Author: Khoa Nguyen
The LOEB Club App developed by jls secured 2nd place in the top category «Master of Swiss App» at this year's Best of Swiss App Awards (BoSA)! For over 10 years, the BoSA event has been characterised by native apps and includes over 160 app submissions every year. In addition to winning gold in the «Web App» category, we have now also managed to beat native apps with a web app and take 2nd place.
In this blog post, I would like to shed light on the current state of progressive web apps (PWA), highlight changes since my last blog on PWAs in 2019 and give an outlook on their potential development. I use the terms Progressive Web App, PWA and Web App synonymously.
What is a Progressive Web App?
PWAs are essentially websites that look and feel like native apps. They allow users to have an app-like experience directly in their regular web browser without having to download a separate app from the app store first. Although they are basically websites, they can offer advanced features such as offline access, receiving push notifications, access to the camera and much more. More details on PWAs can be found in this jls blog post «Progressive Web Apps» from 2019.
How has the PWA market developed?
The market share of PWAs is difficult to determine based on concrete figures since they were first introduced by Google in 2015. This is because PWAs are basically just websites that use a range of modern web tools to offer an app experience. Therefore, it is hard to tell from the outside whether it is an ordinary website or an advanced web app on the internet. However, we at jls have noticed that the demand for PWAs has increased significantly since our 2019 blog post. We have already successfully implemented numerous different PWAs for our customers.
Has PWA technology evolved significantly?
Yes, the most significant «change» is that after many years Apple has finally given in to the common browser standard with regard to web push messages and has supported web push messages on iOS since iOS 16.4, which was released in March 2023.
Since web apps are basically websites, anything that is supported by the web browser is technically possible. Already well-known and widely used web APIs include microphone and camera access, GPS localisation and much more. Newer possibilities include access to Bluetooth sensors, Near Field Communication (NFC) to interact with NFC tags, the Payment API to simplify a payment process, the Web Cryptography API for cryptographic operations such as the generation of key pairs for secure communication and of course much more.
The continuous expansion of available web APIs in popular web browsers enables web apps to utilise deep hardware integrations such as biometric login. As a result, web apps can now offer functions that were previously reserved exclusively for native apps.
Why are Progressive Web Apps so great?
To summarise, PWAs have a lot of exciting advantages:
- Platform independence: PWAs are platform independent and run on different devices and operating systems, which is not the case with native apps. A PWA can work equally well on different browsers and devices such as desktops, tablets and mobile devices. An important aspect of independence is that manufacturers such as Apple or Google cannot impose strict rules on what is allowed or not. For example, Apple cannot force all in-app payments to be processed via the App Store.
- Flexibility: Users have the option of saving the web app permanently and placing it on their home screen in a similar way to a native app.
- Development and maintenance effort: Nowadays, companies need to be present on multiple channels (website and app). Information (classic website) and self-service portals must be available both on smartphones and on the web for desktop computers. This often leads to multiple development and maintenance of the same platform.
- Uncomplicated updates: Apps are subject to a review of the various app stores. It is therefore sometimes difficult to react quickly to unexpected changes such as errors in an app. With web apps, on the other hand, a company can immediately and effectively adapt the code at any time and all its users receive the latest code the next time they open the web app.
- Lower barriers to user acquisition: Because PWAs are simply advanced websites, they are indexed by all search engines and can therefore be found. This reduces the barriers for users who want to try out the application.
Where does the journey go from here?
The future of PWAs promises continued growth, innovation and increased integration into the way we use the internet. We are already seeing a lot of customers questioning the need for a native app. With modern web tools, deep hardware integrations can already be realised in web apps. For our web apps, we already use the Media API to scan barcodes with the smartphone camera, Web Push for notifications about new, interesting posts and the Cryptography API for complex, cryptic authentication processes to protect users.
The wide availability of web APIs on different browsers will remain a challenge as manufacturers can regulate this market. Nevertheless, PWAs are expected to continue to grow in importance as they combine the benefits of websites and mobile apps. The ongoing development of technologies and standards will help PWAs become an even more powerful and versatile solution for developers and businesses to provide users with a rich, user-friendly and flexible experience.
Are you faced with the decision of whether to develop a PWA or native app?
The decision as to whether an app should be developed as a native app or a web app is not an easy one. It's a choice that requires numerous considerations and has a significant impact on the user experience and the success of your app. As experts in both technologies, we at jls understand the challenges and benefits associated with choosing the right technology. Our goal is to help you understand the pros and cons of both approaches in the context of your specific requirements.
Contact us to benefit from our expertise and find the ideal solution for your app together. We are ready to help you with this important step.