What Are Progressive Web Apps and How Do They Compare With Native Apps?

As a tech-lover, you’ve probably come across an article mentioning Progressive Apps, how great they are, that they are the future in apps and how all sites should have one.

But, what are progressive apps exactly? Progressive apps are not entirely different from standard web apps, but there are specific concepts that developers need to fulfill.

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are web apps that live in your browser and are made out of CSS, HTML and JavaScript. You can also look at a PWA as a cross between a mobile website and an app. In other words, it’s a hybrid.

PWAs use modern web technologies, and developers can create sites that offer the user a mobile-app-like experience, as well as perform better and more safely and load faster. They’re a normal website but look like an application to users.

They will also use the most current web standards and are made to work correctly and quickly on just about any browser.

Progressive web apps will also load instantly regardless of how slow your Internet connection might be. You can even use the apps if there is no Internet connection, just without the dynamic content.

To use a progressive app offline, you’ll need to have some experimental Chrome features turned on. Type into the Chrome address bar the following commands: chrome://flags/#bypass-app-banner-engagement-checks

At the bottom you should see the “Relaunch Now” button. Click on it and the next time you visit a site that uses progressive apps, you’ll be prompted to install it.

For now, progressive web apps won’t work on Safari/iOS. This means you are not able to enjoy offline mode, push notifications nor home screen installation. Hopefully, Apple will switch to progressive apps soon.

An example of a progressive web app is Twitter’s site. It does what a progressive web app should do: it has an “Add to homescreen” prompt, lowers data consumption, and has nearly instant loading with service worker scripts.

Since they live in your browser, there is no need for an app store, and they will always use HTTPS for security. If a site does not work with HTTPS, it can’t qualify as a progressive app. The site has to have an SSL or TLS certificate installed in the browser.

A progressive app is ready for any device; it doesn’t matter if it’s a phone, tablet, computer, etc. Since progressive apps are made on a shell model, you’ll enjoy app-style navigation and interactions.

You won’t have to worry about using an out-of-date app since the service worker update process will keep the content updated. Progressive apps can easily be shared through URL, and you can easily keep them on your home screen without depending on an app store.

They can also be added to your mobile home screen and can send push notifications as well. Progressive web apps are also a benefit for those businesses that use them since they help reduce maintenance time and costs.

Firefox has followed Chrome’s example, and with Firefox 58, you’ll be able to enjoy progressive web apps. If you come across a site that has a valid manifest and that is served over HTTPS, you should see a badge in the address bar.

When you select it, you will see a message that says “Add to Home Screen.” You won’t lose any progress you’ve made on a site if you tap on an external link when you launch the app from your home screen.

Progressive Web Apps are better than native apps since developers will no longer have the need to create apps for multiple platforms. This is going to save developers an extensive amount of time and money, not to mention the economic savings as well.

Developers will only have to create one app that will work on all current platforms and devices. With Progressive Web Apps, you don’t have to install anything before using them, unlike native apps.

While PWAs are great, they do have their drawbacks since they are still relatively new. For example, they have limited capabilities when trying to integrate with your tablet’s or smartphone’s features.

They are still not able to integrate with features such as Bluetooth. the fingerprint sensor, accelerometer, nor NFC. For now, native apps are more reliable than PWAs, but time will tell how that story ends.

PWAs and native apps are not all that different from each other. For example, both of them are launched on the home screen and provide a very similar web experience/user interface.

Progressive web apps are supposed to be the next big thing, but they do have their drawbacks. For example, they don’t work on all browsers such as Edge, Safari, Internet Explorer, and other custom browsers. PWAs do work on newer versions of browsers such as Samsung’s Android browser, Opera, and Chrome.

The limitation also affects devices since not all of them can support them. Android does support PWAs, but there are some support issues since it’s still relatively new.

iOS currently does not support PWAs since it has problems supporting notifications and shortcut prompting on the device’s home screen. So far Apple has not officially announced if it’s taking on PWAs or not anytime soon.

If cross-application logins are important to you, then you might want to steer clear of PWAs. They do not support it since they can’t gather data independently.

Progressive apps are still relatively new, and there are still companies that are adjusting or at least thinking about it. They are definitely the future since they will only help improve the user’s mobile experience.

Do you think that progressive apps are here to stay, or will they fade out? Share your thoughts in the comments.