PWAs are back and you should be happy too
Mobile experience started with WAP in 1999, slow GPRS connections, tiny screens and weak mobile CPUs. Then mobile revolution arrived in 2007 (iPhone) and even more in 2010 (Android) and the apps became primary way of accessing business services on mobile devices.
HTML5 was a major breakthrough on the desktop, killing Adobe Flash, introducing canvases, location services, unified local storages, offline improvements. Mobile browsers lagged compared to their desktop equivalents. There were the times of m.mysite mobile versions with reduced experience and functionality.
Then RWD arrived to provide common experience for both desktop and mobile browser.
Death of web? “There’s an app for that”
Rapid mobile revolution made users switch to mobile apps instead of web pages on their smartphones. Well integrated with devices, icons, nice and convenient UI, offline capabilities – no more entering complex URLs in the browser etc.
It seemed mobile web is a poor fall-back solution for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t install mobile apps and its days are counted.
PWAs arrived in 2015 but were mostly ignored as novelty that cannot rival mobile apps, browser support was weak and inconsistent. Who needed web anymore when you can have a dedicated mobile app?
Therefore, the title – “PWAs are back…” is justified.
Death of apps?
There are more than million apps for Android and iOS. Most of them will never be installed and discovered by anyone.
We are constantly bombarded with prompts to install another app and another app, register, login and use it once or twice in a year.
Most of the mobile users got bored with that and no longer they so eager to install new apps all the time, go to the store, find it, install, register etc.
And that’s the perfect time for Progressive Web Apps.
Promises and benefits
PWAs promise to deliver benefits from the both worlds.
- progressive – works for every user, regardless of browser choice.
- responsive – fits any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or forms yet to emerge
- connectivity independent – service workers allow to work offline, or on low quality networks
- app-like – feel like an app to the user with app-style interactions and navigation.
- fresh – always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
- always served using https
- installable – you can continue using it as an app without launching browser at all
- linkable – installed/accessed using URL, bypassing application store
- one code base for all the platforms (desktop web, Android, iOS) – rapid pace of introducing changes to app
How does it look like for the user?
You open URL in your mobile web browser, URL typed or received via SMS, messenger, email etc.
Link can be sent by your bank, insurance company, any company, any colleague.
We use our own proof of concept example done in our ASC LAB.
You are asked to add shortcut for your home screen.
And now you have an easy access to the app.
PWA can store data locally and work offline, you can go back and see your claim, tickets, actions when your connection is poor or not available (plain?).
PWA can access your camera, location, store your data locally and transmit it when the connection is available, still you can have your local, connection independent copy of your app.
Adoption barriers are no more
Browser support used to be a major barrier, except Blink engine-based browsers (Chrome, Opera…). Apple and Microsoft with their large user bases seemed to be reluctant or slow to fully support PWAs in their ecosystems (Safari browser, Edge browser, Windows 10).
Missing features from HTML5 (storage providers, service workers) standard were of no help either.
Now, the major and only adoption barrier is the mind set of the users and decision makers.
Microsoft embraced PWAs in their Microsoft Store, Apple improved support for service workers.
The time will tell what’s next for PWAs.
We see more and more PWAs from both major and smaller companies available for the end users.
There are no technological barriers anymore, both desktop and mobile browsers support PWAs very well, all the major JS front end framework have excellent support for the developers: Angular, React, Vue.
Here, at Altkom Software and Consulting we believe there’s no reason no to offer PWAs in our software projects and products.
That’s why we’ve built and maintain our technological capabilities in this area.
Examples of PWAs
Jacek Chmiel, CTO, ASC LAB
Robert Witkowski, Senior Software Engineer, ASC LAB