Introduction to Native Device Features

Explore how native device features can help PWAs feel more like dedicated apps.

Progressive web apps (PWAs) aim to provide native app–like experiences to users directly through the browser. While PWAs cannot access all device APIs like native mobile apps, they can leverage certain native features and capabilities to enhance user experience.

Key native device features

Let’s explore some key native device features that PWAs can tap into to feel more like dedicated apps:

  • Installability: One of the core tenets of PWAs is being installable on devices, just like a regular app. The web app manifest allows developers to specify metadata like name, description, icons, etc., that allows browsers to surface an “Add to Home screen” prompt.

  • Push notifications: Push notifications are a powerful way to reengage users and drive them back to apps. PWAs can support push notifications by using the Push API and service workers.

  • App badging: The web app manifest also allows setting a badge count to represent unread notifications or message counts on the app icon, just like native apps. These badges count updates even when the PWA isn’t actively open, maintaining a native experience.

  • Platform integration: PWAs integrate deeply within browser ecosystems—they can be added to home screens on iOS and launched directly there like regular iOS apps. On Android, they appear in the app launcher and switcher. This provides seamless platform integration and discoverability.

  • Device hardware access: While not at the level of native apps yet, PWAs can tap into certain device hardware capabilities through browser APIs like camera, microphone, geolocation, battery status, vibrations, etc.

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