Thought Leadership Exploring: Which Mobile Solution Is Best?

If you’re looking for mobile presence, there are a number of engagement options available: Responsive Web Design, Progressive Web App or Native Apps.

This piece explores the pros and cons to help you decide which of these will provide you with the best solution.

Introduction

Over the past decade, the number of people using mobile devices to access the internet has skyrocketed.

The number of mobile, smartphone and tablet users has also grown dramatically.

There are almost 8 billion mobile users worldwide while almost 4 billion are on smart phones and 1.3 billion using tablets.

In fact, now people consume 2x the amount of content on mobile than they do on desktop.

There have never been as many opportunities for businesses and owners to reach out to and engage with their customers.

But which solution?

What is certain is that if all you have is a traditional website you are not only behind the times but are limiting your ability to communicate, engage and build your brand thereby losing the opportunity to maximise efficiency savings, revenue, and asset value.

Mobile Options

So if you haven’t got a mobile presence there are several effective ways for you to go “mobile first” and create a mobile experience that meets the expectations of modern users.

1. Responsive Web Design

Basically a website scaled to fit a mobile phone screen thereby `creating a mobile friendly web experience. This is frankly the bare minimum for a mobile presence. Many platforms like WordPress and WIX offer this as a standard and it really is a “must have at least” for business owners.

2. Progressive Web App

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are relatively new on the scene they purport to take an approach midway between mobile websites and mobile apps. The question is are they really the best of both worlds or just a watered down version of a RWD that more agencies have the capability to build.

3. Native Mobile Apps

Users can download from the app stores and add to the home screen of their mobile devices. Apps offer better performance and mobile UX, and can harness the features of the device more effectively, although they are traditionally expensive and time consuming to build. 

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design is a technology to design responsive web pages. That means pages are created in such a way that they should be able to respond according to the user’s behaviour such as a platform, screen size, and orientation.

Progressive Web App

Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are a type of webpage or website with numerous features that were previously reserved for native apps. It can therefore also be described as a symbiosis of a responsive website and a traditional native app. Progressive web apps can be created like a web page using HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. Besides, so-called service workers use offline functionalities through optimised caching. The HTTPS protocol is required for communication between the web client and the web server.

Native App

A native mobile app is a smartphone application that is coded in a specific programming language, such as Objective C for iOS or Java for Android operating systems. Native mobile apps provide fast performance and a high degree of reliability. They also have access to a phone’s various devices, such as its camera and address book. In addition, users can use some apps without an internet connection. However, this type of app is expensive to develop because it is tied to one type of operating system, forcing the company that creates the app to make duplicate versions that work on other platforms.

Comparison – 10 Key Area Assessment

If you do not currently have even a Responsive Web Design solution get one – this is now the bare minimum and many platforms such as Wix or WordPress make this as simple as switching it on.

This comparison will focus on the two more feature rich solutions Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Native Apps

There is much coverage about the relatively new PWAs and they are definitely a better solution than a Responsive Web Design giving a better experience to web visitors but are they better than Native Apps?

Putting aside whether Google or Apple will ever allow PWA’s to be as good as Native Apps; given the commercial advantages their stores allow; we consider 10 key criteria to explore the pros and cons of these different “mobile-first” solutions:

  • Installation & Access
  • Cross – Platform Availability
  • Offline Usage
  • Storage, Data & Power
  • Updates
  • Discovery
  • Push Notifications
  • Security
  • Device Features
  • Cost

1. Installation & Access

Native Apps are found and installed through an app store, such as Google Play or Apple’s iOS App Store and the App icon will appear on the users home screen with a recognisable text screen resident and accessible there every day.

Maximising the opportunities of App Store Optimisation (ASO) you have the potential to introduce your idea or brand to new users that are searching using keywords.

Apps do have to be submitted and approved by Google & Apple with Apple being far more stringent. This takes time and can incur additional cost if your developer doesn’t know what they are doing.

Millions to market to using ASO which is helped by reviews.

Progressive Web Apps, are found through normal web browser search and run on the mobile device’s browser accessing a PWA simply by inputting the URL in the mobile browser.

Users may not be expecting the truncated web version they find if they are not aware of these relatively new editions to web design. 

A PWA can also be saved to the Mobile home screen just as they would a native app. Provided:

  1. They recognise its a PWA
  2. They know the relatively simple process to do so.

Everyone knows how to install a Mobile App and thankfully if you have invested in a PWA the latest android versions offer a prompt.

