HomeTechnologyNewsWhy you should use more web apps on your phone

Why you should use more web apps on your phone

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Joe Fedewa / How-To Geekl

Apps have been a core component of the smartphone experience from the very beginning. They have only gotten better over the years, but so have web browsers. You probably don’t need as many native apps as you think – web apps are great.

What is a web application?

A web app, also known as a “progressive web app” (PWA), is essentially an app that runs in a web browser. It looks and feels like a native app that you would install from the Play Store or App Store, but it runs in Chrome, Edge, or Safari. You can even “install” the web app on your home screen and run it like any other app.

There is a difference between a web app and a mobile website. Many websites have specific versions for mobile browsers, but not necessarily Web applications. A website has mostly static content, while a web application is designed more for user interaction.

A website can be bookmarked and added to your home screen, but it will only open a new tab in the browser when you launch it. A web application opens in its own instance, separate from the web browser in which it runs. That’s why it feels closer to a native app.

Web apps are lightweight

The biggest advantage of a web app over a native mobile app is that you don’t need to download or install anything. The web app works within a browser, which means there is nothing extra to download. As long as you have a browser and an internet connection, the web app works like a native app.

Web applications are also very easy to update. You don’t have to visit the app store to see if there’s an update waiting for you, or manually apply an update. Updates are usually deployed without you realizing it. Simply starting the web app will load the latest version.

Since web apps run in the browser, they are great for maximizing storage on your phone. Native apps take up more space and download files as you use them. Web apps are mostly cloud-based, so they don’t rely on as many files on your actual device.

easy login

Speaking of the browser, that leads to another advantage of web apps. Since I already have most of my usernames and passwords synced and saved in my browser, logging into the web apps is a breeze. I don’t need to rely on a system-wide autofill service. All my information is already saved in the browser.

Social networking sites, for example, are perfect for web applications. Elk is a Mastodon client that I really like, and the web app is especially good. Logging in is a breeze as I already use the website on my synced desktop browser. I can put it on the home screen and use it like any other app, but I didn’t have to download anything.

Notifications have improved

One area where native apps have traditionally had an advantage is notifications. The good news is that web apps have now dramatically improved notifications. You can use a web app without worrying about missed notifications.

Those popups you see in browsers for notifications can be annoying on desktop, but they’re useful if you’re using web apps on your phone. Chrome, Edge, and Safari support notifications and web apps. However, moving some of my social media usage to web apps made me realize I don’t need as many notifications as I thought.

How to use web apps on iPhone and Android

You’ll need to use Safari on iPhone and Chrome or Edge on Android for the best web app experience. We’ll show you how to add web apps to your home screen, making them feel like native apps.

Some websites will notify you that they can be installed as web applications. Just tap on the message and you can “Install” it on your home screen.

If you don’t see a popup like that, you can manually add the web app to your home screen.

How to Add a Web App to Your iPhone Home Screen

On iPhone, you’ll need to use Safari to add a web app to your home screen. Tap the share button in Safari to bring up the menu.

Share Ribbon button in Safari on iPhone

Scroll down and tap on “Add to Home Screen”.

Tap Add to Home Screen in Safari on iPhone

Rename the shortcut if you want, then tap “Add” in the top right corner.

If the website is an actual web application, the shortcut will open its own separate “application” window. Websites that aren’t web apps will simply open a new tab in Safari.

How to Add a Web App to the Android Home Screen

On Android, you can add a web app to your home screen from Chrome or any other browser you prefer. In Chrome, tap on the three-dot icon in the top right corner.

chrome settings

If the website is a web application, you will see the option to “Install it”. This will add the web app to your app drawer along with all the other apps on your phone.

touch "install apps".

If the website is not a web app, you will see the option “Add to home screen” in the menu.

Add button to Chrome home screen

That’s all about it. For web apps you use frequently, it’s great to be able to find them in your app drawer and on your home screen.


Web applications have improved a lot over the years. Native apps are great for a lot of things, but I’m finding more services that can be replaced with web apps. It’s just an easier and lighter experience. Give it a try if you haven’t already.

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