Progressive Web Apps (PWA) offer a turbocharged mobile user experience. However, it’s not going to be perfect. To really optimize fully for mobile users, you’ll want to convert your PWA to a native app for iOS and Android.
Mobile apps offer a true mobile-first UX. They are have higher retention and usage rates, and can be published in the Google Play and Apple App Stores.
Building a Progressive Web App is a great choice for your web presence. But the best results come from combining this with an app presence and launching your own app. This article is going to go into more detail on why you want to build an app, and how to convert a PWA to a native app for iOS/Android – introducing MobiLoud, the best way to convert a site to mobile apps.
The Background on Mobile Web & PWAs
Once upon a time, the internet was mostly composed of static webpages. Developers had to use toolkits like Flash and Java applets to make any sort of interactivity possible. Not only were these implementations glitchy and inefficient, but they faced serious compatibility issues across different computers.
Progressive Web Applications leverage this dynamism of the new web along with technologies like service worker and web manifest to offer a native app-like user experience that works even without an internet connection.
It is no surprise that PWAs have taken off big time in a wide range of industries. A PWA is easy to build, test, and deploy, not to mention easy to update thanks to its ‘progressive’ nature.
They aren’t the be all and end all of optimizing UX for mobile devices, though. There are still strong arguments for building native apps to launch on the App Stores. A PWA for the web and mobile apps for your loyal, engaged users is really the ultimate mobile combo.
Why you Should Convert Your PWA to Mobile Apps
On paper, a progressive web app scores over a native mobile app in every respect. It’s more accessible for users, easier to develop, and runs on every kind of device without any extra work.
In the real world though, companies almost always build iOS and Android apps, even if they have already released a completely functional Progressive Web App.
How do native apps score over Progressive Web Apps?
A big plus of native apps over Progressive Web Apps is the added visibility you get by entering the app stores.
People today spend far more time on their mobiles than their PCs. A lot of these people discover new sites, apps and companies via the app stores, rather than a Google search (as you’re most likely to be discovered on desktop).
Capturing the mobile device market is essential for modern businesses, and you’ll never maximize this acquisition channel without getting into the Google Play store and the iOS App Stores.
The web is a good way to get your app “out there”. But it’s not a good way to retain your users’ attention.
When your app only exists in Google Chrome, Safari and other browsers, you’re constantly competing with other tabs. And when someone closes your tab, your app completely disappears from their mind, unless you made a hell of a lasting impression.
Apps, on the other hand, are built for loyalty and retention. Apps have 2.5 times the retention rate of mobile websites, thanks to the fact that, once downloaded, they remain in your user’s headspace, with the home screen app icon and push notifications serving as a constant reminder of what you can offer.
You can install Progressive Web Apps on iOS and Android devices. But the installation process for Progressive Web Apps is not very accessible or intuitive.
Depending on the Android version on the user’s device, the button to install a PWA might not show up at all. Even when it does, the option is not always obvious, and is seldom a single click process.
In iOS, there is no such thing as an install button. It gives users the option to ‘add the app to your home screen’, which can confuse users looking for a straightforward installer.
Installing a PWA on iOS or Android will ultimately confuse a lot of potential users, and offer a poor UX, compared to the smooth process of downloading a native app from the app store. This is something you should care about, because you’re likely to see a big jump in retention once someone successfully downloads your app.
Learn more the key points of difference between PWA vs native apps.
How to Convert Your PWA to a Native Mobile App
Let’s move on now from the why to the how of converting a PWA to a native app.
There’s no quick and easy way to port your existing code base, built for a web platform, to fully native apps.
There are certain PWA Android and iOS frameworks that make the job easier than simply rebuilding your app for mobile from the ground up. But you’re still looking at multiple months, paying expensive developers to do the work for you.
This leaves really only one option to effectively convert a PWA to a native app. This is to “wrap” your existing web application in a native app container.
This is not a true native app. It’s your PWA working like a native app in what is effectively a dedicated browser. To users it’s an app like any other, but it’s loading your web content for most of the user interface and functionality.
In most cases this provides an excellent result, provided the web app is fast and is already designed for mobile. You get all the benefits of a native app – app store presence, icon on the homescreen, intuitive installation, push notifications across Android and iOS devices. And you don’t need to rebuild anything. It’s faster, easier and cheaper.
MobiLoud is the best tooll on the market for building wrapper apps. We’ll tell you why in a bit, and show you how to use MobiLoud to convert your PWA to iOS and Android apps.
First, let’s look at some of the other options out there, so you can make an informed decision. We’ll start with something pretty straightforward, Google’s TWA.
PWA to Native App Using TWA (Android only)
In early 2019, Google implemented a new feature in Android called ‘Trusted Web Activities’. Trusted Web Activity allows a developer to run any kind of web-based application – including a PWA – on an Android device.
