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Progressive Web Apps Versus Native Mobile Apps

Converting a website or its functions into an application can take two forms. The first is via a Native Application. The second is via a Progressive Web Application. Their differences are based on speed, cost, and depth of integration with the customer’s device. Choosing the correct development path is crucial to ensuring your application works in the way you need it to.

This article separates the differences at a high level and offers a strategic breakdown for further reference.

an image showing side by side a web-based experience on both mobile and desktop

Native Apps

A native app is specifically developed for either IOS (via the App Store) or Android (via Google Play). They use each platform’s native code and are typically only available through their specific store.

Strengths of a Native App

  • They are built specifically for the platform they are used on which means their performance is very good which improves user experience.
  • They are able to access all of a device’s features including biometrics, geolocation, and more, leading to a greater reservoir of functionality and data.
  • They are exactly developed for the UX/UI of the devices and their OS, meaning that users have a consistent experience every time, improving user engagement.
  • They can utilize OS security such as biometrics making them more secure, preventing expensive data breaches.

Weaknesses of a Native App

  • They cost significantly more to develop and maintain which impacts revenue and growth.
  • They are subject to commission and fees via the App Store and Google Play (variable, anything from 15% to 30%) which is a further drain on revenue.
  • They take much longer to develop which impacts time to market.
  • They require the development of separate codebases (one for each platform) which is a drain on resources and could delay release.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

A Progressive Web Application uses a web browser to deliver an “app-like experience”. It can use a range of modern development tools paired with Service Workers to offer a similar experience to a Native App. They are available outside of the App Store and Google Play but can still be added to a customer’s home screen in the same way.

Benefits of a PWA

  • They are more cost-effective as they use a single codebase across all platforms.
  • They are easier and cheaper to maintain as a single update can be deployed across all user devices.
  • They increase customer penetration and data analysis as can use SEO tools and are discoverable on search engines.
  • They can receive security updates and new features much more rapidly by receiving automatic upgrades.
  • They increase customer penetration as they are easy to install and add directly to the home screen.

Weaknesses of PWAs

  • They can be resource intensive which can reduce battery life for users, impacting customer engagement.
  • They are currently unable to access certain device features which can impact customer experience and app functionality.
  • They require additional security measures to ensure maximal customer protection which can take longer to develop.
  • They receive less support via IOS than Google which can be challenging for Apple users meaning there can be disparity in the functionality enjoyed by the user base.
An image of the performance report for two apps running simultaneously: one as a native app and the other as a progressive web app

Progressive Web Apps and Native Apps: A Comparison

Choosing between the two options comes down to your specific project requirements and what you want to achieve from your app. Below are the key differences and how each might impact your business.


PWAs: They will typically improve customer engagement and satisfaction as they can use Service Workers to speed up performance with light data loads. However, with higher data loads, they can lag. Data volume is therefore essential to consider in the initial phase of your project.

Native Apps: They take a long time to download initially and can be data-heavy which is often a barrier to new users. However, once downloaded, they offer superior speeds and data loads.

Experience for Users

PWAs: customers like PWAs because their experience is consistent across all devices. This means that your choice of architecture will be effective on IOS and Android. They are typically very responsive but can be limited by older technology.

Native Apps: a good native app will have superior performance over a PWA which can inspire higher usage. Due to their complexity, errors can create significant degradation in the experience and perception of users. 

Development Process

PWAs: Comparatively, they can be launched quicker because they use the same code base for all devices. They struggle with device-specific functionality. Workarounds are often possible but can impact the budget. With PWAs, your content is not scrutinized by the app stores, so the sky is the limit on what you can present. 

Native Apps: provide thorough integration with device functionality meaning you can use things like biometrics and geolocation. They do require comprehensive development timetables based on separate code bases and are reliant on approval and revision processes from the App Store and Google Play which can delay projects and increase costs.


PWAs: the entire code base can be upgraded at the same time in a single update ensuring that security is high and new functionality can be deployed quickly without users having to download anything. It also means you only ever need to support one version of the app. Updates are reliant on internet connectivity which could be a challenge in low-signal areas.

Native Apps: the testing and rollout of upgrades can be more thorough which reduces the risk of error. However, the onus is on users to download the apps from the app store which can mean there are multiple versions out there at any one time, which can impact security.

Offline Functionality

PWAs: are dependable even in low signal areas through innovative caching and lazy loading which means that users aren’t left without functionality. Compared to native apps, their offline functionality is less comprehensive.

Native Apps: great for business-critical operations as they can use device storage to bolster offline performance at the cost of a significantly higher burden on development and the user device.

A side-by-side representation of pwa apps running on a mobile and tablet next to their desktop counterpart

The Benefits of Building a Web App

Broadly, the benefits of building a web app can be split into the financial impact and the technological impact on your organization:

PWAs Work Across Platforms

A single version of the app lowers the initial investment and the cost of future iterations. A lower initial investment means a faster time to recognize your return. The focus on a single codebase means a more efficient use of development and higher quality code and better bug fixes, all with a unified brand which helps strengthen your brand identity.

PWAs can be Developed at a Lower Cost

By reducing costs, developing a PWA can free up investment into other projects and business areas. It also means existing development can be focussed on innovative features and revenue generation rather than jumping through the hoops required by the App Store and Google Play. These new features can be marketed immediately, giving a competitive advantage. 

PWAs are Simpler to Maintain

By their very nature, PWAs can be maintained via a single upgrade which will impact all devices. This decreases Opex and enables more reliable budgeting, while simultaneously improving the user experience through an agile upgrade process.

PWAs are Quicker to Access

By getting rid of long download times and installations, PWAs drive retention and by extension, customer LTV. This can be very valuable to shareholders or potential buyers. The PWA deployment means that functionality can be introduced quickly and efficiently, outside of the App Store or Google Play review process.

PWAs can Utilize SEO 

Improving SEO reduces the cost of paid marketing and customer acquisition, increasing the overall profit of the business. This automatically drives higher organic traffic to your company, increasing customer reach and the likelihood of conversions.


The best thing is: it’s very likely that your existing website can be ported over to a PWA within weeks!

A user seamless interacts with a progressive web app on their mobile device as though it were a native app.

Develop your PWA with Fahrenheit Marketing

Fahrenheit has helped countless clients create web applications, increasing their reach so that customers can carry your company in their pocket wherever they go.

We follow a tried and tested 5-step methodology that helps to scope and define your requirements. These are our guide as we develop an app that you can be proud of, while also delivering better customer engagement and a higher return on investment.

We guarantee quality, focussing on three crucial areas:

  1. Customized PWA development, specifically tailored to your business goals.
  2. Seamless integration with your existing business systems and platforms.
  3. A design that is elegant and user-centric.

Fahrenheit Marketing has built apps you can find in the app store today. Our skills and capacity exist in both technologies– native and progressive web apps. Often our clients have come to us believing there was only one, superior path to learn that, when planned correctly, both options are viable. Determining what is best for your company is a challenge that we can help you overcome. To learn more about how Fahrenheit Marketing can help you develop your key site features into your very own application, reach out to one of the team or visit our App Development Services page.

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