View

Progressive web app vs native app – which is better?

Smartphones have fundamentally changed the way businesses interact with customers. It’s no longer possible to ignore the opportunity mobile represents if you want to see your business grow.

But when choosing to develop a mobile app, you’re faced with a dilemma – do you opt for a progressive web app (PWA) or a native app? What’s the difference between the two?

While native apps are written to run exclusively on mobile devices, PWAs are written to run inside a web browser. Native apps are developed with the specific programming languages of each platform (Objective-C and Swift for iOS and Java for Android), whereas PWAs use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

So which one is best to facilitate business growth? And which one provides a superior experience for end users? Let’s compare the two.

Which one is better for businesses?

Cost

Native apps require you to learn the language and build a specific application for each platform, so progressive web apps work out a lot cheaper in the long run. Not only is the initial outlay more expensive, but there is also a higher cost associated with maintenance and updates for native apps. Because you can use a single codebase for multiple platforms, a PWA is faster to build and update. Instead of developing an app from scratch, you can configure your existing website with the help of tools like Google Lighthouse, and it will display in an identical manner on all devices.

Time to market

If your business is working to a tight deadline and you need a quick turnaround, PWAs provide the perfect solution. You won’t need a dedicated team to launch on iOS and Android devices, and you don’t have to contend with the lengthy, mandatory approval process from app stores. A progressive web app is in essence an extension of your existing website – the groundwork has already been done for you.

Cross-platform availability

Mobile apps help your business reach a larger audience, and it’s likely that among that audience there will be a fairly even split of iOS and Android users. So catering to a single platform and launching a native app exclusively for that audience isn’t an option… or at least an option that makes good business sense. Progressive web apps provide universal appeal as they are designed to be responsive and are readily available to all users, regardless of what platform they’re on.

Security

On the face of it, PWAs offer a more secure platform because they have to run under HTTPS, with security protocols that reassure users that their bank details or login information won’t be compromised. However, native apps have the upper hand when it comes to security because of the option to build in extra security measures. If your app requires a user to log in, multi-factor authentication can be used to make this more secure. Also, users are more likely to trust an app rather than URL because the app will need to pass certain security requirements before featuring on an app store.

Which one is better for end users?

Installation

One of the key differentiators between a progressive web app and a native app is how end users access them. Native apps are installed through an app store, such as Google Play or Apple’s iOS App Store, and once installed, the app’s icon will appear on the user’s home screen for convenient access.

Whereas PWAs are accessed by putting a URL into a mobile browser. These apps don’t have to meet stringent requirements set out by app stores, but users will be less familiar with the process of saving this to their home screen than installing an app as they usually would.

Performance

How well your app performs will correlate to how many users use it. Native apps generally perform a lot faster because the code is written specifically for iOS or Android, whereas PWAs run directly from a mobile browser. Another advantage that native apps have over their rivals is the ability for users to access information offline, as opposed to PWAs which allow for this where possible using cached data. The ability to sync with other device applications – camera, calendar, contacts, GPS and mobile banking – is another win for native apps.

Storage, data and power

In short, both native apps and progressive web apps can have a significant impact on a device’s battery life. In the case of the former, once an app is downloaded it begins to pull directly from the device’s resources; in the case of the latter, they rely on running from a web browser which can cause battery drainage. In both cases, it comes down to how well coded the app is, how frequently the app is used, and how many other resources the app needs to function.

Is there a definitive winner out of the two?

No, there isn’t. Whether your business chooses to develop a progressive web app or a native app will depend entirely on what you want to get out of the application. What’s crucial is that you take the time to weigh up the pros and cons of each, and make an informed decision that will benefit both your business and your end users.

From niche startups to fully fledged businesses, mobile apps are an essential tool that must be leveraged to succeed in today’s economy. If you want a quick and cost-effective solution, then a progressive web app is probably the way to go. If high performance and more features are your priority, then investing in a native app will be more worthwhile.

Is your business unsure of which app development approach to proceed with?

At 6B, our skilled team of developers have built countless progressive web apps and native apps for clients in a range of industries, so we’re well placed to guide you through the decision making process.

If you have a specific idea for your app in mind, speak to us today and we can advise on which route would be most suitable for your business and your users.

Speak to us today

Looking to accelerate your next digital project?

Do you want to work for us or do you have an idea in mind where our digital agency can help?