Should I care about Progressive Web Apps? 8 reasons why you should.

(This post was originally written by Bart Zaalberg for the SIMgroep Developers Blog, when it wasn’t yet hosted on Medium.)

At SIMgroep, we always have a lot going on. We work in several teams and each team has multiple products to support, while at the same time working on new and exciting things. It’s sometimes easy to forget to look around and realize there’s more out there than just that which we already know. That’s why we like to visit a conference every now and then, like the annual Dutch PHP Conference in Amsterdam, which takes place late June.

This year, as each year, there were a lot of interesting subjects to learn about, like Domain Driven Design, PHPbu and Functional Programming, but one subject kept returning to the stage, and that is Progressive Web Apps, or PWA’s.

For me, the PWA hype already started on the Thursday. I attended Maximiliano Firtman’s tutorial about Progressive Web Apps. I found it interesting to see how fast the web progresses lately. And as PWA’s are the next step in web development. It probably wouldn’t be a bad thing to check this out.

As I look back now, I think it has been a valuable decision. I probably won’t be building native apps anymore, because the need for them is almost gone.

Interested in what makes those native applications almost obsolete? Here are 8 reasons why.

1. PWA’s are cheaper than native apps

There’s a lot of expensive overhead in creating native applications in addition to your web platform: iOS licenses, extra development and testing work, extra support work, and usually you need to hire new people to do this work. 
PWA’s, on the other hand, are written in the same technology as your existing application and can be maintained and deployed in the same ways. No need for extra licenses, mobile app specialists or developer training.

2. The support isn’t that bad anymore

A lot of features which for a long time where only supported in native apps are now also available in browsers. For example, we can already use Geolocations, Cameras, Microphones, screen orientations, device vibrations. And soon we will be able to use things like,NFC, Bluetooth, Ambient Light Sensors, and shape detection.

For a more complete list of currently supported hardware. You can check the following link: WhatWebCanDo

3. PWA’s are cross-platform

To create applications for the several mobile platforms, you will have to learn Kotlin (or Java) for Android, Swift for iOS, and HTML, CSS, JavaScript and other languages for the web. If you just extend your web application to a PWA, it makes the other languages unnecessary.

4. Integration into your OS like native applications

One of the very cool features I missed from webpages was the fact that native applications integrate into your OS so well with features like task manager and your home screen.

PWA’s are now easily installable as well from the context menu of your browser. Once installed on your phone, the PWA will work just like a normal application For instance; it will open in full screen mode, show up as a separate application in app switcher and will show a custom shortcut in your home screen, and it even shows native notifications.

5. Offline support

PWA’s have support for on-device caching. This means you only have to start the PWA once. It already has the necessary data when opening it again. Just like any other offline application, it would just load and let you continue to use your application.

6. Less memory usage

Native apps can use a lot of memory. The only thing a PWA sets up on your phone is a shortcut on your home screen and some storage for the cache. This is a lot less than a native application would use.

7. No need for an app store

Though the process of installing an application. 65% of potential users abort. That means 65% loss of potential customers. Instead of having to install a native application, you could also offer them a better web experience with 
the choice to create a shortcut on their home screen.

8. Very Extensible

PWA’s are easily extensible because they are essentially just a website built in layers. As browsers become more compatible with hardware, you can easily add a new layer which supports that hardware.

Conclusion

It will take some time for PWA’s to mature. But when they do, they will make life for developers a lot easier. Don’t believe me? Why not try building one yourself?