PWA (Progressive Web App) as an Android / iOS Mobile App in the Google Play Store & Apple App Store

PWA doesn’t have exact/unique definition so shortly: it’s an app created using Web technologies but it can work offline and can be installed in the operating systems (Android & iOS but also Windows, OSx, Linux, etc.) where it will look and act like any other app (without packaging or signing).

PWA also defines some other aspects like mobile first, an app like feeling, etc. but foremostly it is something that can work offline and it can be added to the app stores, installed into home screen and it feels like standalone app not like a tab in the browser.

Do you need a mobile app at all?

iPhone launched in 2007 and revolutionised the mobile phones by allowing any programmer to develop an app that could do just about anything with your phone.

It got quite crazy at one point as even the simple restaurant website owner (who had just a food/drink menu, few pictures, location and contact details) decided that they need a mobile app and developer hungry for some extra cash + few free pizzas were surely happy to develop a pointless app. Why should one download and install an app on your phone if it doesn’t give anything extra compared to just visiting your website? Just make your phone slower by installing tons of apps.

So long time the choice whether you need an app or not was related to the question if you need to send push notifications, and/or access any device’s GPS, microphone, camera, speakers, sensors (magnetometer, accelerometer, gyroscope), home screen installation, background sync, file access, device position, motion, vibration, memory, touch gestures, copy/paste, fullscreen, etc. But then browsers became able to give that access to web apps so you could access them via JavaScript and there was less need for a native app compared to a web app in the browser. All the web apps are responsive these days anyway. Responsive means optimal experience (easy navigation & reading with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling with any screen size).

Since PWA it’s also possible to use the web app offline and things get synced once you get online again. At least in Europe now everybody has for around £10pcm loads of GB mobile data to be used all around the EU, WiFi is in buses, trains and even in planes so not much offline usage also needed any more.

Me personally, I hate apps that work only on Android or iPhone/Pad so when you’re working on your computer then you can’t comfortably use one computer and comfortable keyboard but also have to use your phone’s uncomfortable keyboard to do some stuff + waste of phone’s RAM, CPU, battery, etc.

Many apps that used to have native apps, have abandoned them because they feel that it doesn’t give anything extra compared to PWA. For example, Metrix writes at their mobile app page that the only bonus you would get if they had their app in the store is that then you would have the icon to the app in your device’s home screen. So they instruct how you can get their progressive web app’s icon in your Android/iOS’s home screen by just bookmarking it.

So what advantages we still have left for the native app? Marketing! Statistics show that many users tend to search for what they need from an app store instead of for example Googleing for a web app. Also, the statistics show that users tend to use apps in their home screen more compared to the web apps for example in their bookmark bar. Users tend to click more on the ads in mobile app compared on web apps and few more marketing reasons so it’s still good to have your app in the app store.

Since the end of 2018, there are more and more options to get your mobile app in the app stores so we’re eliminating this problem. Even more — app stores tend to have a lot of technical requirements, guidelines, forms to fill and review process before you get published in an app store. Especially Apple app store tends to be a giant control freak so PWA has a huge advantage here by not needing all that bureaucracy to go through. So PWA has a huge advantage saving in time spent on development, launching, and marketing the app.

almost no effort on the user’s part to try your app out. For native apps, there are some pesky extra steps of going to the app store, finding the app, downloading, installing, and then finally using it.

Why should one still think of the native app?

There are still some features that are complicated or impossible to do with PWA so if you need one of those you may still need to consider native apps. Native apps still will be there in the future but most of the apps will be PWA in future for sure. So here’s the list according to WhatWebCanDo.Today on latest Chrome v72 (22. Feb’19):

  • Inter-App Communication — sending data from one app to another. There is a non-standard workaround available though.
  • Phone contacts — can’t access directly but as the contacts are synced to cloud then they are accessible from there.
  • SMS — SMS can be sent via third-party service providers but PWA can’t read/organise the SMS from the phone.
  • Geofencing — you can get the geolocation of the device but you can’t send automatically push notification to the customer for example “Hey, you’re just a 100m from my shop, come by and get 10% off today!”
  • NFC — limited availability in Android only
  • Wake lock — stop the phone screen to go sleep before the time-consuming process is finished. It’s only available on Chrome desktop.
  • Light sensor (ambient light), task scheduling, virtual & augmented reality and some more minor features you probably will never need.

If you don’t need one of these features then surely you should consider PWA due to it’s way less time-consuming development (cheapest!), easier to submit to app stores, get better SEO ranking to your website behind the app and also eating way less device’s memory. If you need one of these features then you should either think of hybrid or native app development. Hybrid apps are like native apps but cheaper to develop but from another hand slower than native or well optimised PWA.

Few links: