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Progressive Web Apps: A New Trend or the Future of Mobile?

In the late 1990s, there were two types of businesses – ones that had a website and ones that didn’t. In today’s mobile-first world we are seeing something similar with brands that have their own mobile app and ones that don’t.

Driven by the increased adoption of smartphones, mobile apps are now shaping the future of commerce. In fact, these devices play a major role in enabling various digital channels that influence as much as 70% of our purchase decisions (and expected to rise to 90% over the next few years).

While native apps have definitely been far more popular than web apps because of their speed and reliability, they aren’t built using open standards. As Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are much cheaper and easier to build, businesses who don’t already have a mobile app are also finding it to be a highly attractive option.

But are PWAs really the future of mobile? Or are they just another trend that we’ll forget about by the end of the year?

Last year, I didn’t think so, but now I’m not so sure. The future is definitely uncertain, but we can always speculate and come to an educated conclusion. In this scenario, one thing is for certain, mobile experiences are here to stay and can only keep getting better.

Making the Case for PWAs

If you look at your smartphone right now, it’s going to be populated almost completely by native apps. So it’s difficult to fathom a mobile app future where all our experiences are web-based, but this idea isn’t as radical as it sounds.

As people rapidly get used to technological advancement and improvements, they also start expecting the same enhanced experiences across the board. But consistently delivering these experiences can be a huge challenge that has an impact on the business’ bottom line.

To find a long-term solution to this problem, brands have now started seriously considering PWAs. This might come as a surprise to some who have already invested heavily in native apps, but it shouldn’t.

What sets PWAs apart from native apps is its simplicity. Native apps are always a challenge to connect with users as they have to first be aware of its existence and then take the long journey of downloading the app and then signing up.

These apps also have to be downloaded from app stores, so you will have to deal with a third-party to get it released. PWAs, on the other hand, don’t require any of this as users can be seamlessly connected to an app experience by simply clicking on a URL link.

For businesses thinking of embracing PWAs in the future, here are some of the key benefits:

  • Speed
  • Highly responsive
  • Indexable on Google
  • Easy to share
  • Provides instant access to users
  • Cost-effective

In a way, PWAs are a fusion of everything that’s great about mobile websites and native mobile apps. It’s also a great opportunity for small businesses owners and novice app developers to get into the game without having to expend significant resources.

PWAs Can Combat App Fatigue

When was the last time you downloaded a new app? If it’s been a long time, you’re not alone. Research suggests that a large chunk of users don’t download any apps over a period four weeks, but at the same time the app stores are filled with approximately 1.5 million mobile apps.

One of the reasons for app fatigue is the sheer number of apps available in the marketplace. This has created a situation where the app store search bar has become more like Google.

Another reason for app fatigue is the lack of data storage space available on our smartphones. But even if we had a lot of space, it can be a tedious experience scrolling through pages of apps to find the one you want to use. If you’re anything like me, you would probably think that you have enough apps on your phone, so it will take some convincing to add yet another app.

With PWAs, you’re just saving a URL shortcut and that translates into almost no data storage (especially when compared to some leading native apps). As it gives you a choice whether to save the link or not, users also have a choice when it comes to adding to the clutter on their smartphones. But even if they don’t want to save the URL, they are still not excluded from the mobile experience.

All this tells me that PWAs might not just be a trend, but the future of mobile experiences. Even Google has championed it and some say that it might replace Google Chrome apps in the near future.

However, this doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen overnight, so we will have to wait and see. But what does this mean for the future of native apps?

If PWAs become the rage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that native apps will become extinct. They still have a role to play and might evolve into hybrid apps that leverage the key benefits of both PWAs and native apps.

What do you think?

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IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.