PWA vs. Flutter mobile apps
The widespread use of smartphones has led to an increase in demand for mobile applications. Many businesses are now investigating how to tap into this market to engage with their customers and boost sales.
In the world of mobile app development, two technologies are vying for attention: Progressive Web Apps (PWA) and Flutter. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand both to make an informed decision when selecting the right technology for your project. In this article, we’ll take a look at both technologies and compare their strengths and weaknesses.
Progressive web apps (PWAs)
PWAs can be used to create mobile experiences quickly and often cost less than developing native applications. They also allow developers to leverage features such as deep linking, which allows users to link directly to a particular page within the application from an external source. Progressive enhancement is used to ensure that users on older devices or browsers continue to have an optimal experience.
Flutter is a mobile development framework for creating cross-platform apps. It has been created by Google, and uses the Dart programming language. Unlike native apps, where separate apps are developed for Android and iOS, Flutter uses a single codebase for both platforms, which allows developers to write code once and deploy the same app on multiple platforms, reducing time and cost.
Flutter also utilizes widgets and materials to create a native-like experience on multiple operating systems. Flutter apps are fast and look like native apps, but the development speed is faster, and the development cost is lower. Cross-platform mobile apps should not be confused with hybrid apps, which are web apps, just like PWA.
Unlike PWAs, which are deployed as web apps, Flutter apps are compiled into native code and delivered as an installable package. This speeds it up for users to launch the app and allows developers to utilize platform-specific capabilities like access to device-specific sensors (e.g., gyroscope, microphone, etc.).
PWA vs. Flutter
This is a video from Samsung A50. It presents a PWA supplied by an online store engine.
This is a video from Samsung A50. It presents a mobile app that we have developed for the online store.
PWA vs. mobile apps
Another essential aspect of mobile applications is their ability to function even when there is no internet connection. Once downloaded, a mobile app can work without an internet connection, accessing the data saved on the device. PWAs use caching techniques to allow users to access some content offline, but this is mainly limited to frequently accessed content. Therefore, if your business relies heavily on offline access, a mobile app might be the best solution.
User Acquisition and Engagement
Mobile apps are mainly found in app stores, and businesses rely on app store optimization to gain visibility, downloads, and user engagement. PWAs, on the other hand, are distributed via URLs, making them more discoverable through search engines. Moreover, users can access PWAs directly from the business website, making it easy to promote and offer targeted marketing campaigns. Both options offer a unique way of engaging with customers, and choosing between the two depends on your business objectives.
A mobile app delivers a personalized experience focused on the functionality of a device. Users expect a smooth and effortless experience, and mobile apps are designed to meet such expectations. PWAs, on the other hand, provide an app-like experience, but they may not provide the same level of personalization and user experience that mobile apps offer. Depending on your business requirements, choosing an appropriate user experience between the two can be a daunting task.
Progressive web apps – benefits
Development speed is slightly faster than that of Flutter apps and significantly faster than that of native apps. Publishing apps is not necessary.
Reduced development costs compared to Flutter development and even more so compared to native apps’ development, where 2 separate apps are created.
Progressive web apps update automatically.
A PWA takes less storage space on a mobile device than a Flutter app.
Search engine friendliness.
Flutter apps – benefits
Better user experience. Apps offer a superior user interface, designed according to Google and Apple recommendations, compared to generic PWAs. Combined with faster UI performance, this ensures a better user experience.
Apps also provide more flexibility in terms of design, animations, and custom features, making it easier to create a unique user experience.
Offline mode support. Like native apps, Flutter apps can work fully offline. PWAs offer only partial offline mode, by caching recent or frequently accessed data (service workers).
Access to advanced smartphone features. Unlike PWA, apps can access all native device features such as sensors, GPS, and NFC, even when offline. Many mobile device features do not work in PWA on iOS.
Push notifications, mobile payments and usage of NFC chips are easy in apps. So are in-app purchases.
Interacting with other apps. Apps can call other apps to perform various actions like calling, sharing, accessing the calendar, and more.
Less battery drainage than PWAs. Apps are more energy efficient than PWAs, as they don’t require a browser window to be open for the app to run.
Fewer data downloaded. As the app UI is built into it, it is not downloaded. Only the data themselves are downloaded.
Greater security, lower level access to the user’s device, and multifactor authentication.
No browser dependability. PWA depends on the web browser installed on the user’s device. On modern browsers, PWA might work well, but if some user has an old browser, PWA might not work correctly.
Testing both native apps and Flutter apps is easier than PWA.
App discoverability thanks to the Google Play Store and App Store.
Prestige. The app stores prevent poor-quality apps from being published. Users are more confident to download an app from the store than using a URL link. App stores increase brand awareness. Furthermore, not everyone can afford an app, therefore owning it is prestigious by itself.
Native apps vs. PWA
Native mobile apps, often referred to simply as native apps, are a type of software application built in a specific programming language for a specific device operating system. iOS apps, for example, are built using Apple’s Software Development Kit (SDK), typically utilizing the Swift or Objective-C languages. These apps are designed with robust security features, including multi factor authentication, and are tailored to provide the best experience for iOS users. Android apps are developed using Kotlin and Java languages, the Android SDK and can use all the device features.
While native apps generally offer a smoother, more integrated user experience on mobile devices, they come with higher development costs as you need to build separate apps for each operating system. This is where cross-platform frameworks come into play, like Flutter described above.
However, one of the key advantages of native apps over PWAs is their discoverability in app stores. They make it possible to send push notifications to re-engage users, until users uninstall the app. Furthermore, native apps can sync data between a device and a database, making them a better option for applications that require offline access.
One significant advantage of PWAs over native apps is that they are cheaper to develop. Developers can use modern web development tools, such as React and Vue, to build PWAs faster than mobile apps. Mobile apps require different versions for Android and iOS, and the cost of developing and maintaining them can be high. Additionally, app store fees and commissions can add to the overall cost of building mobile applications.
The choice between developing a native app, Flutter app or a PWA depends largely on the target audience, project requirements, and available resources. While PWAs offer faster development times and cost savings, Flutter apps provide a better user experience and access to advanced smartphone features. For a simple app, PWAs may be the better option as they are easier to maintain, update, and launch quickly. For more complex applications that require perfect, smooth UI, offline mode, some access to native device features, but at the same time – time and cost are important, Flutter apps are generally preferred. Native apps are even better when advanced native device features usage is a must. Anyway, if you want to increase your brand awareness, have an app developed for you.
Ultimately, it’s essential to evaluate your project needs before deciding which is right for you. Consider the cost and development timeline, compatibility, scalability, security, performance, and other factors. Taking these issues into consideration will help ensure the success of your project.