Future of Android: Progressive Web Apps
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are widely considered to be the future of how people experience the mobile web. At their simplest form, they're websites that have been optimized for a mobile experience, with the goal of replacing traditional native apps. These apps run directly in your phone's browser, and offer a litany of benefits over traditional native apps, like enhanced security, and compatibility with a wider range of devices.
Why Appear.in Chose PWAs
At Appear.in, our goal is to make our product as easy to use as possible, for as many different users as possible. This meant prioritizing ease of access in areas such mobile, where fragmentation (especially among Android devices) can make supporting a native app a nightmare for developers (did you know more than half of all Android devices run either version 4.4 [KitKat] or version 5.0 [Lolipop]? For reference, Google recently released version 9.0 of Android).
Because of these challenges, the best route forward was to develop a solution that was accessible by anyone that was capable of running a modern browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The companies behind these browsers have massive development teams, and are easily capable of supporting the wide variety of devices that exist. For a small startup such as ourselves, this was a godsend. Suddenly we were able to build just one version of our mobile experience, and it could be run on nearly any modern device!
Of course, there are going to be some growing pains as we build out this new experience, and some features are going to be missing. While this may feel like a step backwards to some users that grew to love the native app, we know that our PWA will meet, and one day exceed the capabilities of our now discontinued native app. We ask for your patience during this time, but also would love to hear your comments, criticisms, and feedback on the direction we've chosen!
The PWA Experience
The ultimate goal for PWAs is to deliver the features and experience users expect from a traditional native app, through the use of APIs, and standards-based technologies that have been in development for years. In well executed PWAs, many users don't even realize they're using a web-based platform. Below are a few examples of PWAs (besides appear.in), that you can try for yourself!
To get the full experience, we recommend trying the following links on your mobile device
Twitter has always embraced new technologies, and the new mobile experience is no exception! They've built a PWA that allows their users to access many of the features available to desktop users and native app mobile users. What's different is that the PWA has responsive design, meaning it's compatible with a wide variety of devices and screen sizes. Additionally, it can still use features like push notifications because it's built on the PWA framework!
The Billings Gazette is a widely read newspaper based out of Billings Montana, and they chose to embrace the PWA concept to make their publication more easily accessed. Their PWA incorporates offline readability, which is another of the many capabilities that PWAs can match native apps on. The difference is that the protocol for storing data offline is standardized with PWAs, making it much faster and easier to implement
Telegram is one of the most popular messaging apps available today, and boasts both native Android and iOS apps. However, supporting many different versions of operating systems and device capabilities requires a lot of development work, and in general only the latest devices are able to take full advantage of new features. To remedy the fragmentation issue, they created a PWA, which can be accessed by any device capable of running a modern browser. What's more, the PWA is fast, responsive, and still offers all the features that are available in their mobile app!
Still interested in PWAs and their various capabilities? We'd recommend checking out Google's developer resources on PWAs, which have loads more about the possibilities than are contained in this article. They even have resources if you're interested in building your own PWA, and aren't sure where to get started!