Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web App (PWA) vs Native App: Which Suits You Better?

You probably already have a general idea of what a native app is—since app stores are all but packed with it—but to most of us, PWA is still a relatively unknown technology with unclear definitions. And that’s what we’re here to find out.

What is a native app?

A native app, as its name suggests, is an app that is native to the operating system or the platform that it is on. Essentially, this means that the app was specifically built with one OS/platform in mind for the best compatibility and performance results which might, however, lead to higher development costs if your plan is to have your app available in multiple app marketplaces such as Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

What is a PWA?

Short for Progressive Web App, PWA is a recent emergence in all the popular marketplaces owing to its ability to seamlessly function on any device with a compatible browser.

Make no mistake: a Progressive Web App is still a website. It just looks and feels like an app, thanks to modern web technology. In other words, users will browse Progressive Web App on their browser with an URL just like they do any website, but right after they land on the PWA, they get the experience of using an “app”, right on their browser, without the need to download and install. How cool is that!

Recommended reading: All you need to know about Progressive Web Apps
Progressive Web App vs Website
Progressive Web App vs Native App

PWA vs Native App – A Comparison

Native Apps pros and cons
PWA pros and cons

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let us focus on some of the most important parameters that you might care about:

Performance

Performance-wise, these two are pretty similar. On the same modern smartphone device, PWA has the advantage of being quick to launch, lightweight, and the whole experience has been described to be like that of a lite version of the native application. Now, we get that Lite applications have kind of a bad reputation to it, as they’re often regarded as a dysfunctional version of the original app. However, a PWA done right should be just as fast, if not faster than a native application without all the downgrade in functionalities. 

The Weather Channel saw a 80% improvement in load time with Progressive Web App

Google Case Studies

But we’re talking in terms of general performance here. We’ve seen reports from our customers saying that PWA—while taking up less storage space and easier on the battery consumption—tends to leave them with a feeling of clunkiness and just overall not as smooth as native applications.

As an experienced Magento PWA solution provider, we think we know the cause of this—this is because most PWA developers don’t get in-app animations right.

The Web has been capable of fully supporting smooth flowing animations for quite a while now, but within the PWA sphere we’re still seeing a huge number of improperly coded PWAs which use outdated and performance-hogging methods of animation handling—i.e., using heavy JavaScript libraries to manually change CSS properties, which results in high CPU usage and under-utilization of the GPU. PWAs that are made using this outdated method often have clunky visual updates, and just can’t be as smooth as compared to native apps which were built specifically for the operating system it is on.

Features

With better access to system hardware, you can expect native apps to, compared to PWA, be more features-packed and more integrated within the system. This potentially leads to more stability, security, and more features that require cross-app communication. However, as stated above, PWA is still more than sufficient for most use cases as PWA, in ideal conditions, rivals even native apps in the number of features offered.

Security

This is where PWA loses, but not by a large margin. Native apps are naturally better at security since they have better access to hardware components, thus being able to implement additional layers of security—e.g. Two-Factor Authentication. PWA has a different approach to security since Google—founder of Progressive Web Apps—requires that all communications between the server and the client are to be encrypted through the use of HTTPS. There’s little to no reason to not go for HTTPS in this day and age, as the web is becoming more and more like a better version of itself, with better performance, better functionality, and security.

Percentage of pages loaded over HTTPS in Chrome
Source: HTTPS encryption on the web
Related article: Do you need HTTPS?

Reach

It’s obvious that a web-based technology would have better results when it comes to reach, but how much better? Well, as it turns out, native app isn’t the best way to reach users as you would need to convert your users all the way to the downloading stage where they download a fifty-something MB version of your app—that’s a lot to ask of the typical user. This is also the reason why the average user downloads zero apps a month.

PWA addresses this issue, and in the best way imaginable as well since it can be available on both the web and app marketplaces, which make it the current way to go forward in the software delivery department.

The streaming platform ZEE5 launched a PWA to expand its reach. The PWA is three times faster and reduced buffering time by 50%.

PWAStats

Examples of the two technologies

Twitter Lite PWA
  • Twitter Lite: Before Twitter released its PWA, the social media network struggled to create a desirable user experience for its mobile users, who were complaining about long loading times and poor responsiveness. Twitter Lite completely changed Twitter’s reputation when it comes to mobile, and the PWA now generates more than ten million push notifications per day.
  • Forbes: It is a well-known statistic that 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load, and it just so happens that Forbes’s previous mobile website’s loading time can reach as much as 6.5 seconds. After releasing a PWA, the load time decreased so much that the media company almost immediately experienced a 12 percent increase in readership.
Pinterest statitics PWA vs Native
  • Pinterest: With a focus on international growth, Pinterest started their new mobile web experience from the ground up as a PWA. The social network found that only 1% of their mobile users convert into sign-ups, logins, or app installs, due to poor performance on mobile. Onto realizing that the opportunity to improve the conversion was huge, so they rebuilt the mobile web using PWA technology, which led to several positive results: Time spent is up by 40% compared to the previous mobile web, user-generated ad revenue is up 44% and core engagements are up 60%.
Read more: 12 Best Examples of Progressive Web Apps

So, when does it make sense to go with…

Progressive Web App

Platform availability

With only one single codebase needed for all supported platforms, PWA is your best bet at expanding the reach of your business. Currently, PWA is supported on almost every available platform barring a few stubborn ones where it has limited functionality such as Safari.

Recommended reading: Publishing PWAs to Major App Stores

Low development cost

PWA saves you the development cost for multiple platforms, as with PWA you should only need one functional codebase for all supported operating systems and browsers.

Seamless operation

Everything, including app updates, happens on the fly with PWA. This is all to ensure that the user will have the best, seamless experience without any hiccup along the way. PWA installations are done within seconds, and every update happens on the back-ground, with service workers playing the main role in caching content from the server.

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Native Apps

Looking at all the success of PWAs, you might be wondering if there’s even a point to native apps anymore. Well, obviously there are many, as native apps are a tried and proven method for software delivery. Here are a few of the benefits that native apps have over PWAs:

Performance and features

Performance and features are the number one reason why brands don’t mind spending more to get a native app for popular mobile operating systems (iOS and Android OS). As mentioned above, native apps have the advantage of being deeper integrated within the system and are able to leverage more of the system resources, which is why you can see games that are native applications often run better than web-based ones. With Native APIs, developers of native apps can have more room to maneuver in, thus more flexibility in app development and more satisfactory end-results.

Brand recognition

For brands that want to push their brand presence above and beyond, native apps are a fantastic way to do it as app stores are a great way to gain exposure and recognition. Moreover, the mobile experience offered by a native app has the potential to be better than its PWA counterpart, which is vital for the success of your business as as much as 97 percent of mobile marketers said that customer loyalty is heavily impacted by a good mobile experience.

Conclusion

With everything explained, you should now be more confident to decide for yourself which one of these two technologies is a better option for your business. However, all things considered, it’s not an easy task either and it’s very likely that you might be lacking some important bits which might result in irrecoverable losses.

Realizing that not every business’s needs are the same, here at SimiCart we try to map the best solution for our clients’ business goals. Book a demo now and see what your Magento store’s app could look like with SimiCart’s next-generation eCommerce solution:

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Designer and Content writer. Love food and Robert Downey Junior. Be a gardener when growing older.

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