2. Cross – Platform Availability

Native App developers design an app specifically for iOS and Android users, this ensures that the experience within the native app is tailor-made to each platform. Meaning, developers have to worry less about cross-browser or platform compatibility and more on shaping their app for one specific mobile platform.

PWA’s generally take a different approach. The developer creates a responsive PWA and publishes it, leaving it to the user’s browser to display it correctly within the screen’s parameters. So its just one app to develop and yet users across a wide range of mobile browsers can engage with the app thanks to modern web technologies.

The one point worthy of note here, however, is that the interface of the PWA typically attempts to strike a balance between what you’d find with a responsive website and what you’d encounter in a native app.

With Native Apps, developers have the opportunity to create a more user-friendly experience as the app is designed specifically for the structure of a mobile device.

With PWAs, on the other hand, the time and cost savings of building just one App have, previously, been significant.

3. Offline Usage

One of the great things Native Apps can do for the end user is giving them the ability to access the information they want without having to be connected to the Internet.

What used to be the sole domain of Native, is now coming to the web as well. A PWA where possible, now also works offline using data it has cached. But it depends what gets cached and while a PWA can serve certain parts of the app to users offline, they cannot provide all aspects because anything that isn’t part of the pages natural caching will be offline until connectivity is restored.

4. Storage Data & Power

When a Native App is installed on a mobile device, it’s going to pull directly from the device’s resources.

For “heavier” apps, ones that users interact with frequently, or those they forget to close altogether – resource use in terms of power/battery, storage space and mobile data use can be significant.

PWAs can also cause similar drainage issues. Really, what it boils down to is:

  • How well-coded the app is
  • How many resources the app calls on
  • The user’s actual usage of it

If you’re trying to reach an audience that lives in a region where data networks tend to be more expensive and users are unable to pay for it, then a PWA is going to be a better option than a Responsive Web Design solution but given the UK is largely 4G and data inclusive packages abound this is hardly relevant.

Because Native Apps can work and store content for offline use too, this helps with spotty connections such as 2G.

5. Updates

There are two sides to view updates from when it comes toapps: the user’s point of view and the developer’s.

For the most part, there’s really nothing for users to do when it comes to updating native or progressive web apps.

For developers bespoke Native Apps do incur significant costs as updates are required to the native app each time there is an update to iOS / Android operating systems.

Pay attention to this when discussing development and ongoing costs with your Native App developer.

6. Discovery

For Native Apps, there are two opportunities for them to show up in search results.

  • Within the App Stores
  • In search engines but the SEO is not by page

However, the pages of the app itself cannot be indexed and listed in search engines. Instead, you have to do what’s known as App Store Optimisation (ASO). This involves app search optimisation tactics like:

  • Identify a commonly searched-for keyword (in the app store) that aptly applies to your mobile app and include it in your app title and description.
  • Use a strong title/headline that includes your selected keyword.
  • Develop a snappy and yet thoughtful description of your app.

Customer ratings also add a layer of discovery as long as they are good.

A PWA, on the other hand, will do well in terms of web SEO as it works like any other website you’d encounter online and its contents are indexed by Google and Bing and other search engines.

PWA’s may attract a higher volume of traffic than your mobile app initially.

7. Push Notifications

Push notifications are one of the key reasons why many business owners build a Native App.

They attract significantly more engagement than traditional methods such as email.

Push notifications can get 40% Click Through rates (CTR’s)

Typically emails (as stated by WIX) generate around 15-30% open rates and CTRs of only 2-5%.

To summarise, an effective push notification strategy will result in more engagement with your content and mobile app with native apps generating 10x levels of engagement.

At this point PWA’s Push Notification support is still limited to Chrome, Firefox and Opera and Mac Safari, and crucially is not available on iOS. So while you can start using Push Notifications on your PWA to engage your audience on Android, if you want to do the same to your iOS visitors, you’re going to have to; at best; wait because you shouldn’t count on Apple & iOS supporting this anytime soon; if ever as they take a dim view of notifications in general. 

PWAs are definitely making progress when it comes to push notifications but Native Apps are the clear leaders in this category. Native apps can support push notifications on both iOS and Android devices making them the right choice for any website owner who wants to engage their audience through this powerful mechanism.

8. Security

Security and privacy are key today, and companies need their mobile apps to be secure, protect their user data, and be GDPR compliant too.

Native Apps have the capability to be a secure solution for both the app owner and users. It’s easier to use Multi-Factor Authentication in a native app than in a PWA which is useful if an app has login functionality. Multi-factor authentication adds an important layer of security to native apps.

