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A few weeks ago at the All Things Open conference I was introduced to a term I had heard a few times but had not done much research on: “Progressive Web Apps”. Wikipedia describes Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as “regular web pages or websites but can appear to the user like traditional applications or native mobile applications. In other words, PWAs are websites that look and behave like mobile apps. Now, isn’t that interesting?

It appears that the main priority of PWAs is to combine the benefits of modern browsers and web development with the benefits of a mobile experience. Several checklists by Google Developers contain the requirements for being considered a baseline PWA as well as an exemplary PWA. They also suggest using the Lighthouse tool for “improving the performance, quality, and correctness of your webapps.”

The baseline PWA requirements are:

  • Site is served over HTTPS
  • Pages are responsive on tablets & mobile devices
  • All app URLs load while offline
  • Metadata provided for Add to Home screen
  • First load fast even on 3G
  • Site works cross-browser
  • Page transitions don’t feel like they block on the network
  • Each page has a URL

It is evident from this list of requirements that Progressive Web Apps are really aimed at providing a secure, modern online and offline experience, much like mobile apps. Let’s look at some reasons why people might prefer a PWA to a native mobile app.

Preferring PWAs


Discoverability

PWAs allow developers to leverage the search engine benefits of SEO practices. In this way, existing search engine SEO strategies can be employed in order to promote an app rather than App Store Optimization techniques.

Usability

One of the requirements for classification as a PWA is that is works across different browsers. This rule means that not only can PWAs be used on computers across operating systems, but on mobile web browsers as well.

Additionally, users don’t need to go through the process of grabbing an app install from the app store. This implies that developers also don’t need to go through the process of uploading apps to be reviewed by Google and Apple before releasing any updates. This, in turn, means instant updates for developers and end users.

Caching / Offline Usage

One of the typical benefits of mobile apps over web apps are the amount of storage you have access to. With modern Cache APIs, users can install their PWAs to their home screen and access the app offline without needing to download any additional data. This functionality mimics that of a mobile app and unlike most websites, allows users to use the app even without internet.

Push Notifications

The age of notifications is upon us. Hardly an hour goes by without receiving a handful of notifications from various social media networks, emails, messages, etc. PWAs bring this functionality to the web, allowing you to receive notifications straight to your device, whatever it may be.

Hesitations about PWAs

While there are many upsides to the growth of Progressive Web Apps, upsides I am personally excited about, I would be remiss if I didn’t address their potential downsides as well.

Security

Because PWAs don’t receive the same sort of App Store review that Google and Apple require, developers can stick anything they want into their apps. This means that if a developer chooses to be secretly malicious, they could, and there’s no review process stopping them from doing so.

Functionality

Web apps can do a lot, but they can’t do everything. There is a lot of functionality only able to be utilized by native mobile apps still. PWAs are gaining ground every day, and as such are growing in the number of previously native-only features offered. Despite their gains, however, native apps still have many features that PWAs simply don’t have the ability to accomplish yet. Check this site to see if the functionality you want to add can be done with a PWA!

Platform Limitations

Plain and simple, iOS likes iOS apps. PWAs are only as successful as the platform that they are to be used on. As stated above, PWAs are gaining support every day. Within a few years I fully expect PWAs to have a majority of the functionality normally afforded solely to native apps.

Final Thoughts

Progressive Web Apps are a wave. Whether they are the wave of the future is yet to be seen. The fact that Google is pushing PWAs should be a sign of things to come, as they are often at the forefront of web development technologies (See: Angular, Vue). It will be awhile before PWAs gain all the functionality that native apps currently have, but they are on their way. Batten down the hatches and ignore the naysayers – viva la Progressive Web App!

Hurricane season may be tapering off as we enter the last week of October, but the use of technology during all sorts of natural disasters shows no signs of stopping. As we all know, the United States experienced three powerful hurricanes in August and September (Harvey, Irma and Maria), each delivering an unprecedented amount of flooding and damage to the areas impacted. Then deadly wildfires ripped through the California wine country. Earthquakes shook Mexico.

Enter technology.

More than ever before, we witnessed mobile apps at work during these disasters connecting victims with the aid they desperately needed.

Zello, a free app that turns your iPhone into a walkie-talkie by using a WiFi signal when cell service was down, shot to the top of the App Store. And it was used by the “Cajun Navy” to rescue hundreds in Texas following the flooding by Hurricane Harvey.

Ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft offered free rides to shelters for evacuees, while AirBnB used their platform to arrange free shelter for victims in the homes of hosts.

In Florida with Hurricane Irma approaching, residents were urged to flee north and as roads jammed with traffic, gas was in short supply and high demand. Florida Governor Rick Scott urged citizens to utilize GasBuddy, an iOS and Android app which typically crowdsources pump prices from users, to track fuel availability. Elsewhere in Florida, Tesla gave drivers of certain models an extra boost on their batteries allowing for additional mileage before needing to recharge.

