Progressive web apps (PWAs) have been around since the standard was created by Google in 2015. It’s arguable that Steve Jobs announced them back in 2007 — although his enthusiasm may have been curbed later by the fees that Apple’s App Store could claim for iOS platform apps.
Apple’s notable reluctance to embrace PWA technology has kept PWAs from taking off on iOS devices. The PWA experience on Safari today feels ancient: no push notifications, no geofencing or Bluetooth, and an inconvenient installation process. Much of the benefit of creating PWAs is lost if you’re writing them only for Android. The tide may be changing, however.
Apple users are starting to get used to alternatives
Both Fortnite and Telegram have been pushed out of the App Store at some point. Other Apple competitor apps have found themselves in similar predicaments, as have adult-industry products that would never make it through the App Store’s release process. Once a user has installed one or two PWAs without the App Store infrastructure, the barrier is lower for other PWA apps.
Along with the other big four tech companies, Apple has also caught the attention of antitrust investigators in the E.U., the U.S., and other places. Since then, Apple has made at least some efforts to ensure that PWA support is not entirely absent from Safari. Apple has used the PWA support it provides as a legal argument against the need for app store regulation.
You may not need to choose. Modern development systems are starting to provide the ability to generate PWA as an output format. Support for PWAs depends on the environment but is usually built-in. When it’s not, you’ll need to add PWA resources and a service worker manually — a fairly trivial task.
The result is that PWAs aren’t necessarily something you need to write — they’re something your development environment targets.
You have a choice for app distribution
The fact is you can easily switch among .ipa, .apk, and PWA, which changes the equation when it comes to building your apps. That refreshes the original question, “Should I develop a progressive web app or a platform app?” Instead, ask yourself, “Should I build my app for one operating system, more than one, for the web — or all of the above?”
Doing both native and PWA requires extra testing but can provide the benefits of both. A PWA will satisfy occasional users who would normally visit your website rather than install an app. Your true fans — the ones who spend most — will want additional OS features and will be glad to install your native app.
The original article by Andrew Cornwall, senior analyst at Forrester, is here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends. Image credit: iStockphoto/DigtialStorm