A hot new thing in the mobile world is Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) and it’s possible they might spell the end for the humble native mobile app. Google has just effectively green-lighted PWAs to be the future of Android. Mobile expert Henrik Joreteg over at his blog explains.
A PWA is basically a webpage that offers a native-like experience and can be stored on your smartphone. Up until now, Android has only supported PWAs by giving you the option in Chrome to add one to your homescreen, making it effectively no more than a glorified bookmark. A far cry from the dream of a native app killer.
But PWAs are without many of the problems that plague native apps. These problems include: the challenge of breaking into the top 5 to 8 apps on a person’s phone, the slow app approval process over which you have no control and the fact that the average number of new installed apps per user in the US is a big, fat... zero.
Case studies show that key metrics like retention and conversions are much better with PWAs thanks to the absence of these issues. But none of this mattered until now because PWAs were second-class citiziens in the mobile world. They weren’t listed among your apps, you couldn’t change the icon, you couldn’t find them in the app stores and push notifications didn’t work if they were disabled on Chrome.
The big news is that Google announced at the Chrome Dev Summit that PWAs will soon become APKs on Android, meaning they can be built and side-loaded by Chrome in the OS to be, for the first time, fully-fledged mobile apps. You can try it now if you download the latest Chrome Canary and Android OS. Simply enable ‘improved add to homescreen’ at ‘chrome://flags’ in your browser and you’re away.
Henrik notes that with Android having one billion monthly users, this could mark a big change in the way users obtain, and businesses build, mobile apps. Others like Microsoft and Opera are sure to follow. Even Apple when it sees the way the wind is blowing. This could mean the beginning of the end for native apps.