Data usage and internet literacy: progressive web apps


Progressive Web Apps are a new form of apps, currently in early development. They seek to combine the concepts of websites with traditional mobile apps. They can be accessed both on and offline, they are cheap to develop, and they use up less of your phone’s storage than traditional apps.


PWAs are a new form of app development that link properties of websites with properties of traditional mobile apps. They can therefore function as a website and an app at the same time. PWAs can be accessed online using a URL (web address) and are then launched in your browser. They are available without having to go through an app store and require no installation. Unlike conventional web apps, PWAs can be used offline. To do this you connect the home screen of your smartphone with the app’s URL. This allows you to call up the app even if you have no internet connection. When used like this PWAs have the appearance of traditional apps.


There are many advantages of PWAs over traditional web apps and webpages;

  1. PWAs require much less of your phone’s storage space than a traditional apps.
  2. When PWAs are used online, you will always be directed to the newest version of the software available, whereas with traditional apps, it is up to you to keep it up to date. With a PWA as soon as there is an internet connection, it will automatically check for any possible updates.
  3. PWAs have a range of functions which are adaptable and can fit into the framework of the specific device you are using. This means that even if your device or browser isn’t compatible with all of the PWA’s features, you can still make use of it, just in a slightly restricted format.
  4. Even now, in the early stages of their development, PWAs can access many of your phone’s native functions, in a way visiting a webpage could not. These functions include push notifications, geolocation, camera, microphone, sensory detection of the device’s position and movement.
  5. PWAs are cheaper to develop than traditional mobile apps.
  6. Probably one of the biggest advantages of PWAs is that they can be accessed offline. This means that many platforms that traditionally were only accessible as a webpage could be accessed offline in the format of an app. This is extremely helpful because if you have limited internet access or are conscious of spending too much on data, you can still access information and content that you could previously only access online.


There are a couple of disadvantages with PWAs but these are largely to do with difficulties in developing them than issues with the concept itself;

  1. The concept of PWAs is still early in development and currently only a small number of PWAs exist.
  2. Not all browsers and operating systems currently support all functions of PWAs so their long-term ability to replace traditional apps may depend on whether iOS devices (eg. iPhones) can facilitate this technology.
  3. Currently PWAs can’t access as many of your phone’s native functions as a traditional apps. Some of the functions PWAs can’t currently access are contacts, calendar, and Bluetooth.
  4. PWAs can’t be integrated into a device’s app drawer (app tray).

PWAs have the potential to eventually replace native apps, but this would be largely dependent on receiving support from Apple. It is currently unsure if Apple would support such a movement as PWAs don’t have to be accessed through the App Store, a major source of Revenue for Apple. However even without Apple’s full support, the current market for PWAs seems to be large and lucrative enough.



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