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A Closer Look At Progressive and Native Web Apps


Isadora Teich wrote this article


There has been a lot of buzz about apps in general lately, and for good reason. The pandemic has sped up industry trends and the app market is booming! There is also currently a hot debate amongst developers, over whether native apps or progressive web apps are the way forward.

Which is better for your app and what is the difference between the two, though?

It’s time to talk apps.

What is a Native App?

Before we can compare and contrast native and progressive apps, we have to take a look at what they fundamentally are and do. The most basic definition of a native app is an app that can be downloaded from an app store.

However, you can download apps from numerous places on the internet, and Google is working on making progressive apps accessible through their app store.

Essentially, the programming language is what makes an app a native app.

In the case of Apple, this language could be Objective-C or Swift. For Android, it could be Java or Kotlin. However, if you follow our blog, you know that we are a huge proponent of React Native, a cross-platform framework that lets developers utilize one code across Android and Apple.

When React Native or another similar framework is used, native code applies to an extent, making them hybrid apps. While they may use a more universal code, such as javascript, they rely on native code for more advanced and specific features on top of those app bones.

And How About Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive webs apps, or PWAs, are pretty new on the scene, however, they have become quite common over the past few years. It’s pretty likely that you have used them without even knowing it.

However, they definitely not the king of the app scene yet. It may be hard to spot them unless you know what to look for, even amongst tech fanatics. This is partly because there are a lot of different definitions of what makes a PWA.

One of the earliest definitions of a PWA (dating all the way back to the olden days of 2015) is this:

-Must run under HTTPS

-Must serve a Web App Manifest

-Must use Service Workers

To the majority of the population, that doesn’t really mean much of anything.

So, let’s make it more simple. This just means that PWAs are meant to mimic native apps exactly.

They can be installed and accessed from the home screen and are meant to provide a seamless and immersive experience. They can also access your device’s hardware. This means that they can do things like use your camera and track your location.

So, What’s The Big Deal?

If Progressive Web Apps are supposed to mimic Native Apps so closely that no one can tell the difference, where is all of the hype coming from?

There have been a lot of big promises attached to the innovations of progressive apps.

These include that they help users escape lengthy and obtrusive update and download times as well as offering a unified experience across all devices.

As well as benefitting users, there are also developer benefits. They are supposed to make the development process simpler and cut development time by 50% or more.

However, as PWAs are still new, there are definitely some bugs to be ironed out. They have not quite delivered on all of their promises yet. So far, they have some hardware integration issues, lack features, and are quite hard on the batteries of devices.

Apple vs. PWAs

Apple makes significant revenue via app store fees.

They take a cut of developer revenue. This infamous “Apple Tax” made headlines recently. A number of big industry players, including Match Group, the company behind Tinder, even co-created an anti-Apple lobbying group to try and get the government to change how Apple can legally operate.

Considering Apple makes so much money and has such control over the industry as it is, it makes sense that they have not been excited about PWAs, which do not need the Apple Store.

Why would they push technology which would cut into their revenue? Their reluctance to make them a part of iOS has been a big part of what has stalled PWA advancement and popularity overall.

For years, PWAs did not work well on Safari. The interface looked like it was from the days of Newgrounds and push notifications were not available, for example. PWAs really lose a lot of their appeal if they only work with Android.

However, things may be changing, which is another reason why PWAs are having a moment in the spotlight.

Why Is The Future Looking Better For Progressive Web Apps

For a long time, if you couldn’t get your app onto the Apple or Google Play stores it basically didn’t exist.

However, that may change. Developer discontent with mainstream app stores, as well as the consumer desire for more organized and specialized stores, is already resulting in different kinds of app stores popping up around the world.

Currently, you still definitely want to have your app on the main stores, but other options are gaining traction.

Before, your app not being on either of those stores was a massive barrier, but that is starting to change. Multiple popular apps have already been kicked out of the app store, including Telegram and Fortnite.

Also, Apple competitors and most adult apps have been forced to operate outside of the App Store. Once consumers download one or two apps outside of the Apple Store, the barrier is gone. They are more open to trying out more.

Interestingly, Apple has tried to use supporting PWAs as proof that it is not operating an illegal global monopoly in court.

Apple is currently under fire by several governments around the world, including in the US, due to a wide range of accusations. These include that they stifle innovation by pushing down competitors and levying heavy fees that hurt small developers.

PWAs In 60 Seconds or Less

This type of app is meant to mimic Native Apps while offering numerous benefits, including not being tethered to app stores, a simplified development process, and complete use across devices.

Largely due to Apple’s reluctance to implement them until recently, as well as their own issues, they have yet to dominate the market. They usually have fewer features and drain batteries fast, for example.

However, many of these things are changing, making PWAs a headline-making contender in the world of app development.

Final Thoughts

I have seen a lot of articles floating around where people ask whether Native Apps or Progressive Web Apps are better. Of course, people want to know which they should build and which will benefit their business more.

However, this is certainly not a question with a one-size-fits-all easy answer.

As you can see, even amongst developers themselves there is not always agreement. That’s why there are so many different definitions when it comes to what exactly a PWA even is.

If you have ever looked through pages of jargon and felt more confused than when you started, you are not alone.

If you are looking to build an app of your own and have any questions, reach out to Chop Dawg for a free consultation today!

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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