A couple of years back, when Google announced that Progressive Web Apps are going to be the next big thing, I was definitely excited! Google called it an exciting new approach to app development. To me, the fact that it would combine the best qualities of the web with native apps was a welcome news.
Two years down the lane, native applications accounted for more than 85% of all mobile internet traffic. So where is the "Progressive" in Progressive Web Apps?
On the other hand things got a little interesting this year. ( Yes I'm still excited about this! ) Google recently announced that it will further integrate web apps into Android. What does this mean? Your web apps will now appear in the app drawer alongside many other full applications on your phone, and they will even have offer the same notification controls!
While this is some good news for people like me who have been expecting some change since Google talked about PWA two years ago, many companies considering mobile apps are stuck with a million dollar question. Which route to take? How to decide?
It Is All About Friction
Does it irritate you when you have to go through a 100 clicks before actively using an app you just installed? It surely aggravates me and most the times I end up leaving it halfway to never go back to the app again. This is a major set back for most of the native apps where the "app install friction" as they call it, is quite high.
Progressive web apps on the other hand have much less friction because the device you are using actually wants you to install the web app. But the fact that some users have access to "Android Instant Apps" tells a different story. Having to use an app without installing it is a major update towards easy access to the apps for the users.
App Store - The Wicked One?
Irrespective of the type, app stores play a major role in the progress of an app. Android is quite easy, all you have to do is just push the app and you are in. With iOS on the other hand, the fact that you need to wait for somebody else to test your app from the other side is a turn down for most developers.
As CEO of CodeWorks, Zanardi pointed out, the biggest hurdle for the Progressive web apps is that while Firefox and Chrome are embracing these apps, Apple's Safari does not support service works and without that, the purpose of the web app just doesn't exist in iOS.
What Does Your Company Need?
The choice off app eventually boils down to the kind of business you plan to build. If I was asking this question a couple of years ago, hybrid apps were certainly not an option. But today, as more and more people prefer speed, and something which is tested and reliable, hybrid apps are a common choice in the market.
In addition to speed and reliability, technology with which the mobile app developers are comfortable with is a critical factor as well. For example, If you have a team that is really good at Java, then native apps will be a perfect choice. And if your team is good with PhoneGap, Hybrid apps will be the go-to option.
Though Progressive Web Apps have ruffled a few feathers in a world dominated by native & hybrid apps, as impressive as it sounds on paper, what matters the most is will they be able to deliver where it counts; and they still have a long way to go. With a lot of issues that need some ironing, they might be the bet for the future.