They cost a lot of money. Developing and maintaining an app are simply hugely expensive items (depending on the complexity of the app). So unless you’re running an app with tens of millions of users, it’s likely to eat up more money than it brings in (compared to a similar PWA solution).
Statistics are in favor of native apps – right?
If we look at some facts comScore collected in 2018, it becomes clear that about 90% of online time on smartphones is spent in native apps Facebook or Instagram. This figure applies to Europe, but the rest of the world also fluctuates somewhere between 80% and 90%. The remaining 10 to 20% are then devoured by mobile browsers like Chrome.
This could indicate that users prefer and have accepted the working native apps. However, a better interpretation of the numbers would be: users prefer the user experience that an app offers them. Whether this is a classic app or a PWA is unlikely to matter to most users (or they would not even know the difference).
With PWAs also comes interest in them
So for now, native apps are still the measure of all things – but that’s not because of the good quality of the apps, but because of the poor usability of many mobile websites. As soon as more companies switch over and offer progressive web apps (in equivalent quality to native apps!), users will follow. Because in the end, users will get exactly what they like in native apps there (like maybe the shell, offline access, navigation bar, built-in telephony if needed, and so on), but at the same time, users won’t have to install a new app for every new experience. Conveniently pinning the app to the home screen is also possible with PWAs, making life easier especially for novice users.
Again, there are some number games: infobae.com, for example, uses a PWA and thus records a bounce rate of only 5%, while the mobile website brought it to 51%. Session length grew by 230% and the number of pages viewed climbed threefold. In other words: Users already accept PWAs without any problems – as long as the implementation is successful.
The App Stores are dying
One disadvantage of app stores that is already visible and will continue to grow in the future is the fact that they are, quite simply, incredibly confusing. Apple and Google like to boast about offering millions of apps – but for developers just launching a new app, this is a real problem. How do you plan to become visible without spending horrendous amounts of money on marketing? Billion-dollar companies might not have a problem with this, but most developers and businesses just don’t have that luxury.
Imagine, for example, that you want to publish an instant messenger. How do you compete with WhatsApp, Telegram and Snapchat? Quite simply, you can’t. You can’t get past these heavyweights. So you would have to bring a real killer feature that none of these apps have in their repertoire. If you don’t have something like that, you should ask yourself if the App Store is really the appropriate environment for the app. In most cases, that’s probably not the case. A PWA is better then – for the following reason, among others.
Google knows Progressive Web Apps
Search engines can index PWAs. If you are already doing SEO work on a website, for example, this will also flow directly into the success of the PWA. The progressive web app is also guaranteed not to end up in the garbage dump of an app store somewhere or disappear again due to perhaps bad ratings (justified or not).
Additionally, PWAs have the advantage of being accessible via a link. This is mainly an advantage because it makes it easier for you to show the app to friends or colleagues, for example.
“You have to go to the App Store and then search for name_of_app and then install…”
is in any case much more cumbersome than simply sharing a link via email or Messenger, for example.
Users have it easier
The classic native app has trouble retaining users. It’s always been that way, and it always will be. Lots of downloads and great reviews don’t do you much good if users only use the app once. Plus, the download hurdle still exists:
It’s simply more effort to go to an app store, wait for the download, install the app, and possibly even have to uninstall another app to do it (if there’s no space available).
With the PWA, no one has to download anything. The start screen is full? An icon doesn’t necessarily have to go there either. In the end, using a progressive web app is simply much more pleasant, provided the developers have done their homework.
They make more money!
Sell an app in the Store, and Apple and Google get a tasty cut of that pie. This also applies to downloads you offer in the app, or upgrades to the app or subscription costs, for example. In the end, you’re really just paying this money for a service that doesn’t seem as attractive today as it did a few years ago (see the issues about app stores today and in the future). The main beneficiaries of this advantage are smaller startups, where every euro is important and who understandably don’t want to donate their money to Apple’s billion dollar per quarter profit.
To answer the opening question: yes, progressive web apps are replacing native variants. But that won’t happen today and probably won’t happen on a large scale in 2022. In the long run, however, there is little other way – and if you want to be ready then, you should contact Enkronos team today.