What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and how do they differ from traditional web application development and native mobile apps?

Progressive Web Apps
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What is a progressive web app?

The term refers to a novel method of application development that holds promise and continues the existing web application format.

The conceptual father of this new concept is, above all, Google, so it is not surprising that, until now, the design of the PWAs has only taken into account the Android operating system itself, while the rival’s iOS devices Apple still doesn’t work quite right. Although it is still in an early phase of its development, which prevents this technology from reaching its full potential, Google can be expected to invest in its future development. This makes it likely that progressive web apps can continue to be optimized.

Next, we analyze the four aspects that essentially define a progressive web application.

Progressive web app: website and application in one

As it is still in full development, today the term can only be clarified in an approximate way. However, the fundamental structure can be considered as established. A PWA is accessible on the Internet with a URL and runs in the browser, which makes it possible for it to work on different operating systems and does not depend on the app store or require installation.

Unlike a regular web application, however, it can also be run offline. To do this, you only have to anchor a link to the corresponding URL on the home screen of the mobile device, through which the application can be easily accessed, even with a weak or non-existent Internet connection (it would be necessary, in this case, to have an offline cache in the browser). When opened, the Progressive App looks more like a native app than a web app, and thanks to its responsive design, it scales seamlessly to the size of the screen it’s running on.

Progressive web app vs. native app

We can think of a PWA as a responsive web app that looks like a native app. This progressive application can use native functions of the terminal, such as the camera, microphone, geolocation, or push notifications and integrate them into the program. To do this, the application checks the compatibility of both the browser used and the terminal itself. The look and feel of a progressive web app (agile response when sliding your finger across the screen, etc.) is also similar to that of a native application on any tablet or smartphone.

On the other hand, opening an online PWA has the advantage of always accessing the most up-to-date version of the application, which is different from native applications, which have to be updated by the user. As soon as a PWA connects to your server, it is checked if it needs to be updated.

Another advantage of progressive applications compared to native ones is the less programming work that their development requires since they are both web app development and platform-independent application. This greatly reduces development costs, even for a PWA that performs equally well in many scenarios. Added to this are the low memory requirements on the device for a progressive web app, although this ultimately depends on the size of the terminal’s offline cache.

That being said, it is worth mentioning that mobile and responsive web applications and web pages, the latter with some limits, already offer some of these functions. So what do progressive web apps have that classic web apps don’t?

What differentiates PWAs from traditional web apps?

Web applications already work without installation directly in the browser on different mobile operating systems such as Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. So, the principle of progressive web apps cannot be said to be new, although it is essentially more mature than in the case of traditional web apps. Thus, the range of functions of a PWA is adjusted to the framework in which it is executed. This means that, even in the event that users, their terminals, and/or browsers are not compatible with all the features, they can use them, albeit in a reduced way.

Let’s see it with this example: a progressive application to upload photos to an online platform authorizes the use of a camera so that users can create and upload photos directly in the application. However, not all browsers and terminals technically support this function, which leads the application to check, as soon as it is launched in a browser, if a camera is connected and if it is supported by the progressive application and the browser. If not, the camera function cannot be used, but all those that are supported can. In this case, if the camera does not support the PWA, the upload function of the PWA would allow you to upload the photos you want from the smartphone.

In short, these applications are progressive to the extent that they are executable in any browser, adjusting their functions to the available hardware and the characteristics of each browser, which leads to the conclusion that the better or lesser performance of a PWA depends on the greater or lesser potential of the browser and terminal used.

Progressive web app vs. hybrid app

In addition to the web application, with the already veteran hybrid application, there is an additional format that appropriates some features of native applications and overcomes some of their shortcomings. A hybrid application, similar to a PWA, can be developed for different mobile operating systems with a comparable little effort, but the hybrid ones start from a different concept since they are integrated into Android and iOS systems through installation, imitating in this way the operation of the native ones, which entails both advantages and disadvantages.

In addition to their ease of development, the integration of hybrid applications into the operating system via installation represents an essential positive aspect, since in this way they can make use of more native functions of the terminal than (progressive) web applications, although to a lesser degree than traditional ones. native apps.

Author Bio:

Glad you are reading this. I’m Yokesh Shankar, the COO at Sparkout Tech, one of the primary founders of a highly creative space. I’m more associated with digital transformation solutions for global issues. Nurturing in fintech, supply chain, AR VR solutions, real estate, and other sectors vitalizing new-age technology, I see this space as a forum to share and seek information. Writing and reading give me more clarity about what I need.