Apple likes to maintain control over its platforms and products, which is why the technology giant has scuffled with everyone from Epic Games to Basecamp over bypassed App Store fees. However, Apple’s level of control is going to shift as progressive web apps increase in popularity.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) Allow Devs to Create Web Apps
PWAs allow developers to create web apps that operate like native apps without the need to download anything from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store.
How Will Google’s and Apple’s Battle Over PWAs End?
Apple maintains that apps need to be “beyond a repackaged website,” subjectively approving native apps based on their perceived unique value.
While Apple suggests some developers turn their projects into PWAs, it’s clear that the tech giant prioritizes native apps.
Google, on the other hand, actively supports PWAs through its open-source Chromium foundation and Project Fugu (which helps PWAs compete against native apps).
PWAs are still a growing force, but Google’s Chrome browser supporting nearly 65% of internet users means progressive web apps could someday become the preferred solution.
Microsoft and Samsung have climbed aboard the PWA bandwagon, and even Apple has begrudgingly enabled some fundamental PWA features on its devices. Business leaders who want to want to maintain a cutting-edge tech advantage should also consider investing in PWAs.
Considering the Future of PWAs
Apple isn’t necessarily out to block web development progress. The tech giant prioritizes user privacy on its Safari browser — and speed, security, and sustainable battery usage on its devices.
Web app developers might not focus on the same elements, so even if they don’t have sinister motives in mind, they might design PWAs without regard for users’ notification preferences or device batteries.
Objecting to the Risks of a Web-Based Software Future
Objecting to the risks of a web-based software future, Google has pushed PWA updates and features in almost every release of its Chrome browser.
Although there might be some potential revenue losses if developers decide to distribute their PWAs individually, the tech giant foresees its Play Store still serving as one of the main hosting platforms.
Plus, Google recognizes the advantages of PWAs and allows the distribution of web apps in the Play Store with minor modifications.
The Customer Side of PWAs
On the customer side, users don’t need to update PWAs manually. Instead, app adjustments are loaded with each server session.
PWAs also load more quickly and are compatible across different devices, allowing user access independent of operating systems.
The Business Side of PWAs
On the business side, developers can create and maintain a single, scalable application rather than three separate versions. They also don’t have to worry about their applications taking up valuable device storage.
Apple isn’t entirely shutting down PWAs; the tech giant is adding support for features like Service Workers — which allows web apps to deliver push notifications even when they are not open in a browser.
This adoption will steadily increase as developers and users recognize the benefits of PWAs and move away from native apps.
Web Apps Not Tied to Specific Operating System
Since web apps aren’t tied to a specific operating system, users who currently prefer either Apple or Android will have one fewer reason to choose the one they’ve always gone with.
This kind of flexibility frees up the web as a software foundation from the clutches of a single company — whether it’s Apple, Google, Microsoft, or a future competitor.
Google Adjusts Chrome for PWAs
But even as Google adjusts Chrome for PWAs, it can’t reach Apple’s devices. Apple requires all browsers to use Safari’s foundation, WebKit. While users can download Chrome on their iPhones and iPads, Apple can dictate which Chrome technologies are useable.
This allows Apple to water down PWAs and drives traffic to the App Store instead, which isn’t a surprise considering the Apple App Store raked in about $64 billion in 2020.
Apple’s Play Moving Forward
Make no mistake: If PWAs evolve to offer a superior user experience for customers on Android — Apple is unlikely to let its devices play second fiddle. After all, estimates indicate that the iPhone owns nearly half of the U.S. smartphone market.
Apple will do what’s necessary to protect its share no matter how much revenue the App Store will have to cede. For that reason, businesses can expect to see PWAs begin to play a larger role in the future.
End of Native App Dominance?
PWAs are an exciting development that could spell the end of native app dominance and device segregation.
Although Apple’s argument for the importance of secure, vetted native applications — like those offered in its App Store — might hold some weight, for now, Google is pushing for the development and distribution of PWAs.
With the additional backing by Microsoft and Samsung, PWAs are positioned to play a major role in the device experience of the not-so-distant future.
Businesses should definitely keep an eye on this technology to make sure they’re ready to provide users with the best experience possible.
Image Credit: piotr makowski; unsplash; thank you!