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The State Of Progressive Web Apps Adoption By Developers In 2021

David Dal Busco
Creator of DeckDeckGo | Organizer of the Ionic Zürich Meetup
Originally published at daviddalbusco.Medium ・6 min read

Photo by Monica Sauro on Unsplash


For the second year in a row, I ran some polls on Twitter about the relationship between developers and Progressive Web Apps.

Are PWA preached or adopted by developers? Do they use these on mobile and desktop? Do they develop these even if their support on iOS is not optimal? Do they think Apple will ever implement Web Push Notifications?

Here are some interesting facts and figures resulting of the new edition of my surveys.


Limitation

I am not a statistician nor an expert in the redaction and interpretation of polls. In addition, the surveys happened on Twitter, therefore the answers were given by the people within my reach.

For such reasons, please do interpret following figures and comments as information, not facts.

Note also I am an Open Source and Progressive Web Apps aficionado. I will try my best to remain impartial in my writing 😉.


58% Of The Developers Do Not Use Installed PWA On Mobile

I am using on a daily basis the Progressive Web Apps of DEV.to and Twitter. That’s why I was firstly interested in the question of adoption regarding the usage on mobile devices.

To my surprise, 58% of the developers are not using any PWA, installed on their phone home screen, on a weekly basis. That’s –11% fewer developers using regularly such applications instead of native apps (those you get through the App Store or Google Play Store) than previous survey.

Of course both types of applications are not mutually exclusive. It is common to say that PWA are a good fit to acquire early adopters and, that native fits well loyal customers.

The question also emphases the installation of the application on the devices’ home screen. If we ignore this variable and, would also consider the apps that are used directly in the browser, I would tend to think that the number of users would be probably higher.

That being said, roughly summarized, half of the developers do not use Progressive Web Apps installed on their mobile devices on a weekly basis.


58% Of Those Who Do Not Use PWA Are On iOS

The Progressive Web Apps is not optimal on iOS, I can notably mention the lack of installation prompt and, the absence of Web Push Notifications, I was looking to discover if, as previous year, the adoption rate was link to the operating system.

In the end, the answer is not so clear. 58% of those who do not use PWA have iPhones.

Such number is quite stable (-5%) in comparison to previous survey and still display a bigger “rejection” rate on iOS. Nevertheless, the gap is not that big.

However, among all results of this blog post, this particular one is to my opinion the one that should be taken with the most hindsight. I ran its poll on a Saturday and, it gathered really few answers.


30% On Desktop

After-all, what if in addition or instead of mobile devices, the future of PWA would not be primarily on desktop? This is one of the hypotheses which followed last year survey and, which I was willing to test.

As a result, I discovered that 30% of the developers are using PWA installed on their computers (pinned to dock, desktop or start menu) on a weekly basis.

On this type of device we are used to installing applications or using browser’s favorites features, that’s why I particularly find this number quite interesting.

Furthermore, being able to install Progressive Web Apps on the desktop, with the help of an installation button in the browsers, is something which can be still considered as, to some extension, a recent feature (if I am not wrong, for example introduced two years ago in Chrome v76 for the first time).


72% Developed New PWAs in 2020

Adoption as a user is something but, what about the development behavior. Do the developers developed one or many Progressive Web Apps in 2020?

As a matter of fact, they did. 72% of the devs have initialized new PWAs last year.

This question would probably need some more questions to refine the granularity of the question (do they “just” added a worker to cache the assets or did they develop the applications with offline first strategies? etc.) but, for the majority it seems that it is the way to go development wise.


One Third Have Published PWA In Google Play Store

Thanks to the help of bubblewrap and tools build around it as the PWABuilder, it is possible relatively easily to publish Progressive Web Apps in the Google Play Store.

Because I am quite a fan of this solution, I wondered if other developers were too.

According to my surveys, 18 developers within my reach (one third of those who answered the poll) have already published their Progressive Web Apps in the Google Play Store.

Trusted Web Activities, the new option defined by Google to open web-app such as PWA on Android is a fairly new solution. It was introduced, if I am not wrong, begin of year2020. Therefore, it is an interesting result to get to know that some early developer’s adopters have already used such medium.


Will Apple Implement Web Push Notifications?

