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PWA and Native Apps in 2021: Detailed Comparison

In the post, we’ll figure out what are the chief pros and cons of PWAs and native apps. Further, we’ll consider the crucial question – “What product development to choose for your business: a progressive web app or native app?”.

Introducing PWA and Native Apps allows businesses to improve relationships with customers and boost the company’s growth. However, each of the products’ development has its particular features and use cases that need to be considered before implementing them into reality.


  1. What is a Progressive Web Application?
    • Pros of PWA
    • Cons of PWA
  2. What is a Native App?
    • Pros of Native Applications
    • Cons of Native Applications
  3. PWA vs. Native Apps: Comparison
  4. PWA vs Native Apps: Which One to Choose?
  5. FAQ

What is a Progressive Web Application?

Progressive Web Application (PWA) is an innovative cross-platform technology, which means, you can open the webpage on almost any device. To illustrate, if you are using a desktop browser, the PWA will function as a standard internet site. But if you open a PWA on an Android or iOS device, you get a functional hybrid of a website and an app. Twitter, Uber, Starbucks, Pinterest are popular examples of PWA you might be familiar with.

Uber PWA example on desktop
Uber PWA example on a desktop
Uber PWA example on mobile
Uber PWA example on mobile

Pros of PWA

  1. Adaptability.

    PWA is the same on the screens of any device and works regardless of the installed browser. This is very convenient since you don’t need to develop a separate product for each operating system and pay for support for cross-platform apps.

  2. Instant load.

    PWA works faster than the traditional website. Since 53% of users abandon a website if the page downloads longer than 3 seconds (according to Google research), speed is an enormous benefit of PWA.

  3. Offline mode.

    While online, the PWA syncs data and updates it in the cache. You can have access to it with a low connection to the internet or even without it. A great plus to loyalty!

  4. Quick installation.

    With PWA, there is no need for you to search for an app on the Play Market or App Store. If you like a site or its business product, just click the “Add to Screen” icon and you will immediately receive a shortcut to the site on your desktop.

  5. Incredibly lightweight.

    PWA takes up less space than other traditional apps. For example, due to the introduction of the PWA technology, Pinterest reduced the size of its app to 150 KB when before it was 9.6 MB on Android and 56 MB on iOS.

Cons of PWA

  1. JavaScript is used for PWA development, which is more difficult to handle on mobile devices than native apps. As a result, the battery consumption increases.
  2. Dependency on the browser.

    The PWA works well on the most recent versions of popular browsers. However, in case a customer uses an outdated version, some browser errors are possible.

  3. Limit compatibility with iOS.

    The system version must be 11.3+ for establishing full and active use of iOS. In another way, some smartphone functions may not work, for example, motion sensors or cameras. That is to say, if this is extremely important for your product, you have to look for other ways of development.

What is a Native App?

When a native app, we mean a mobile application created particularly for a certain online platform. The user downloads the native app through the store of a particular platform (the Play Store or the Apple App Store) and directly installs it on his device. 

Native app example PWA and Native Apps
Native app example

Depending on the chosen platform, a different programming language is used for developing the native app. That is, Swift or Objective-C are leveraged to write a native iOS app. On the contrary, Java or Kotlin is used for native Android apps.

Pros of Native Applications

  1. Diversity of technology.

    Today there is a huge number of different frameworks, templates, and other proven tools that will make your native app customized and stable. You are unlikely to encounter a problem that no one has solved before you. Consequently, you save your time and resources on looking for a suitable solution.

  2. Increased quality.

    Years of experience in development and clear standards for native iOS and Android applications guaranteed to create a high-quality product with wide functionality and reduce the risk of bugs to almost a minimum (we all know that cost of software bugs is huge). What’s more, using the major platform languages allows apps to respond quickly and show exceptional performance.

  3. High percentage of relevance to the device.

    The native app complies with all the parameters of a specific platform, which means it is optimized for it in the best way. So when downloading a native app, the user can be sure that it will work properly and be 100% suitable for his device.

