As mobile continues to surpass desktop usage, mobile presence has become an integral part of a brand’s digital marketing strategies. There are several ways a brand can establish a mobile presence and get your content to consumer’s mobile devices.

The easiest and most common way is to launch a mobile-responsive website that enables users to engage with your brand. However, a more effective method of establishing a mobile presence is through mobile applications.

Over recent years, mobile apps have become a vital part of a brand’s digital marketing strategies. According to eMarketer, smartphone users spend 90% of their Internet time on apps while tablet users spend 77% of their Internet time on apps. Given these numbers, developing and launching mobile applications has become a necessity for brands.

From large, well-known companies down to fledgling startups, businesses recognize the tremendous impact of apps on customer experience and brand engagement.

Native Apps and Progressive Web Applications: The Difference

There are two types of apps that a brand can develop: native mobile apps and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).

Prior to 2015, native app development was the only app development approach available to clients. Native mobile apps are those that can be downloaded from the app store and installed into mobile devices.

A relatively new app development approach introduced by Google, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) is a crossover between mobile apps and mobile websites. With PWA, users can directly access a website-based app through a mobile device without the need to download and install the app.

Which one is better?

With these two options on the table, perhaps you’re wondering which approach is best.

The truth is that neither of these two has an upper hand. They both come with benefits and disadvantages, and there are clear use cases for each.

In choosing the best app development approach for your business, what really matters is your brand’s end objectives and which of these two approaches will be most suitable to achieve these objectives.

Below we will look at the key differences between native apps and PWAs in terms of benefits, disadvantages, and possible use cases.

Native Apps

Native apps are designed to run on a specific operating system, either iOS or Android. These mobile applications are developed using Swift/Objective-C for iOS apps or Java for Android apps.

Benefits

Native apps are very responsive to the operating system. They can integrate with the mobile device’s built-in features such as GPS, camera, etc. The seamless integration of the app to the mobile device ensures a great user experience. Native apps are highly intuitive and are also very easy for users to learn.

Disadvantages

Native app development tends to be more expensive. Since native apps are designed for a specific operating system (some apps even run only on a specific version), different versions for multiple platforms mean additional costs. Also, any need for changes due to operating system updates means extra expense.

In addition, native apps would require you to look for app developers who specialize in both iOS and Android platforms. You would also need the services of a reliable IT support team to maintain your servers and IT infrastructure.

Use cases

Basically, native apps are recommended for media-rich or gaming applications. Native app development is also recommended for apps that require reliable interaction with the user’s mobile device. Brands like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook invest heavily in native apps to ensure seamless user experience.

For businesses that rely on high levels of user experience and user interaction, native application development remains the ideal approach. Furthermore, considering the current trends in digital marketing, investing in a native app is worthwhile.

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs)

PWAs are mobile websites developed using modern JavaScript, CSS3 and HTML5 platforms. They are designed to be responsive to mobile users. And just like native apps, an icon can be added to the home screen of a mobile device. Users also get a full-screen experience even while the app runs only on the website. Compared to earlier web-based applications, PWAs offer faster booting and better user experience.

Benefits

PWAs are very cost effective. They are also considered a safer spot especially when mobile users begin to shun app and the trend swings in favor of download- and install free apps. PWAs are also very attractive for mobile users who have limited memory space.

Disadvantage

A major drawback of PWAs is that they are heavily reliant on Internet connectivity. With a poor Internet connection, these apps won’t work. In addition, since PWAs are free for all, businesses miss out the chance to monetize their app.

Use cases

PWAs are recommended as an extension of a brand’s website. They are also ideal if your business doesn’t require continuous user interaction or exchange; for example, if you only require users to log in intermittently, such as monthly or weekly.  

PWAs are also ideal if your target users are located in areas with a reliable network connection. For businesses that are unsure about how their app will fare in the market, PWA development could be a less expensive trial. If you think it’s time to expand, you can decide to launch a native app in the future.

Final Thoughts

As discussed above, each of these mobile application development approaches has its share of benefits and disadvantages. There should be no debate as to which one is better. Basically, each of these approaches has their good use cases and it’s up to you to decide which one will help you achieve your business objectives.