Google announced on February 2 that they have taken the integration of web apps on Android to a deeper level
Developers have been asking for greater web app integration within android for a long time now. Google first promised their intention to provide a greater service to them, and users, in 2015. The roll out will begin immediately, and within a few months, it will become the default experience.
Previously, “Progressive Web Applications” (PWAs) were merely a short cut. The web-site would give a prompt to the user to download it to their Home Screen. When a user downloads a PWA they are 4 times more likely to re-access the site. However, the short cut was not easily retrievable for the user. This lead to confusion and a lack of cohesion.
Google have remedied this and more
PWAs will now be available in places like the “App Drawer” and will even be available offline. Already users of Chrome Canary are benefiting from these changes. In a few weeks, users of Chrome 57 beta will be able to also. Users can also open a PWA in settings, and interact with it in the same way they would a native app. Notification management replicates that used by a native app also.
This is different to the “Instant Apps” which Google rolled out in May 2016. Instant Apps enable a no commitment “streaming” app experience for users.
There is no obligation to download the app if they don’t intend to use it frequently
When they access a web site they can utilize unique app features as and when required. When a user accesses a PWA on Android, it will feel like they are accessing a native app.
The pre-cache feature will provide an interface even when network services are no available. Access becomes instant, and fast. Loading times will no longer exist. Generally, 53% of users will abandon a web-site if they have to endure longer than 3 seconds for it to load. Google have remedied this.
The new screen experience will immediately engage the user, immersing them in interactivity. Readily accessible are intents from other applications within the Android. Data loads in the background and the PWA can send push notifications if the user permits.
These advancements will see native apps almost becoming obsolete
PWAs can bypass Google Play and avoid the survival of the fittest experience of ratings. Google will ensure they are easily discoverable through browser searches. So will Android and Google Play become a thing of the past?
Apple previously had the most advanced PWA experience for users.
Despite his initial reluctance in 2007, Steve Jobs gave in to customer demand and allowed 3rd party apps on the iPhone. The iOS enabled web-sites to access native phone, photo, email and map features.
However, all of these were unavailable offline. Apple will have to step up their game for users now that Google has rolled out this feature.
The new features will be safe
Only developers using the safe server HTTPS can access the benefits of placing a PWA on Android. HTTPS encrypts information traveling between servers to ensure safety, privacy, and security. Rogue developers will have no access to Android users.
Google have also rolled out an interactive tool called “Lighthouse” for developers. This automated system provides a quick and easy way to create a compatible PWA. Lighthouse is a web-extension that a developer installs. Developers also use the web app manifest JSON file to control the appearance of their app. Developers also use this tool to control exactly what the app launches.
Google is again leading the way in the constant race between themselves and Apple. This is a triple win for Google, developers and Android users.