Progressive Web App vs. Native App (2021 Edition)

Progressive web app vs. native app
Source: Stencil

What are the pros and cons of using a progressive web app vs. a native app for your eCommerce store? That’s what we’ll explore in today’s article.

But first, let’s start with some definitions.

Definition: progressive web app and native app

A progressive web app (PWA) is a web-based application that is accessed using a browser. 

A native app is one that can only be installed through app stores. They work within your device and systems, while PWAs work within a browser’s capabilities.

Progressive web app vs. native app (pros and cons)

Pros of PWA

  • Only have to build a single app (as opposed to designing a version for multiple stores)
  • Easier to find and access (just type in the site URL)
  • It’s becoming more supported by places like Google to rank higher 
  • Best site performance because of supported tools 
  • People use their browsers in eCommerce more than they use native apps
  • PWAs don’t have to worry about listing approvals from Apple or Google

Cons of PWA

  • PWAs don’t have full access to the device that’s accessing them
  • They typically require access to a data/wifi connection in order to run
  • PWAs are not as data heavy as the native apps because they have fewer pre-built features and integrations. Native app tools have been around longer and therefore have more tools. Less tools = less feature-rich

Pros of native

  • Has access to what the device stores (personal information, camera, etc.)
  • Native apps are more feature-rich because they’ve been around longer and have access to more tools
  • Native apps don’t always have to be connected to the internet to function

Cons of native

  • Native apps must be built for multiple storefronts (or exist on only certain phone types)
  • To access, users must search for native apps in a store
  • Native apps are generally used less compared to websites 
  • These also tend to be more expensive to build and maintain
  • Native apps must be submitted and approved by app stores

Is PWA better for a certain type of company?

In eCommerce, PWAs tend to be the preferred form of application. PWA’s are easier to access, cheaper to build and maintain, and rank higher on Google. 

Consumers are picky about the apps they download to their phone. Single brand experiences are seldom worth the download — not to mention worth giving up some amount of personal information to a company. 

If you’re considering creating an eCommerce store, we recommend building a progressive web application over a native app. Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like our breakdown of headless vs. traditional CMS.