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What the world needs now are more progressive web apps

Have you had a second to check out the latest Android Central roundtable? A few of us shared how many apps we each have installed on our daily drivers. Frankly, I was embarrassed by my number. I take such pride in the curation of the apps that I have installed. But there are 127 apps installed on my 32GB Pixel XL, and only about 20 of those are apps that I use regularly.

This entire experience has made me yearn for more progressive web apps — not to mention the full launch of Instant Apps, which could negate the need for installing any app at all. I don't like having an app installed for the different airlines, transit systems, and minor little services that I use from time to time. And how wonderful would it be if I could easily log into the Lyft (opens in new tab) app with my account credentials through the Chrome browser to hail a car? Or for the VSCO (opens in new tab) app to offer its hipster photo filters online? Progressive web apps are not only (pardon the cliché) the apps of the future, but they're going to make for an interesting app market, where only the worthy will merit an install.

Progressive apps I use now to get through life

Progressive web apps are, essentially, apps that contain all the functionality you need within their base code on the web so that when you visit the website through a mobile browser, everything is there! Probably one of the most popular progressive web apps is Facebook, which you can access through m.facbook.com to log in. There's even a trick if you need Facebook Messenger: tap on the option while the link is open in Chrome, and then ask the browser to request the desktop mode.

Here's another "hack": If you'd rather not have Twitter installed — a great idea for those of you constantly distracted by its content — you can simply head to mobile.twitter.com and log in through Twitter Lite. You'll have access to all the same abilities as the full-sized mobile application, and you'll save roughly 141 MB on storage space versus the 1MB used to pump the web stuff.

A few shining examples of progressive web apps.

I also appreciate the fact that Duolingo works fully through Chrome. I've been freshening up on the Romanian language myself and not only can I quickly access my lesson with just a bookmark, but Duolingo also notifies me through Chrome if I miss a day. It's wild to think that you can now learn an entirely new language with just the browser on your phone — what a boon for those looking to learn another language in countries where low-end, low-capacity phones rule the market.

There are still plenty of outdated web apps out there that aren't actually friendly to use and thus require that you have an app to do a simple little thing. For instance, I don't ride the San Francisco Bay Area's BART transit system as often as I used to, but I'm still required to have the BART Runner (opens in new tab) app installed for when I'm rushing over to the nearest station. It would also be nice to have some heavy duty photo apps run solely off the web, like Snapseed (opens in new tab), since I only ever really use something like that for editing and filtering when I'm on a trip.

Instant Apps are coming, too, and they'll be even better and more functional than progressive web apps.

Instant Apps are coming, too, and they'll be even better and more functional than progressive web apps.

Instant Apps, which are currently undergoing a limited testing phase, will also play a major role in negating the need for full apps. You'll be able to find them through Google search results. They don't rely on web optimization or HTML5, like web apps do. Instead, instant apps install a tiny bit of data locally, and it's only the most necessary functionality. We're hoping to hear about more compatibility at Google I/O 2017.

Save the best stuff for the install

I simply appreciate PWAs as a way to cut down on all the bloat.

I think I seriously need to take a step back from my phone and reassess what it is that I have installed. I prefer to save what little storage space I have (I'm not the only one who skimps out this way!) for photos, videos, and Allo sticker packs. I need to take some time to look at which apps have similar progressive web app counterparts and whether or not there are any other tricks I can utilize to become less dependent on the full-size version of other apps like Facebook.

One thing's for certain: the world of apps is going to change the more that people catch on to PWAs. The original idea for progressive web apps was for Google to help establish its unified vision for apps and services. But I simply appreciate them as a way to cut down on all the bloat.

Do you use progressive web apps?

Do you save storage space on your phone by using progressive web apps? Which are your favorites? Would you like to see more of them? Let us know in the comments below!

Florence Ion was formerly an editor and columnist at Android Central. She writes about Android-powered devices of all types and explores their usefulness in her everyday life. You can follow her on Twitter or watch her Tuesday nights on All About Android.