To end up the surveys with a question, which to my eyes has a direct link with the adoption rate of Progressive Web Apps on mobile devices, I asked developers if they think Apple will ever support Web Push Notifications on iOS.

After-all, they do already support such feature on OSX but, do not on iOS devices (even though their strategy seems to merge both experience, think as for example about the M1 processor 🤷‍)️.

15% think it will happen for sure, and for the rest, the developers are divided between whether it can happen or never (both 42.5%).

Not really a surprise to me that the trust in Apple is low on Twitter when it comes to the topic Web and Progressive Web Apps. Interesting on the other hand is that it is not a clear “all or nothing” scenario. Many developers do think it might happen. I would guess that probably some, as I do, think states’ regulations or anti-trust might be able someday to force Apple to open its mobile system. Remember, even if you install Chrome or Firefox on your iPhone, it is still Safari underneath.


Conclusion

I have got a bit mixed feeling about the results of this survey. To some extension, as a Progressive Web Apps aficionado, I am a bit disappointed that fewer developers seem to use these on a weekly basis on mobile devices. On the contrary, I am happy to notice the promising adoption’s rate on desktop and, that others ship their PWA to the Google Play Store too.

I just added a reminder for June 2022 in my calendar to run such surveys again and, I am already looking forward to the results.

To infinity and beyond!

David

P.S.: You can read the results of the previous surveys, those of 2020, here.


You can reach me on Twitter or my website.

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Discussion (6)

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tcelestino profile image
Tiago Celestino

On iOS, in my opinion, you can save the PWA if you been using Safari, because others browsers (I used to Firefox) don't have a possible. It's a problem for me. I don't want to open Safari to save a PWA in my home screen. I know this a Apple's rules and I know that not changes now or in the future.

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daviddalbusco profile image
David Dal Busco Author

Hopefully it will change in the future, I still do hope that some regulation will force Apple to open its OS because of its monopolistic position. Let's see, until then, unfortunately no install prompt, no push notifications, etc.

Thx for the feedback!

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codecustard profile image
Emmanuel Barroga

I think that the reason that not alot of developers are using PWA daily is simply to the fact that PWA aren't really anything special. In a nutshell, they're merely websites that use features that were not available to websites in the past. If you were to survey people about their usage of PWA and quantify it by determining if they installed it onto their homescreen or not, then I would say that it isn't an accurate measure of usage. Alot of websites request things such as location and camera access to name a couple... I would say that is a PWA, even though the user doesn't install it onto their homescreen.

Another thing to take into consideration is presentation of PWAs.... Half of people might not even be aware of PWAs. For instance, the call to action and the way landing pages for mobile applications are designed to get you to install the application is very apparent. You can't say the same for how alot of PWAs call to action to install it. Most would simply mistaken it for a website bookmark homescreen shortcut, or worse... if it uses basic browser banner/popups it looks like yet another shady thing trying to request for permission to do some thing you have no idea and have no patience to figure out and simply go into auto mode and deny.

For instance, I frequent dev.to alot, and I just visited it on my phone to see how to install it onto my homescreen and it's really not that apparent....

The adoption rate of PWA is probably higher than it seems as to me, anything could be a PWA and the end user wouldn't even know it.

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daviddalbusco profile image
David Dal Busco Author

Thank your for the feedback, you share some valid arguments 👍.

In the future the presentation might become clearer. Chrome is testing or has developed a richer PWA installation UI. This might prevent what you describe and/or improve the user engagement.

Generally speaking, agree with you, the adoption rate of PWA is probably higher.

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fasani profile image
Michael Fasani

Web Push Notifications for me was a recent deal breaker, I wanted to make a PWA simple HTML+JS+CSS that would work on all devices but product/business want a simple alert counter on the icon.

We wont move forward with a PWA until Apple implement Web Push Notifications. It is really such a basic feature of an app.

I guess now instead we will do something with React Native instead.

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daviddalbusco profile image
David Dal Busco Author • Edited

I can understand for mobile, if Apple devices have to be targeted too, that the lack of Web Push Notifications is a no go. Hopefully it will happens someday.

To the contrary, on desktop, I personally do not see any show stopper currently to not use these.

Have fun with React Native then 😉