Convergence Of Web and Mobile Technologies
In the world of tech, sooner all later different platforms start to look alike. This can be seen with such examples as faxing and email or Skype and WhatsApp. Initially sending faxes meant owning a fax machine but now it can be done with a computer and a scanner or even with just a mobile phone and using Whatsapp initially meant only sending text messages but now there is voice available just like with Skype.
Of late there have been exciting paradigms from web development that are converging web technologies with mobile technologies. Whilst initially one had to think of web development as separate from mobile development, these new paradigms are making it possible for the two technologies to be mentioned in the same breath.
The App Concept
The term app is short for application. Many people associate the word app with mobile devices. However apps can be found on any sufficiently advanced electronic system. Essentially apps are pieces of software that are typically small-scale and can often be installed on a target device with a particular operating system.
Most people also associate the word app with mobile phones but it is applicable across a wide range of computer systems. This blog discusses apps in light of common usage and explores new ways in which the way we view apps is changing.
On the mobile phone, there are currently two dominant operating systems that provide the software on which a phone and its apps will operate. One of the mobile phone operating system is Android and the other is the Apple IOS.
Android and Apple IOS are incompatible systems, which means that apps developed for one platform cannot be installed on the other. This presents a challenge for owners of mobile devices because it ideally means two apps have to be developed for the same idea; one for Android and the other for Apple IOS.
Developing two apps for the same app concept is both a technical and economic challenge. The technical side of it arises from the fact that the incompatible systems mean that either a highly versatile developer proficient on both platforms is available to develop the app or two separate teams need to develop the app idea.
Hiring two separate teams to execute on the same idea is expensive for the owner of the concept. The expense arises due to the fact that each team assigned to develop the app will have a cost for developers. Furthermore, because the two teams will need distinct technologies to achieve the task of developing the app.
Another notable aspect of mobile apps is the app store. App stores are convenient places where users can download apps for their respective mobile device on a particular platform. To make things even more complicated, Android and Apple IOS each have their own version of an app store.
Enter Progressive Web Apps
A new paradigm in how apps are perceived is the concept of Progressive Web Apps. Progressive Web App (PWA) is a term used to denote a new software development methodology.
Unlike traditional applications, progressive web apps are a hybrid of regular web pages (or websites) and a mobile application. This new application model attempts to combine features offered by most modern browsers with the benefits of mobile experience.
Essentially, this brings together web and mobile technologies. Instead of thinking of web apps as being targeted on desktop or laptop computers and mobile apps being focussed on mobile devices, PWA target all devices. Progressive web apps are designed to conform to whatever device is being used to view them through a browser.
In order to use a PWA, users do not need to install any special software. They also do not need to go through an app store. All they need is a browser that is already installed on their phone or computer. Users also have the option to install the app from their browser.
What is remarkable is that a PWA app will work whether you are on Android or Apple IOS devices like iPhone or iPad. This is one of the great advantages of PWA. Unlike native aps which often mean that two apps have to be developed, each for Android and Apple IOS, with Progressive Web Apps the app is developed once to be used on all platforms including desktop or laptop.
Not only does this cut down on the costs of producing the app but also ensures that users get a consistent experience regardless of what device they are using. PWA are also smaller in size and do not cost as much to the user as native apps in terms of bandwidth.
Advantages to adopting Progressive Web Apps include the following;
- Progressive - Work for every user, regardless of device choice because they’re built with progressive enhancement as a core tenet.
- Responsive - Fit any form factor: desktop, mobile, tablet, or forms yet to emerge.
- App-Nature - With app-style interactions and navigation.
- Fresh - Always up-to-date thanks to the service worker update process.
- Safe - Served via HTTPS to prevent snooping and ensure content hasn’t been tampered with.
- Discoverable - Are identifiable as “applications” thanks to W3C manifests and service worker registration scope allowing search engines to find them.
- Installable - Allow users to “keep” apps they find most useful on their home screen without the hassle of an app store.
- Linkable - Easily shared via a URL and do not require complex installation.
One App For All Platforms
In the convergence of apps between mobile technologies and web technologies, Progressive Web Apps are a big step in the right direction. Instead of thinking in silos of operation, PWA present the opportunity for consistency of the user experience across all devices. And what can be better than that?
Not only do owner of PWA achieve consistency, they also cut down on costs that would result from requiring two teams to each develop the same app idea in the form of separate Android and IOS apps. One App for all platforms, including computers, is a win-win for both the app owner and its users.