Apps on a mobile device

Disruption in the App development market offers lower cost of entry to businesses undergoing digital transformation

Tim Collingwood - 29 March 2018

So, you’ve been tasked with launching a snazzy new app for your company. You’ve decided that you need the app to be available on Android and iOS devices. Not only that but you also need to make the functionality available for desktop users.

You get quotes to build and support the apps and the overall cost exceeds your budget for the project. You are then faced with either cutting down the scope of the project, releasing your app on less devices, or sourcing more budget for your project.

What if there was a different way? Disruption in the App development market in the form of Progressive Web Apps may just be the answer.

Let’s start by understanding what a native app is.

What are Native Apps?

Native apps are built using the technologies which are specific to the device the app has been built for.

Android provide a JDK (Java Development Kit) and Apple provide an iOS SDK (Software Development Kit) in order to allow developers to create apps for their respective platforms. You can’t run an app developed for Android on iOS devices and vice-versa.

Native apps are available to download via apps stores, and generally when we talk about ‘apps’, native apps are what most people commonly think of.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

A Progressive Web App is an app built using web technologies which includes features to provide a user experience which is parallel to a native app.

When the first iPhone was announced in January 2007 there was no concept of an App Store. Six months after Apple announced the iPhone, at WWDC 2007, Steve Jobs announced the support of apps that could be built using the latest web technologies and touted that it wouldn’t need an SDK. These apps again wouldn’t be provided through an app store.

Apple finally introduced an app store in 2008 which allowed developers to create native apps for the iPhone. This allowed users to download apps which could be installed and used offline. Subsequent updates released other features such as push notifications. These features aren’t exclusive to Apple, however they are exclusive to native apps.

With the introduction of Service Workers we can expect to see features that are normally reserved for native applications, such as push notifications and background syncing, available for web based apps.

A Service Worker is a script that is associated with your web based app but runs separately to it. The Service Worker runs in the background therefore enabling features that don’t require user interaction with your app.

The following video shows how a Service Worker can be used to send a message in the background even though the app is closed.

You can check out a real world Progressive Web App in the form of Twitter Lite which was the result of a partnership between Google and Twitter.

This is all great, but how can Progressive Web Apps help your business?

Like developing native apps, building Progressive Web Apps costs money. However, there are a number of ways in which Progressive Web Apps can help reduce the costs associated with digital transformation compared to developing native apps.

Let’s take the scenario outlined at the top of this post as an example.

It’s reasonable to think that you may expect to undertake three different projects to launch your native apps across iOS, Android, and Desktop platforms. Undertaking three separate development projects will cost both time and money. In addition, you will then have to support and maintain the app on the different platforms going forward, potentially with different suppliers.

Progressive Web Apps which are built using web technologies are platform agnostic. In turn this means you can use a single code-base to provide your app across multiple platforms. There is a clear saving when developing a single code-base rather than three separate native apps. In addition, support, maintenance, and future development of the app is reduced as you only need to manage and update a single code-base.

There are other benefits of Progressive Web Apps, app release is in your complete control as apps aren’t delivered through Apps Stores, they are available via a URL. This also means you don’t have to go through any review processes which could result in further development and added project costs.

If you are considering development of an app, you should first consider whether you need a native app or whether you can take advantage of savings that Progressive Web Apps offer. If you would like to talk to us about an app please get in touch.