To make a PWA or a Native app?

Written by on Friday, May 4th 2018

To make a PWA or a Native app?
You’ve probably noticed that the mobile industry is going full force towards PWA’s and may have gotten the feeling that native technology is being left behind. While this is true to a certain degree, there are still undeniable pros to the native side that PWA’s cannot offer, and vice versa. If you’re hesitating between making a native app or a PWA, this article is meant to clearly lay out the major differences between the two to help you make an educated decision.

Functionality on iOS—1 point for Native

Do PWA’s work on iOS? Yes, they do, but unfortunately not 100% of their potential functionality is supported as it is on Android. Apple’s recent shift to supporting Service Workers in Safari is a great improvement that’s opened the doors to lots of previously lacking functionality, such as the ability to work offline. One major thing still missing on iOS is the ability to receive web push notifications, which is a deal breaker for many. You can always consider communicating with your users via SMS as an alternative (this works on both iOS and Android PWA’s), but if classic push notifications are vital for your project, you’ll definitely want to go native.

Functionality on Android—1 point for Native & PWA

The integration with Android is just as good on PWA as it is on native. Besides the push notification aspect mentioned above, there are some other advantages offered that unfortunately iOS can’t compare to on the PWA side. Android couldn’t have made the home screen installation process easier in PWA’s—meaning that as soon as the user visits the PWA in their Android’s browser, they are immediately prompted to install it on their home screen (in the form of a pop-up) for quick access later on. While it’s also possible to install a PWA on the home screen of an iOS device, the user doesn’t receive any obvious indication that this is an option, let alone instructions on how to do it. Lastly, Service Workers work in all browsers running on an Android, whereas iOS users can only benefit from them when using Safari.

Geo-location features—1 point for Native

The features available on native and PWA are almost exactly the same, with the exception of geofences and beacons, which are unfortunately not supported on PWA’s. Geofences and beacons are tools used for location-based notifications, popular in a lot of different projects. With PWA’s, you still have the option to send push notifications (on Android) based on targeted criteria such as a user’s country or city, but if what you need is to communicate with your users at a very specific time and place, you should take advantage of this technology available only in native applications.

Discoverability—1 point for PWA's

If your project or business isn’t super well-known yet, SEO will serve as an extremely valuable tool that will allow users and potential customers to find out about you. SEO can only be taken advantage of when it comes to PWA’s, since they are found from search engine queries. ASO (App Store Optimization) exists as well for native apps, but it’s not quite as powerful as classic web SEO, which can bring valuable traffic to your PWA from long tail search engine queries.

Effort required to access—1 point for PWA's

An important point to consider when first launching an app for your project is 1) how on board with you you believe your users/potential users are, and 2) what the proportion of need for your content is to time and effort users are willing to put forth to get to it.

For example, if you have a restaurant and the main purpose of your app is to display a menu and take reservations, do you believe your potential customers’ course of action to view your menu is to go to an app store and download something onto their devices? Chances are, they’re much more likely to do a quick search engine query to avoid wasting time and storage space. In the case of returning customers who have a frequent need to visit your app, a PWA can always be added to their device’s home screen for instant access.

There are definitely certain projects where the user base won’t hesitate to spend their time and storage space on a native app, but if you’re still trying to get a gage on your audience’s behavioral patterns, a PWA is a good way to test the waters before diving in and missing out on potential visitors.


Amplification—1 point for Native

While we often stress how easy it is for PWA’s to be discovered, there’s no doubt that the opportunity for amplification is greater on native. If your app manages to get featured in the stores, you have the chance to instantly gain a massive amount of attention and users. There is no real equivalent to this “15 minutes of fame” in the PWA world.

Device discrimination—1 point for PWA's

Going native limits your audience for the simple reason that they must be using one of two standard types of mobile devices. Although the population is shrinking, Windows and Blackberry users are forgone, and more importantly, desktop users (a population that is here to stay) are also ignored. As PWA’s are run in a browser, they ensure that 100% of individuals who have access to this universal tool have the opportunity to reach your content.

Bureaucracy—1 point for PWA's

Last but not least. Publishing a native app means agreeing to undergo and comply with third party regulations, reviews, and fees. Initially publishing your app will require you to pass the “standards” set by the app stores in terms of design quality, code, and most importantly, content (if any content in your app isn’t in line with the store’s image/culture, they can refuse to publish your app). This is also true for your app’s future as well, meaning that if you try to make an update to your app that somebody doesn’t agree with, you’re subject to being booted from that marketplace at any time.  

Additionally, there are fees associated with being present in stores that don’t exist when publishing on the web (such as developer accounts and review fees). The clear winner in terms of cost and hassle here is the PWA, with its instant, virtually cost and scrutiny free publishing process.


To make a PWA or a Native app?
In all fairness, not one is overall better than the other. PWA’s are more suitable for certain projects than native apps are and vice versa. If you’re struggling to decide between the two, why not make one of each? All GoodBarber native plans include the PWA version of the app as well, so if you can have both versions of your app without any extra work, why not opt for the best of both worlds?



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