More than a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the island is still largely without power and cellular service. But efforts from Google, Apple and AT&T within the past week have allowed some users to reconnect to cellular service through Alphabet X’s Project Loon balloons. Yes, balloons are currently helping provide internet to the island.

Both Apple and Android released collections of apps tailored for the disasters at hand, such as the Google Play Store’s Hurricane Irma collection.

In Mexico, two devastating earthquakes shook the nation and took hundreds of lives. But a new early warning app called SkyAlert has seen 5.8 million user downloads.

As wildfires ripped across California, iOS and Android app CAL FIRE helped residents prepare and provided real-time updates on the fire’s latest status.

Like most things in life, technology’s presence in natural disaster recoveries is not without blemish as CEOs of major tech giants are known to make a blunderor twoor three. However, it’s obvious that blemishes and all, technology will now always play a vital part in how we respond to devastation. In this article, former FEMA spokesperson Rafael Lemaitre admitted that in a post-Katrina world there is a part for citizens’ and the private sector’s involvement in recovery efforts. No longer do we expect or count on the government to handle it all. And, according to Lemaitre, tech companies…“could be a big help.”

Your Android app’s visibility in the Google Play Store can be just as important as building the app itself. Today we’re sharing a few tips to optimize your Android app’s Google Play Store listing and improve its visibility for users.

Of course, total installs and positive reviews are extremely helpful for your app’s visibility, but there are also steps you can take to ensure that Google’s search algorithm will prioritize your app as highly as possible in the search results.

Keywords in the Application Title

Use keywords in your application title. Google takes app title into account when ranking your app in search results, so adding a few relevant and descriptive keywords to your app’s title can help it rank higher. There are 50 characters (recently upped from 30) to work with, so come up with a name that succinctly summarizes your app. For example, the GrubHub Google Play Store listing’s title is not just “Grubhub” it is “Grubhub Food Delivery/Takeout”.

Keywords in the App Description

Use keywords in the app description. In the Google Play Store, description greatly affects your app’s ranking (unlike Apple’s App Store, which provides a separate keyword field and does not take the description into account when ranking). Repeat your chosen keywords several times in your description, but use them in a way that sounds natural (Google has policies against spamming keywords, see here).

Long-tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords refer to phrases that are specific enough to target users that are in the later stages of their search for an app. These users are more likely to find what they are looking for in your app, and thus are more likely to install. Long-tail keywords also face less competition than more generic keywords in search results. Think “local used car shopping” vs. just “shopping”. An app that helps users find used cars for sale in their area is more likely to show up in a search for “local used car shopping” than in a search for “shopping” because fewer apps are using that same combination of keywords. Keep this concept in mind when determining what keywords to include in your app’s store listing.

External Links

Use external links that send users to your app’s Google Play Store page. External links to your app’s listing cause Google to rank your app a bit higher in search results. You should encourage reputable sites, blogs, etc. to include links to your app’s store listing.

These few tips are easy to implement and are great options for optimizing your Android app for the Google Play Store. If you need help launching your Android App to the Google Play Store, let us know!

 

This year at their annual developer’s conference, I/O, Google announced that Android now supports Kotlin. For those that don’t know, Kotlin is a cleaner and more expressive and modern language than Java. Our Android team is excited to begin learning and implementing Kotlin. With numerous features and benefits, I thought I’d share the top four features I am excited to dig into.

Nullable types

Touted as the solution to NullPointerExceptions, nullable types in Kotlin make surprise null values in your code much less likely. There is no need for constant null checks as functions and fields on nullable types can be accessed safely with the ? operator.

Reduced to:

Kotlin properties and data classes

With properties in Kotlin, getters and setters are no longer necessary. Getters and setters are created for properties automatically and implicitly called when the property is accessed. This will significantly reduce clutter in data model classes. Additionally, the data keyword in Kotlin can be used to create a data model class with automatic implementations of methods like equals, hashCode, toString, and others.

Reduced to:

Extension methods

In Kotlin, classes can be extended to include custom functionality right where you need it as opposed to creating an entirely new class that extends the one you need custom functionality for. Behind the scenes, Kotlin actually creates static methods for the extension methods where the first parameter is an instance of the extended class.

The milesAfterTrip method used earlier could be added to the Car object as follows:

Lambda functions and Inline functions

Kotlin has better support for functional programming than Java with proper function types.

Whereas the Java code above requires the Predicate<T> interface, the same code in Kotlin could be:

Inline functions eliminate the overhead of lambda functions, which typically cause the creation of an anonymous class and the capture of a closure. Functions marked as inline will simply execute the code contained in the lambda functions that are passed to it at the call sites.

If we make the printOldCars function used earlier inline like so:

Then the result of calling printOldCars:

Is equivalent to

Functionally, this is the same as before, but now the oldCarTester lambda that is passed in does not require additional memory allocations. By the way, the let function used above is also an inline function. You can read more about inline functions here.

These are just a few of the features available in Kotlin. You can explore more Kotlin here.

Interested in an Android app? Or need help maintaining an existing one? Drop us a line. We’d love to chat with you!