With all the recent advances in mobile and wireless technologies, app developers are now in a conflict: native app or progressive web app? The question becomes even more confusing with the WebVR and Bluetooth technologies coming to the mobile browsers. Of course, progressive web apps are very interesting, and it offers many advantages. But are native apps still viable? Below, we are going to see what exactly the differences are between native apps and progressive apps.
What are Native Apps?
A native app is an application that has been made for use on a specific platform or device. Since it is written for a specific platform, it is usually able to interact with the operating system. It can utilize operating system features as well as device-specific hardware and software, such as GPS and camera.
What are Progressive Web Apps?
A progressive web app is basically a web application that utilizes modern web capabilities in order to deliver an app-like experience to the users. So, it is technically a web page or website, but can appear like a traditional application or even native mobile application. Google Developers have stated that an app should fulfill several characteristics to classify as a progressive web app: progressive (can work on any browser), responsive, connectivity independent, app-like, fresh, safe, discoverable, re-engageable, installable, and linkable.
Native App vs. Progressive Web App
Progressive web apps have a very apparent advantage; it can be deployed across various mobile platforms without having to develop multiple apps. Even if you only develop apps for Android or iOS, it can still give you huge savings in time and effort. Because it is platform-independent, it can also maximize your reach. People can use the app regardless of their platforms. For the user, progressive web apps are also great because it does not need to be installed, and it gives much smoother cross-functionality (i.e. you can switch between apps and share information more quickly).
But this is definitely not the end of native apps. Not at all. Developers who have been well versed in multi-platform native apps development may be resistant to progressive web apps’ most apparent advantage. Native apps also have a distinctive advantage that it is able to bring much better integration to hardware features. Progressive web apps have very limited capabilities in hardware integration, rendering them unsuitable for use with mobile accessories and wearable devices (smart watches, wireless earphones, fitness trackers). Native apps are still better in such cases.
|Native App||Progressive Web App|
|- An application that is made for a specific platform||- A webpage or website that is able to bring an app-like experience|
|- Platform dependent||- Platform independent|
|- Requires installation||- Does not need installation, though you can put it on your home screen|
|- Provides hardware integration||- Very limited hardware integration|
Native apps and progressive web apps have each own advantages and disadvantages that make them suitable for different purposes. Native apps should be your choice if you need hardware integration features and for use with mobile accessories and wearable devices. However, if that is not the case, you may want to opt for progressive web apps, which are typically more efficient for the developers and more convenient for the users.