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How Progressive Web Apps Will Affect the Mobile Revolution

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If you have a smartphone, I'm sure you've noticed that web applications are changing. Yet, are you aware of how these changes are going to impact your organization or company?

When the first iPhones came out in 2007, their storage capabilities started at 4 gb and ended at 16. The iPhone X, Apple’s latest offering, is available with 64 gb or 256 gb, showcasing just how far phone storage has come in the last decade—and the need for storage. Even though the latest iPhones have as much storage as some MacBooks, we’re starting to see just how precious space is on mobile devices. 


Now, Apple isn’t even offering its newer models in the 16 gb size—because very few people can fit the apps, photos, music and other media they have on those devices anymore. But what does that say about the future of mobile devices and apps? Will lack of storage slow down mobile progress? 


Today, 86% of Americans ages 18-29 have a smartphone, and we’re beginning to use mobile devices more often than we use laptop and desktop computers—the way we use technology is changing fast. With the mobile revolution fully underway, the challenges of device storage, overloaded networks, and unstable Internet connections can’t be ignored. That’s why some developers are thinking ahead for solutions to these problems—solutions like progressive web apps. 


What are Progressive Web Apps?


Native apps are the apps you know—they’re the apps you purchase via Apple’s app store or Google Play. They must be purchased or retrieved, and then installed on the device, often taking up hundreds of megabytes of storage. Updates can take up even more space over time, and there’s a limit to how many apps each of us can install, use, and pay attention to on a regular basis. Furthermore, they don’t function when there’s no internet connection or a poor connection. 


Progressive web apps (PWAs) look and feel a lot like native apps, but they’re more agile, speedy, and reliable under unstable internet connections. They combine the best of both worlds in that they mimic the best features of websites and apps and roll them into one. PWAs are installable, can deliver notifications to users, and offer some functionality even when no internet connection is available. Though they don’t need to be installed through app stores, some of the big players are starting to roll them out in app stores. 


Best of all? Progressive web apps take up less space on average, and they’re more convenient for users to install. 


PWAs, while they will be important for the mobile revolution, are also available for desktop, making them even more versatile and functional. 


The Sharing Economy, Small Business Apps, and the Competition for Attention


Some businesses are built solely on the communication between mobile devices, like the “sharing economy” apps including Uber, Lyft, and InstaCart. 72% of Americans have used these services, and they’re becoming an important part of our world. Small businesses are also beginning to use apps more, but getting consumers to engage with native apps is a challenge. One study showed that the average user spends 80% of their in-app time on just their top 3 apps. In the mobile revolution, engagement is everything. 


PWAs could be the answer to improved engagement and functionality. Users appreciate the ease of PWA installation since it typically takes just one click to add the app to their home screens. Native apps lose users with every click it takes to install them—and that makes engagement take a huge hit. One compelling example of this in action is the Forbes app, which saw a 43% increase in users when it switched from a native app to a PWA. 


Interest in PWAs Growing


Many developers are beginning to embrace progressive web apps for a number of reasons. Since they’re web-based, they’re naturally cross-platform, so instead of having to create an app for every type of device, only one app needs to be developed. That makes PWAs cheaper and easier to maintain and deploy, and they’re simply more reliable than native apps. 


As recently as mid-2017, some developers were irritated that Apple seemed to be the last mobile tech giant not to support PWAs. However, those fears were recently quelled when Apple announced that they will soon introduce service workers to their browser, which will introduce web apps for IOS. With Apple playing ball with PWAs, it won’t be surprising if they start picking up steam a lot faster, and truly become the face of the mobile revolution.

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Author:Ryan Ayers
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