Many developers shy away from web app development because they believe native apps have superior performance and are their best shot at reaching a large audience.

However, modern web apps can be released on any mobile device with a browser, which means they’re available to both smartphone and feature phone users.

Focusing only on native app development means missing out on millions of users around the world who are priced out of the smartphone market. Web app development not only provides access to a larger and more diverse audience but also allows you to go from idea to completed app faster and easier.

Web apps and their slightly more advanced counterparts, progressive web apps (PWAs), are an overlooked opportunity for developers. Here’s why it’s time to get on board.

Coding for web app development is simple and efficient

Web app development involves less complicated coding languages and shorter development timelines. And because web apps work across platforms, developers only need to test code once. Companies maintaining native apps need to invest in two sets of teams for the Play Store and App Store, thus a higher cost of R&D.

KaiOS app developer Eli Shulga “went from zero to submitted in four days” when developing a game for the KaiStore. His first game for a native platform took him nearly six months from start to finish.

Updating web apps on the KaiStore is quick and easy as well. If the web app is hosted, any changes to the back-end will force an automatic update. For packaged apps in the KaiStore, developers can simply submit the updated files, and the update will be live within 48 working hours.

For native platforms, you’ll have to go back through each platform’s separate app submission process. If your app is rejected, you’re likely to receive a generic response, sometimes from a bot instead of a human.

Whether you’re a beginner developer or just someone who wants to get their app onto devices quickly, web app development provides an excellent avenue.

“PWAs are a great option for beginners and independent developers. It’s so much easier to take an idea, build it, and deploy to all platforms.” — Alec Plummer, PWA developer

KaiOS provides free development resources such as the OS simulator.

Thanks to the simpler coding languages (HTML and JavaScript) and the variety of free resources available to improve your coding skills, web app development is extremely accessible.

Conversion rates are higher

Big companies, like Pinterest, Tinder, and Starbucks, have already seen the value of offering web versions of their apps. Several studies show that PWAs often lead to increased conversion rates.

52% average increase in conversion rates

Web apps have an SEO advantage because they are discoverable through an internet search. Once discovered, the apps can be installed on the device’s home screen in just one click, likely contributing to the average 52% increase in conversion rates.

Downloading native apps eats up data, which is a serious deterrent for data-conscious consumers. In fact, many users look for alternatives to downloading native apps, such as using file-sharing apps or “rogue” app stores which are detrimental to their internet security and user experience. Web apps and PWAs give users a better alternative.

Jeremy Doutte, co-CEO for Nigerian online marketplace Jumia, said that switching to a PWA made a big difference with customers: “We’re closer to our users with web push because it’s a more personal way to communicate with them. Customers aren’t willing to download our [native] apps, as they dread the impact on their data bills.”

This is also a major selling point for consumers in emerging markets where network coverage is limited.

“For intermittent internet access, PWAs are better. I don’t have to spend 40MBs on downloading an app. If you’re on a limited bandwidth, downloading an app will eat up your data and maybe you have to wait until next month to actually use it. With PWAs, you can add to the home screen and you don’t have to use much data to download it. This is great for developing countries.” — Alec Plummer, PWA developer

Web apps have the potential to reach a more diverse audience

Web app development not only allows you to enter a less competitive space but also helps you reach previously untapped markets through KaiOS

In more than half of low-and middle-income countries (LMICs), the price of an internet-enabled phone is greater than 20% of the average monthly income. This leaves mobile internet out of reach for millions of consumers in these markets.

“I think the web has a much broader reach. Much more diverse, maybe even cultural . . . almost everyone has internet access in the U.S. [In LMICs], if people don’t have access to smartphones, native apps won’t reach them. If the goal is to reach more people, web apps are the way to go.” — Alec Plummer, PWA developer

Web app development helps you reach a wider and more diverse user base because web apps are accessible on affordable smart feature phones. Consider this: in 2016 the average smartphone cost US$282. KaiOS sells smart feature phones for as low as US$11.

Developing apps for smart feature phones gives you a better chance of putting your content into the hands of the newly connected — an audience that would be difficult to reach through native platforms.

KaiOS developer account fees are $0

The Apple App Store bills developers $99 per year for an account, and Google Play charges a one-time $25 fee.

KaiOS removes these financial barriers by offering free developer accounts. Developers can learn to build apps for KaiOS with free resources and then release a packaged web app or a hosted app to the users through the KaiStore.

With KaiOS, developers get the added benefit of free personalized feedback. If you send an email to developer support, you will receive a response directly from our engineering team. When submitting to native platforms, your app submission could be rejected, and you’ll have to waste valuable time trying to figure out why. The KaiOS team provides complimentary support throughout the process of app submission and up until the app goes live. Developers also receive detailed feedback and insights on any submitted apps.

Native app developers: It’s time to try web app development

With web technologies continuing to improve, developers have begun to take note of this previously overlooked opportunity. Thanks to advancements in web app development, web apps and PWAs can provide a more native app-like experience while requiring less time, money, and effort from developers.

This is your chance to get your content in front of millions of users, many of whom will be going online for the very first time. Web app development is the future for mobile internet. Will you be a part of it?

Visit the KaiOS developer portal to get started! →