Progressive Web Applications

If you are considering building a mobile app then you have probably also considered how to build it, and with what purpose. Maybe you want it to be a native mobile application, or perhaps a hybrid that can be used on both iOS and Android from day one. But did you know that it is also possible to use web technologies to build a mobile app that almost behaves like a native application? More specifically, a Progressive Web Application (PWA).

What is a PWA?

A PWA is basically a web application that you can access as if it was a native mobile application. Practically, this means that you will be able to download a given web application through your browser, save it on your mobile home screen, and then access it whenever you want - like a regular mobile app. More technically, building a PWA is like building any other web application. However, instead of specifically designing it for a desktop and the web browser, it is adapted to the format of a mobile device and the typical experience you get through a native mobile app. With a PWA, you have the opportunity to specifically design the web application for the mobile device, including the features and functions that you prefer to be available when using the mobile. In this way, it is possible to utilize the advantages of the mobile device while simultaneously sticking to the development of a web application.

The features of a PWA

It behaves like a native application:
As mentioned, you can access your PWA directly on your mobile screen, just like you do with a native application.

A PWA can be more straightforward to build than a native or hybrid application:
If you already have a web application, then you have the option of expanding your underlying codebase. This makes the road to a successful PWA shorter, and often more straightforward, than if you want to build a native application from scratch.

It is responsive:
With a PWA, you will get a responsive web application, no matter if it is through a mobile device, a tablet, or a desktop.

It is possible to access offline:
A “service worker” caches data from your earlier interactions with the application, which lets you access and use your application, even though you are not online.

It automatically stays updated:
Unlike a native application, a PWA automatically updates itself - just like a web application.

It is independent of application stores and their guidelines:
When you want to create and release a native application on a given application store (App Store or Google Play), you are required to follow the guidelines of that store. The boundaries are somewhat less strict on the web, as this is an open system. The result is, to some extent, more freedom when developing a PWA.

What you should be aware of

It has restricted access to mobile device features:
A native application usually gets access to features such as Bluetooth, microphone, push notifications, and advanced camera controls on your mobile device. This is not always the case with a PWA, especially on iOS due to certain Apple restrictions.

It consumes more battery:
A PWA runs from a browser with a web code. As a consequence, it consumes more battery than a native application does, because the mobile device has to work harder to interpret this kind of code.

The installation process may be unfamiliar to many users:
Contrary to native applications, you do not download a PWA on an application store. Instead, this has to be done on the given website concerned, which is not as straightforward. Additionally, the installation process also sometimes varies, depending on the PWA.

Why and when to consider a PWA

As illustrated, a PWA offers a range of new possibilities, but it also has its limitations. It is therefore important to look into this and consider if this is the right solution, or if there is another approach, which might be more suitable for your purpose with a new mobile app. For instance, maybe your idea needs specific hardware functions in the mobile that are not reachable through a PWA, but only with a native application. So what is the best way for you to go? We stand by as your professional sparring partner. We know of the possible advantages and disadvantages that follow with each approach.