  4. Quality functionality and user experience.

    The native approach stores app resources in the device memory and maximizes the use of OS features. Thus, the native app provides the ultimate user experience. Besides, it allows for standalone functionality, which is difficult to implement in cross platform mobile app development services.

  5. High security and reliability.

    Since a native app is created for a specific platform without any workarounds or tricks, it provides top security and stability. Native development makes it easy to assess risks and leverage multi-factor authentication to improve user security.

Cons of Native Applications

  1. Costly in development

    Native applications require time and highly skilled developers with years of experience. Therefore, such apps are rated high in price, especially for companies looking for cross-platform OS apps.

  2. Time-consuming

    When working on the native apps, different engineering teams are involved in the development. It can be parallel work or one team terminates the app and then another team starts its work. In this case, the app takes more time to create.

  3. Frequency of updating

    Mobile platforms regularly update their systems to improve usability and security. That is why, the native application will run smoothly and efficiently if the user has an updated version; otherwise, some problems may arise.

PWA vs. Native Apps: Comparison

To better understand the difference between a PWA and a native app, let’s observe the below spreadsheet.

FeaturesNative appProgressive Web Application
Installation on the home screen++
No download through app stores+
Offline work++
Push notifications++
Cross-platform availability+
Automation updates++
Indexed by search engines+
Have UI for mobile devices++
Have URL (can be linked and shared)+

PWA vs Native Apps: Which One to Choose? 

Business use cases

Taking into account the features and the key differences of PWA and Native Apps, we can summarize the next tips. You should turn to native app development if:

  • your product requires free access to particular resources and services of the device (camera, SMS, telephony, network, Bluetooth, sensors);
  • the application must provide the full work offline;
  • your product involves functions that need a lot of processing power.

Choose PWA if you need to: 

  • quickly launch the product or to test an idea;
  • develop an app with simple functionality that will be cross-platform and still allows interacting with the user via push notifications;
  • wrap up your site in an app for a minimal price;
  • improve SEO and increase business awareness.

Tips for the suitable solution

All in all, to decide what to choose – a progressive web app or native app development for your business – you need first to identify what tasks it should solve. The answers to the following questions can help you: 

  • Do you need an additional source for traffic or lead generation?
  • Does your product provide the complexity of the functionality, graphics (how difficult it is to draw)?
  • How do you plan to promote the product, what about monetization?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you already have the website?

Only after you have straightforward answers and an understanding of your product’s goals, choose the experienced engineering team for the development. Read more about how to select your best vendor in our latest article.

At FreySoft, we know that every case needs a customized approach. That is why first we make research and analysis of your niche and potential users and after offer the strategy and solution for your project.

We have engineers specialized in both PWA and native app development. You are welcomed to check our cases that speak for ourselves. 

Contact us, and we help you find the solution that suits your needs, requirements, as well as your target audience.


Is PWA good for e-commerce? 

The benefits of progressive web applications are excellent for e-commerce businesses. First, responsive content reduces bounce rates across the board, thereby increasing user engagement rates, which is a prominent SEO ranking signal. Secondly, PWA allows expanding the market and the use cases since browsing and buying are possible on most devices anywhere. Thirdly, you can interact with your customers via push notifications and still have these great customer acquisition opportunities. 

Read more about how to drive business with PWA in our previous article

What is the difference between a hybrid app and a PWA?

A hybrid mobile application is built using a combination of the Web and proprietary technologies. It is downloaded from the app store. On the contrary, a PWA is an application created with web technologies that run in a browser and can be added to the home screen in one click. PWA is not distributed through native app stores.

Is PWA better than React Native?

React Native is a well-known framework for developing cross-platform mobile apps. Such apps are powerful and integrate better at a basic level with the system. However,  if you are looking for a way to quickly reach customers with minimal cost and time, PWA is undoubtedly the way forward.

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