A few years ago, there was no doubt, native apps were the best way to deliver mobile content. A Native App is designed to work exclusively on your phone, and in the most integrated way possible. Nevertheless, for more than 2 years, the concept of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) jostles the order established by the native apps. Some great apps like Facebook or Airbnb have changed their tune several times over the choice of technology to deliver the best mobile user experience.
If you have an application creation project, you have to ask yourself the question. Should you offer a native application? Should you propose a PWA? Each of the two solutions has its advantages. Rather than seeking the answer from the technical point of view, it is better to think about which distribution channel you want to focus on: the Web or the App Stores?
The Blinds remain a reflex
Among the habits of use of a smartphone, looking for apps on the Store (AppStore or Playstore) remains a very important reflex. And for good reason, 92% of the time spent on your mobile is via native applications (Source: Flurry)! This is to say the importance of the native in our daily use when the remaining 8% of the time is reserved for the use of a web browser. But this time spent using native apps is focused on a handful of apps. If you get to be part of this handful of apps preferred by your user, it means that you have triumphed in a very aggressive competitive environment, because it is very difficult to stand out on the Stores to download his app. Indeed, a mobile app development company can act on a limited number of levers to convince the user to download his app: its title, description, and some screenshots. To stand out, the task is difficult but it is possible.
The native App remains a gateway to interact with your user. It installs directly on the home page of the smartphone and allows you to build close links with your audience, including pushing. Having a Native App is not within the reach of all, so having one brings a surplus of an image and a pledge of seriousness to your audience.
The growing mobile web
If you decide to broadcast your content on the mobile web (with a Progressive Web App for example), several sources of traffic acquisition are possible: Referral (partner sites), direct via the URL, organic (search engines) or social (Facebook, Twitter, etc). This offers a wide enough panel to promote your content and acquire users. Your acquisition policy is in your hands.
As the content of your Progressive Web App is indexed on the search engines, this leaves you more chance of going out on a long trolling search. If you’re writing content on a specific topic, interested people can find you through a Google search. A much more complicated thing to do with a native app. Actors like Facebook have tried to impose a standard to reproduce how the hyperlink works in native apps, but have not succeeded.
Another advantage of PWA is that they are accessible on all types of smartphones, but also on tablets and desktop (personal computer). All browsers are compatible. This means that even if you do not have a website, your PWA will be visible on the big screen with a suitable design. And since there is no download, the PWA consumes no disk space, on any device.
As a PWA is only accessible via a URL, there is no barrier to entry. You can easily promote it, add it to your communication media and distribute it by email or SMS. A URL is a very powerful communication tool. The URL is synonymous with universality and implies that the user can access it from any web browser.
Finally, thanks to the Service Workers, the behavior of a PWA is very similar to a Native App. Indeed, it is possible to have offline access, send push notifications, pre-load content to provide a smooth user experience. With the exception of Geofences and Beacons; and of course, sending push notifications on iPhones, the border between PWA and App Natives is very small. As such, most reputable mobile app development companies offer an alternative solution to work around this problem: sending push SMS.
A difficult choice
To choose between distributing your app on the web or in the stores, you must also consider other settings.
Indeed, if you want to use some features of geolocation, you will absolutely have to go through the channel Store (AppStore or PlayStore). As you have seen, PWAs offer geolocation functions but not geofencing and beacons. These features can be important in promoting business for example.
For Apple, some PWA features are not yet supported in the mobile iOS environment. Push notifications have been discussed, but also the ability to easily install a PWA in HomeScreen (home page). It is possible but you have to go and set it in the browser settings. Few people know about manipulation. On Android, however, as soon as you access your PWA, a pop-up offers you directly to add HomeScreen.
Your audience is also very important in choosing the channel. Android is the majority mobile OS in the world. Nevertheless, in some countries, notably Great Britain or the United States, market shares are shared. In addition, if you reach an audience identified as executives or professionals, the iPhone is the majority.
All concepts around the mobile web tend to converge to provide a better user experience. As spelled out above, the majority of the time spent on your Smartphone is via Native Apps. Nevertheless, the mobile web is progressing. It is difficult to focus on one of the two concepts.
For an editor who has no technical resources, a mobile app development company is an interesting alternative to reach all distribution channels. This is because their goal is to offer a tool that allows you to have the same user experience on all channels (Web, iOS and Android) at an affordable cost.