Progressive Web App or commonly known as PWA is a website that works and is perceived as an application on mobile devices. Now, the question we need to consider is: are PWAs still relevant in 2022?
The idea for PWA was born out of Steve Jobs’ vision in 2007 to bring ordinary web applications to behave similarly to applications on the iPhone (Apple’s smartphone). The concept of PWA itself manifested in 2015, led by Google and became a trending search in 2016 even till today.
According to StackSource in 2022, mobile phone sales increase relative to desktop or tablet users. PWA could be a promising solution to seize this opportunity.
Over the years, PWA has improved dramatically from when it was first published by Google. At first, PWA is only available on Chrome OS and Android; Nowadays, PWA based apps are also available on Microsoft Store.
According to Microsoft news, starting in May 2022, the PWA-based app will allow users to download content for offline consumption. This would allow learners to consume content even in low or no connectivity scenarios.
A partnership between Microsoft and Google also introduces several exciting developments on PWAs, such as PWABuilder (Microsoft’s developer tool that makes it easy to write PWAs) and Bubblewrap (Google’s technology that helps developers package their apps for distribute them on the Google Play App Store).
Some benefits of using PWA
- In terms of security, PWA takes advantage of the HTTPS protocol.
- As PWA originates from a website, it has a direct connection to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). As the SEO trend in 2022 increases, so is good for business.
- PWA is accessible offline, this functionality is managed by a service worker.
Besides the advantages, there are some limits from PWAs:
- Limited access on mobile devices, as PWA runs on the web.
- In terms of performance, compared to native apps, PWA is considered slower.
- Because PWA is inseparable from the web approach, it is also vulnerable to well-known web attacks, such as attacks on manifest.js and on service workers.
Some notable tech companies heavily use PWAs, namely:
- tinder; Implementing PWA in Tinder can reduce loading time and storage usage, as PWA in general does not require SDKs like native apps do.
- Trivago; their level of interaction and engagement has increased significantly as many users save their apps to the home screen.
- OLX; their level of interaction, engagement and loading time increases due to push-up notifications.
Besides native applications, there are several competitors for PWA, namely hybrid frameworks such as IonicJS, Cordova, React Native and Flutter.
PWA vs. IonicJS
IonicJS is a cross-platform user interface and theme library. Initially it only supports AngularJS, but now it is compatible with many other frameworks. IonicJS has limitations on customization and is not recommended for use in building complex applications. On the other hand, PWA is highly customizable, it can be attached anywhere and offers a wide range of design options.
PWA vs. Flutter
In my opinion, the decision to create a PWA-based application should consider several factors. PWA could be a good option when we are aiming for an inexpensive and fast mobile application based on an existing website. In this case, building a PWA-based application requires only a small setup on a responsive website. However, if we are aiming to build a mobile app from scratch, IonicJS and Flutter would be a better option, as they provide more features and some access capabilities that are not available on PWA.