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12 min

PWA vs Native Apps: Comparison From Business and User Perspective

With almost 7 billion smartphone users worldwide, it’s no surprise that businesses strive to establish a strong mobile presence. Mobile solutions allow them to have more points of connection with customers and stay in touch 24/7. They help increase conversions through personalized content, enhanced user experience, and ultimate accessibility. A quality mobile application removes the friction between the client and the business, enabling the former to have the services they need at their fingertips. The question is, how to build such an app? When it comes to establishing a mobile presence, you can go about it in two ways: develop a progressive web app or create a native mobile application. What’s the difference between the two and which option should you choose for your business? That’s what we’re about to discuss. As a PWA development company and a company that specializes in mobile application development services, AnyforSoft is here to help you solve the “progressive web app vs native app” dilemma. In the following paragraphs, we compare the two solutions, discuss their differences, advantages, and disadvantages, and explore their use cases so that you can make the right choice. Without further ado, let’s get started! What are progressive web apps? Progressive web apps (PWAs) are web applications that provide an app-like experience through a browser. They can be described as websites designed like mobile apps. Built with standard web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript), PWAs are platform-independent and work seamlessly on iOS and Android devices as well as desktops. They leverage modern web capabilities like service workers and web app manifests to deliver a smooth and consistent user experience. Unlike native mobile apps, they don’t need to be installed from app stores—you can add them to your device’s homescreen from a website that supports PWA functionality. What’s more, progressive web apps use up much less storage space compared to native apps. Even though PWAs are web apps, they can access the device’s hardware features, including geolocation, NFC, file storage, and more. By utilizing service workers and caching technologies, progressive web apps load extremely quickly and can work in offline mode. What are native apps? Native apps are mobile applications built specifically for a particular platform. They’re created with platform-specific programming languages and tools, such as Swift or Objective-C for iOS, and Java or Kotlin for Android. Native applications are distributed via marketplaces like Google Play Store, Apple App Store, and Amazon App Store and require downloading and installation. One of the advantages of native apps is that they have full access to device features and APIs, providing a deeper integration with the device's hardware and software. Given that they’re optimized for specific platforms and have direct access to native APIs, they perform better than progressive web apps. To help you understand the difference between PWA and native apps more clearly and choose the right solution, let’s look at these options from a business and user perspective. PWA vs native app: comparison from a business perspective As a business owner, you must analyze the business side of things to answer the progressive web apps vs native apps question. Development cost, development time, time to market, maintenance concerns, security, user acquisition—all these factors are critical and will likely dictate your choice. So let’s explore them one by one. #1 Development cost and time Since PWAs are built with standard web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) and are cross-platform by default, they are cheaper to develop than native apps. The latter requires you to build two separate apps for Android and iOS platforms, which is naturally more expensive and requires more time. However, you can take the middle ground. With modern frameworks like Flutter, React Native, Node.js, and others, you can craft native-like applications that will work seamlessly across platforms while having a single codebase. #2 Time to market When deciding between native apps and PWAs, time to market is a key factor for many. Naturally, companies want to launch their solutions as quickly as possible, and progressive web apps offer better opportunities in that regard. As mentioned above, they’re cheaper and quicker to develop due to their cross-platform compatibility and a single codebase. Since progressive web apps are not distributed via application stores, you won’t have to deal with tedious app store approval processes, which will allow you to market your solution much quicker. #3 Maintenance concerns Comparing PWAs and native apps, the latter are more expensive and time-consuming to maintain. When you have two applications for Android and iOS and thus deal with two separate codebases, maintenance becomes more complicated and requires the attention of different development teams. Another nuance of maintenance is that any updates of a native application have to be submitted for review in app marketplaces. With a PWA, however, you completely control the delivery of updates and don’t need to wait for third-party approvals, which makes the whole process more streamlined. #4 User acquisition / Promotion nuances PWAs can be discovered through search engines. Since they’re essentially websites, they play by the rules of SEO. That means people searching for products or services online may come across your website and install your progressive web application. One of the significant benefits of search engine optimization is that it can be completely free—you can promote your application without major investments. However, if you’re in a competitive niche, ranking your web solution organically (that is, without paid advertisements) might be challenging, especially if your website is relatively new and has yet to gain domain authority. Native apps, on the other hand, can be discovered through app stores. Such applications play by the rules of ASO (app store optimization). To make your solution rank higher in app listings, you will have to leverage various ASO strategies and invest in paid advertising. However, there is also a benefit here: native apps give you an additional traffic channel. So, while promoting your website in search engines by means of SEO, you can also promote your application in app stores, enjoying increased visibility. It can potentially help you drive more traffic. #5 Security Another pivotal factor in the native apps vs PWA question is security. And native apps take the lead here. Let us elaborate more on this topic. Just like regular websites, PWAs are protected by HTTPS protocols that entail browser-to-server encryption. You can also additionally protect them by implementing JSON Web Tokens (JWT) for authenticating users, content security policy (CSP) to prevent cross-site scripting, and other web security measures. Native apps, on the other hand, benefit from the security features of the underlying operating system. They include sandboxing, access controls, and other measures that contribute to the overall security of the app and user data. What’s more, all applications submitted to Google Play or App Store must pass the verification of these platforms, which means that only secure solutions will be published—that is one of the reasons why users tend to trust native apps more than PWAs. Native mobile applications can be protected with: multi-factor authentication; Face ID and Touch ID; certificate pinning to prevent man-in-the-middle (MITM) type of security attacks; VPN or SSL tunnel to transfer sensitive information and protect it from data theft; runtime application self-protection (RASP) to monitor all the incoming requests and intercept attackers, etc. Another important nuance we should mention here is that with native apps, you can build and integrate security features directly into the app, which is impossible with progressive web apps. For example, you can integrate a VPN into your mobile application, whereas PWAs don’t allow you to do that. That’s why native apps are a go-to choice for banks, financial institutions, healthcare providers, and other organizations that deal with sensitive data.
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