Fri May 31 2024

Native Mobile Application vs Progressive Web Application (PWA): A Brief Comparison

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Native Mobile Application vs Progressive Web Application (PWA): A Brief Comparison

In the rapidly evolving world of mobile technology, businesses and developers face a crucial decision: whether to develop a native mobile application or a Progressive Web Application (PWA). Both options have their unique advantages and challenges, and the choice depends on various factors such as budget, target audience, and desired features. This article provides a brief comparison between native mobile applications and PWAs to help you make an informed decision.

What is a Native Mobile Application?

A native mobile application is a software program developed specifically for a particular mobile operating system (OS) such as iOS or Android. These apps are written in languages that are native to the OS, such as Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android. Native apps are downloaded and installed from app stores like Apple's App Store or Google Play. Native apps can provide optimized performance and take advantage of the latest technology, such as a GPS, compared to web apps or mobile cloud apps developed to be generic across multiple systems.

What is a Progressive Web Application (PWA)?

On the other hand, Progressive web applications (PWAs) is a type of application software delivered through the web, built using common web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. PWAs are designed to work on any platform that uses a standards-compliant browser. Unlike traditional web apps, PWAs offer enhanced user experiences, such as offline functionality, push notifications, and the ability to be added to the home screen, making them feel like native apps. In 2015, designer Frances Berriman and Google Chrome engineer Alex Russell coined the term "Progressive Web Apps" to describe apps taking advantage of new features supported by modern browsers, including service workers and web app manifests, that let users upgrade web apps to progressive web applications in their native operating system. Progressive web apps are an enhancement of existing web technology.

Advantages of Native Mobile Applications

1. Performance:

Native apps generally offer superior performance and speed as they are optimized for the specific operating system and can directly access device hardware and features.

2. User Experience:

They provide a more consistent and responsive user experience, adhering to the design guidelines of the respective platforms.

3. Access to Device Features:

Native apps have full access to device features like the camera, GPS, accelerometer, and more, enabling the development of feature-rich applications.

4. App Store Presence:

Being available on app stores increases visibility and provides an added layer of trust and security for users.

Advantages of Progressive Web Applications (PWAs)

1. Cross-Platform Compatibility:

PWAs are designed to work on any device with a web browser, providing a consistent experience across platforms without the need for separate codebases.

2. Cost-Effective Development:

Developing a PWA is typically more cost-effective than building separate native apps for different platforms, as a single codebase can serve all devices.

3. No Installation Required:

Users can access PWAs directly from the browser without needing to download and install from an app store, reducing friction and increasing accessibility.

4. Offline Functionality:

PWAs can work offline or with poor network conditions thanks to service workers that cache essential resources and content.

5. Automatic Updates:

PWAs update automatically, ensuring users always have the latest version without needing to download updates from an app store.

Challenges of Native Mobile Applications

1. Development Costs:

Building and maintaining separate codebases for different platforms (iOS, Android) can be expensive and time-consuming.

2. App Store Approval:

Getting approval from app stores can be a lengthy and stringent process, sometimes causing delays in deployment.

3. User Acquisition:

Convincing users to download and install an app can be challenging, especially when storage space on devices is limited.

Challenges of Progressive Web Applications (PWAs)

1. Limited Access to Device Features:

PWAs have limited access to some device features compared to native apps, which can restrict functionality for certain applications.

2. Performance:

While PWAs perform well, they may not match the high performance and responsiveness of native apps, especially for resource-intensive tasks.

3. Discoverability:

PWAs lack the visibility provided by app stores, potentially making it harder for users to discover them unless they are well-promoted through other channels.

Choosing the Right Tools

The best choice depends on your project's requirements. Here's a quick guideline:

  • Opt for a native app if your app requires complex features, full access to device functionalities, or offline functionality as a core aspect.
  • Consider a PWA if you need a broader reach, a cost-effective solution, and a fast-loading, app-like experience without extensive offline capabilities.

Remember, you can even explore hybrid approaches, combining elements of both native apps and PWAs.


Both native mobile applications and Progressive Web Applications have their strengths and weaknesses. Native apps excel in performance, user experience, and access to device features, making them suitable for complex and resource-intensive applications. On the other hand, PWAs offer cross-platform compatibility, cost-effective development, and easy accessibility, making them ideal for businesses looking to reach a broad audience with a single codebase. The choice between the two depends on your specific needs, resources, and the nature of your application.


Photograph by d1sk

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