Basically, it opens an instance of the Google Chrome browser, which can then execute the web activity you want. In this case your PWA.
This is seems like the easiest way to get your Progressive Web App onto a native mobile platform. You get to keep your code, and only need to set up a few configuration files (and add some dependencies) to put it up on the Google Play store. You avoid the need to code in a new mobile programming language. So what’s the catch?
It’s only Android, for one. Unlike Google, Apple does not offer any direct method for putting up a PWA on its store, so the TWA method is useless for any other operating system.
It’s also not exactly straightforward. You need to set up a two-way connection between your PWA and the Android app and modify its web app manifest file to recognize and use that connection.
And you need to do this all in Android Studio, going into some nitty-gritty details like Keystore files and digital signatures, which would only be familiar to someone who has published Android apps in the past. It’s not something that your average web developer will know how to do.
Using Ionic and Cordova
You can also use hybrid app frameworks to build an app that works on both Android and iOS devices.
This might involve using Ionic to handle the front end of your app and Cordova to bridge between the app and the API of your PWA.
These tools work well, but needless to say, it’s a tedious and technically challenging project. You need someone who is familiar with these frameworks, which is not cheap (the average US salary for an Ionic developer is just under $100,000).
However, NativeScript has its own syntax and functions. Porting your existing PWA to it will involve an extensive rewrite.
If you used a framework like Angular to build your app (or have experience using it), the conversion will go much easier, as NativeScript is deeply integrated with Angular. The advantage of going this route is that it allows you to target both iOS and Android with a single codebase, which can save you a lot of time and effort.
That said, this option is more a case of rebuilding your PWA for iOS and Android apps, than simply converting it. Most will want a cheaper, faster and easier way.
Convert your PWA to Mobile Apps with MobiLoud
The options above allow you to convert your PWA to iOS and Android apps. However, they’re really only suitable for skilled developers with time on their hands. Most business owners will find these options too much trouble than they’re worth.
That’s why MobiLoud is a better choice. It allows you to get your PWA in the App Stores in just days, for a fraction of the cost.
In our (admittedly biased) opinion, it’s the best way to convert your PWA to iOS and Android apps. It’s the most affordable, fastest, and most straightforward, with no need to write a single line of code.
How does It Work?
We use web technologies known as webviews to “wrap” your PWA in a native skin that can be published on the App Stores.
For a user, this seems like a full native app experience. Yet you save 90% of the expense, time and hassle of converting your PWA to a native app.
Think of a webview like a dedicated browser for your PWA that can be installed on the user’s device. It is your existing site, with all its features. So everything from your existing PWA will work flawlessly in the apps.
The concept is similar to Google’s Trusted Web Activity (which is essentially an Android webview). But our solution lets you publish your PWA on iOS devices as well as Android, and skip over all the difficult technical details.
MobiLoud also adds native features, navigation and push notifications on top of your web content. This is key when it comes to providing an optimal user experience. Without this, you’re left with an empty webview, missing features that distinguish it from a true mobile app.
The best part is that our team of app experts there to support you. We handle all updates, maintenance and any advanced customizations you need. You don’t need to do any coding or modify any files. Just configure your apps through a simple dashboard, and our team will do all the heavy lifting.
With MobiLoud, you can launch your PWA for iOS and Android in less than a month, with little work and expense on your part. These apps will be just as good for your business as native apps, but you’ll avoid having to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a months-long development process.
How to Convert Your PWA to a Wrapper App
Launching your PWA as Android/iOS apps is extremely simple.
It will start off with a free demo call with one of our team, where you outline the goals you have, and we walk through the process with you.
From there, you’ll sign up for MobiLoud and configure the mobile features of your app, including navigation, the tab menu, and push notifications.
Then you pass it on to our team. We’ll build your apps, and pass them back to you for testing in around two weeks or less.
Once you give the green light, we handle the App Store publishing process for you. With the experience of 1,200+ apps launched, we can guarantee your app store listings will be approved.
That’s seriously all it takes. You’ll be getting installs from the App Stores in no time, where otherwise you (or your developer) would still be deep in the weeds trying to port the PWA version of your app to mobile.
Get Your PWA in the App Stores Now
Converting your PWA to Android and iOS apps is a great decision, no matter what option you go with. But by using MobiLoud, you’ll save a ton of unnecessary stress and investment, and launch your apps fast.
Once you’re live, you’ll have all your bases covered. A PWA for visibility on the mobile web, and iOS and Android apps to increase visibility, boost retention, and communicate with your users better than you can with web push notifications.
In time, this is going to be the blueprint for every business with a digital presence. But there’s still time for you to get in while having iOS and Android apps sets you apart from the competition.
Get in touch with our team to learn more, and we’ll answer any questions you might have – or just sign up and start building great apps today.