27 Comments
  • I don't know why it irks me. But the term "daily driver" needs to burn in hell fire.. Other then that nice article
  • Lol I think we all have cliche phrases that drive us nuts, so I totally understand
  • At first read I laughed on the inside... thinking the whole time that this was the vision and progressive attitude BlackBerry had when BB10 was released. We all know that failed due to lack of uptake and a mainstream that was not ready. After a second read I realized that more and more people are finding that using an app for everything is actually counter productive. I look forward to when the "mainstream" can offer functionality without needless bloat.
  • This is exactly what I was thinking while reading this Article. We (BB10 users) have listened to the "App Gap" sob story for years while a number of the apps already had very good usability on just the browser alone.
  • I believe Palm's WebOS predates BB10 and used the same paradigm. All first Gen apps were built to execute as html. Eventually a proper SDK was released for games and native apps.
  • Twitter lite all the way!
  • Nope, I usually use an app.
  • I recently went through the same process. It first started by cutting out Facebook about six months ago - since I rarely use it anyway - and just loading up the webpage occasionally. About two weeks ago I went through and started cutting out more, simply because I don't want the apps sitting there collecting data/using battery when I rarely use them. Google+, Amazon, Newegg, Reddit, Zillow, MasterCook (recipes) all work decently enough with shortcuts/web apps. I also just uninstalled a lot of other apps simply because I use them so rarely.
  • I try to use web apps whenever possible, unless there's major functionality missing. So I use web apps for FB, Twitter, Google News, Amazon. Etc. It may not actually make a difference, but I feel like I don't have problems with slowdowns, battery life, and cruft that others complain about.
  • Haha I'm the complete opposite. I love using apps! The experience is usually so much better than accessing the website. I've tried Facebook's mobile site and it just isn't good enough for me; the app offers more functionality and a smoother experience overall. I find the mobile site to be very clunky.
  • Instagram mobile web app let's you upload images now http://androidcentral.com/instagram-introduces-ability-upload-images-thr...
  • Instagram. Since you can upload images to the mobile web app.
  • Hopefully they will soon add the ability to tag people and locations too. I can live without the filters though.
  • I definitely like using webapps if they give me all or most of the functionality I need, especially if they are things that require an internet connection anyway, things I don't use often, or if the app is bloated and/or asks for unnecessary permissions. I mainly rely on apps for things I need offline functionality from or that do things no webapps do and I don't like having an app installed for every little purpose. I'm definitely looking forward to more progressive webapps and instant apps in the future.
  • I hate web apps. If a website does not have an app, I don't go anymore. Point blank.
  • What's the difference anyway ?
  • It's come full circle now.
    Remember the pain of mobile websites in the early days? ..how we wanted a functional app because the mobile sites sucked or were non existent.. Now we want shortcuts to the mobile sites again. I have chrome opened with 5 tabs always at least. Because I don't want the mobile apps, to many notifications.
  • easy enough to turn off notifications in an app. plus even better ​control is coming soon...?
  • I've been doing this for a while now. I started using LineageOS without Google Play Services. I can still access most Google products I care about like YouTube, Drive, Photos, etc. from any browser. I use Firefox and it works really well. It even allows YouTube to play in the background, which is something app-users of YouTube have to pay for. I do have a handful of proper Google Apps on my phone though: Google Maps, the Google App, and Google Voice Typing, none of which require Google Play Services. I manually disabled background connections on each of them, and I completely firewall Google Voice Typing from the Internet using AFWall+. I only have The Google App installed because it enabled TTS, which is unmatched by any other TTS solution like Pico. I only have Google Maps because it is easily the best maps app out there. Being behind a VPN and not signing in to any of the Google Apps on my phone essentially make it so that Google doesn't have any information about me even while using Google services.
  • ...... and Love Love Love. really? nobody?
  • There are some kinds of apps/services/webs that i use only once a week or two weeks. In those cases its perfect. Even sometimes it feels much more smoother than the original app. I dont want to have apps installed, most of them holes in backround because of the ****** apps... I only have 76 apps on my OP3T.
  • I have uninstalled 15 + APP in favour of Webapps like Freecharge, Times of India, Flipkart. experience is satisfactory and these are low on memory so far so good. Haven't felt the need to go back.
  • The web apps are the future, but right now they aren't so good because eveything works faster in the app. We need better hardware, and a small help from some code to be installed in the browser.
  • while reading the article i kept thinking ^progressive^functional
  • Maybe you should lead the way and get rid of your own app and replace it with a PWA? https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https2F2F...
  • this is a great point. i remember reading an editorial about 8 years ago that made the point that developers should be focusing less on creating a standalone app for everything and instead focus on their existing websites being optimized to run on mobile devices - in other words, get away from apps completely (except in rare cases) and use the browser on your phone for everything...and it made so much sense to me! as we know though, everything unfortunately went the other way in the years between, and you're supposed to use an app for everything now, while viewing full web pages isnt' that great on mobile, and mobile sites are weird to navigate and don't match their desktop counterparts (ever have it happen where you can't find a button/link on a mobile site that u just know should be there / is there from your computer, so you have to force the desktop site instead and find the tiny link that way?)
    and i don't think he was talking about developing for mobile sites, either... as phones are getting bigger now, let's have a browser that can just display full web content really well on a 5-7" screen!?!!
  • Love the article and agree 100%! I am really excited about what's going on with PWA's and instant apps as well. Don't get me wrong, native apps are great for a company's VIP customers and they should continue to make them available for sure, but there are times when you only need access to a vendor for a short time, such as flying an airline that you don't normally use, and in those situations Web apps are the better solution. In a grander scheme of things, web apps don't carry all the baggage, such as updates and heavy battery usage, as the native apps do. I like running my device as "skinny" as i can get it and the advances with the world wide web are getting me exactly what I want! Great piece, Flo!!