The most prolific native apps have a web-app as a fallback - think of the ones you use most - logging in to the (Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/etc) websites using your smartphone’s browser still provides a reasonable experience.
If that fall-back is a PWA, then it will currently support important features, including some native functionality for Windows 10 and Android devices, with iOS expected in the near future.
This fall-back means that if (for example) an app isn’t available for Blackberry users, they’re not excluded, and more importantly, it provides an ‘access anywhere’ solution where users aren’t tied to using a device that has the app installed, (or being forced to temporarily download the app) just to quickly check something while borrowing someone else’s device.
So strategically, starting with a PWA before going native, makes a lot of sense as it allows you to:
- Provide the widest support for your customer base, with forward/backward compatibility
- Work out foibles before staking your reputation in the app stores
- Understand user behaviour to justify investment in native features and/or versions
- Reduce the effort and risk involved in meeting your original deadline
- Remove much of the friction in the user journey to access your app
- Provide an ‘access anywhere’ platform, instead of siloed apps¡
- Target users of the PWA with adverts for the native version (if you build one)
Because of this, PWAs are receiving praise from leading brands, with many case studies reporting double-digit increases in conversion rates, a trend likely to grow with future iOS support.
2015 Statistics for the US show use of mobiles split between apps at 90% versus just 10% for web browsing (however extensive use of social media, entertainment and gaming skews this by 66%). There are also limitations to PWAs compared to true native apps, however the gap between them in terms of usability and capability is decreasing, and with it, the viability of native apps.
For some, ‘native’ may be an inevitability, although for most of you reading this, a PWA-first strategy will help you justify any business case for ‘native’, while putting users first from the outset.