Progressive Web Application (PWA): What Is It and When Do You Need It?

Table of contents

  • What Is PWA?

  • PWA Features

  • Comparison to Mobile Apps: Benefits of PWA

  • PWA vs Native Mobile App

  • Disadvantages of PWA

  • So When Choose PWA?

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Do you know what a preferable way of reaching your business offerings among your clients is? Is it web or mobile? The most common situation businesses are facing is when the difference in percentage between web and mobile clients is very slight. In such a case, the decision to focus on just one type of solution results in loss of clients who prefer to use another option, while the development of both web and mobile applications leads to considerable budget spending. So is there a way to capture both audiences with a single solution?

In this post, we are going to introduce you to the notion of a progressive web application — a comparatively new type of solution that works on web and mobiles alike. Starting from the PWA definition, we will highlight the key features of such applications, compare them to traditional types of mobile apps, point out the key advantages and disadvantages of PWA, and answer the question of when to choose this type of solution. 

What Is PWA?

what is pwa

The PWA definition given above is borrowed from Wikipedia. The history of PWA (ibid.) started in 2015, when Frances Berriman and Alex Russel used the term “progressive web application” for the first time. The Android platform immediately caught the trend and started an active promotion. Two years later, in 2017, Apple joined the ranks of PWA supporters.   

Despite progressive web applications being comparatively young, world-known companies like Forbes, Lancome, AliExpress, Outlook, Spotify, and Twitter actively take advantage of such solutions. Best examples of PWA are represented by Tinder, Uber, and Pinterest. But the list of PWA examples is much wider and made up of both small startups and large enterprises. 

PWA Features

pwa features


So what makes PWAs stand out? Let’s take a look at their key features that would give you a taste of what PWA is and how it differs from other types of solutions.  


PWAs can be considered as a golden mean between web and mobile applications because they are accessible from any device you use. Furthermore, this type of apps offers access to the key functions of the app even in offline mode.

Native Look and Feel

Progressive web applications look good on both mobiles and desktops. When used from mobile devices, the interface of such apps provides app-like navigation and interactions, making them look and feel as if you are using a native app.

Constant Updates

A service worker script used in PWA keeps the application constantly updated, providing the most recent and relevant information to users.

Safety and Security

Taking advantage of such HTML5 features as web app manifest and service workers, PWAs offer the same level of security as a normal web application, allowing to browse, make transactions, and perform other actions safely. 

Quick Installation

A process of PWA installation takes just a few seconds and takes place directly in a browser, so users don’t have to waste their time on time-consuming downloads and the installation process. 

Easily Shareable as Link

You can easily share the URL of your PWA, in this way having a precious opportunity to gain new users with ease. 


Comparison to Mobile Apps: Benefits of PWA

When comparing traditional mobile apps to PWAs, there are several things on the surface that make the latter stand out:

  • Progressive web applications don’t depend on the quality of the Internet connection and can actually run offline. 
  • This type of application establishes a rapid process of data exchange with a browser that results in fast performance of the application.
  • Despite being web solutions, PWAs perfectly work and look on mobile devices as well. 

To point out more differences, let’s see how progressive web apps differ from native mobile applications.

PWA vs Native Mobile App

pwa vs native app

Here are some reasons to choose PWA over a native app:

  • Native apps are known for being one of the most expensive types of apps to create. In contrast, PWA development is cost-effective and does not include significant post-release investments.  
  • Progressive web application development takes less time and is completely in the responsibility of web developers, so you don’t have to hire mobile professionals.   
  • While native apps require full download and installation, taking storage space on your device, PWAs free you from time-consuming downloads and installations and are stored on web servers.
  • PWAs can easily attract new users as they can be shared via URL, while the only way to get a native app is via app store. Also, there is no need to meet requirements and standards set by app stores when you launch a PWA.

As you can see, PWAs beat native applications in a number of ways. Nevertheless, higher development costs, time-consuming development, the need in meeting certain standards and requirements — all these results in the following strengths of native apps:

  • Multi-factor authentication and a range of requirements set by app stores make native apps more secure than PWAs.  
  • Native apps can be enriched with a wider range of functions that are not available to PWAs. These include smart locks, proximity sensors, mobile payments,  etc.

Disadvantages of PWA

Yes, PWA is not perfect. This type of solution can work for your company's success and offer you all the above-mentioned benefits, but only after you discover PWA limitations and decide that they are not affecting your business strategy. So here they are:

pwa disadvantages

Functionality and UX

When you decide to develop a PWA, note that functional possibilities of this type of application are limited for some users. For example, iOS does not support all PWA’s functionality, resulting in less satisfying user experience compared to native mobile apps.


It’s important to understand that such technologies as Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth, etc., cannot be used in a PWA.  


On the one hand, the ability to avoid restrictions set by app stores is a great thing, but on the other — this means that your app won’t be exposed at the App Store or Google Play and you will have to find other ways of promoting your app. 

So When Choose PWA?

Progressive web applications are upping their game, offering a lot of great benefits to a large number of companies. But this does not mean that PWAs are equality good for everyone. For example, if you are planning to enrich your app with innovative mobile technologies, or your requirements contain some unique features — better look for another solution. 

  • Choose PWA over a native app if you already have one for iOS or Android but want to expand your business horizons. 
  • It does make sense to develop a PWA if your app is largely content-driven and does not require complex functionality.
  • You can choose PWA as the solution to start your business, with the advantage of capturing both web and mobile audiences and cutting development costs. Just make sure you have a good understanding of how to build your promotion strategy. 

For sure, there are more cases when PWA development makes sense. The thing to remember is that the decision on whether to develop or not develop any type of solution has to be made after a careful analysis of your business. So if you are looking for a perfect tech fit or want to clarify things and get more information, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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