Native Apps can also use certificate pinning to prevent certain kinds of attacks, which in-browser apps such as PWAs can’t emulate. The added layer for Native Apps as a whole, is that while it may be painful for some to acquire the approval of Apple and Google those that are, are trustworthy.

PWAs are still helped over HTTPS as it allows for browser-to-server encryption. In theory as long as the website owner has created a secure environment for the PWA, it can be just as secure as any website but doesn’t come even close to any Native App.

9. Device Features

One of the mot potentially useful things about building native mobile applications for placement on a user’s mobile device is its ability to sync with other device apps and telephone features.

For example, native apps can use the:

  • Camera
  • GPS
  • Geofencing – did you even know this was there?
  • Accelerometer – do you know what it does or was there?
  • Compass
  • Contact list
  • Alarm
  • Calendar
  • SMS and Push Notifications
  • Near-field Communication
  • Mobile payments

Progressive Web Apps can be thought of as a toolkit that offer you the potential to take advantage of device features, but limitations exist and the more of these API connections you require the more the cost rises to get what are typically standard features of Native App capability.

If you want your app to benefit from tapping into all the device features that native apps can, (such as fingerprint scanners, GPS, and camera) native is the only choice.

API integrations may open up functionality to other software for users on a PWA, but even that will not give them the ability to sync their app to their phone the way a native app does.

10. Cost

Finally, we come to the matter of cost – £ and time to launch.

A Native App is generally built using specific language code for each Native App – Android and iOS.

The downside of this approach is that it typically necessitates a longer development process requiring a specific solution for each platform. Additionally, there’s always been a high cost of maintenance for native apps. Velvetech research offers the following cost guide for developing a Native App with a US- based Agency

  • Offline standalone app cost: £35.8k
  • App with moderate online connectivity cost: £57.3k
  • Chatbot app development cost: £64.5k
  • IoT or wearable application cost: £967.3k
  • Messaging application development cost: £214.9k
  • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality app cost: £286.6k
  • On-demand app development cost: £573.2k
  • M-commerce app cost: £429.9k
  • Mobile social networking app cost: £250.7k
  • Enterprise mobile app cost: £358.3k

You can also add another 20% of that annually for maintenance and updates. Built to order, will also take several months to build at a minimum. You can develop in-house but this could require 2 additional expert hires and existing staff time spent in specification development, management and testing, so don’t even think about that route.

With these high barriers, building native apps has historically been out of reach of smaller businesses.

The progressive web app, at its core, is basically a web app built in any one of a number of ways with the addition of service workers.

Developers need to replicate a lot of what the native and mobile SDKs already provide, so it still means investing in research and development, the same as you would with native app development. The typical cost can range from £3.5k in Asia and up to £17.9K in the UK and USA which on the surface seems significantly cheaper but with either PWA or Native App the devil is in the detail when it comes to cost.

Padoq’s View

Apps, like your website, are the window to your business. As more and more time is spent on mobile devices it is imperative that you focus on this area.

PWA’s are better than a Mobile Site but they are no more than a halfway house. Potential customers should not forget that they are a rich view of business for the many web developers who have seen their market eroded by web development commoditisation and the desire for Native Apps.

Your mobile presence has to be at least as good as your competitors, just to stand still. To stand out and get the plethora of benefits possible you should have a solid, functional and secure Native App.

At the end of the day If you exclude cost then a Native App offering;

  • penetration tested security
  • ownership of your highly engaged digital ecosystem
  • intuitive user experience
  • outstanding functionality that causes not just communication but deep engagement
  • a future proofed solution
  • value for investment and return on investment.

would be most people’s choice over any half way house and now the Padoq Platform transforms Native App development.

Whereas typical App development agencies are expensive will quote a development price of £36k to £1m as described and take 9 months to deliver a “high functionality” Native App. Padoq develops Native Apps with vast functionality, more cost effectively which are delivered to market faster with all of the facets above as well as significantly less project risk and design work. “Configuration over code” without diminishing functionality is a significant breakthrough when you can have both and iOS and Android Native Apps with high functionality available from £10k with 5-10% maintenance costs and delivered in 28 working days.

Native Apps are complex and do cost more because to build something this clever that can utilise the range of mobile device features, provide the best user experience while being the safest solution isn’t easy or cheap.

But where as the price differential use to be challenging for some to justify that gap just doesn’t exist anymore with the Padoq Platform.

You may not have heard of Padoq but the early adopters of Shopify and Hubspot saw their businesses and careers blossom by jumping onboard before their competitors.

Padoq’s platform is transforming the the world of mobile app development and deployment.

If you would like to know more contact: info@padoq.com

by: Padoq