Category: Blog, Business, Fundamentals

What Is a Mobile App – All You Should Know as a Future Product Owner

What is a mobile application? What kind of benefits does it bring to businesses? Read this guide to learn about the process of building a mobile app.

what is a mobile application

Mobile is a growing industry that attracts businesses from every marketplace. No wonder – mobile app market revenue is forecasted to grow at an annual rate of 8.83% (2022 – 2027), reaching an estimated market size of US$673.80 billion by 2027.

The exploding popularity of smartphones and tablets has made mobile application development an increasingly popular trend among business owners all over the world. But what exactly is a mobile app? What kind of benefits does it bring to businesses? And what does the process of building a mobile application look like?

We prepared a guide that answers all of these questions and more! Read on to learn everything you need to know about mobile apps and their development.

All this knowledge comes from our 13 years of experience which we have gained as an Android, iOS, and Flutter app development company.

What is a mobile application?

A mobile application (also called a mobile app) is a type of application designed to run on a mobile device, which can be a smartphone or tablet computer. Even if apps are usually small software units with limited function, they still manage to provide users with quality services and experiences.

Contrary to applications designed for desktop computers, mobile applications move away from integrated software systems. Instead, each mobile app provides an isolated and limited functionality. For example, it can be a game, a calculator, or a mobile web browser.

Because of the limited hardware resources of the early mobile devices, mobile apps avoided multi-functionality. However, even if the devices used today are far more sophisticated, mobile apps remain narrowly functional. This is how mobile app owners allow consumers to handpick exactly the functions their devices should have.

Key mobile app development technologies

Let’s explore the various technical aspects to make it easier to understand how to build a mobile app. This includes both the technologies used to build mobile apps and the solutions that make other apps work well on mobile devices.

Native app development:

Made just for mobile platforms, native apps use special coding languages perfect for each system. That’s why we call them “native” – they’re made to fit a certain phone or operating system, like iOS for iPhones or Android for other smartphones. They use everything the phone offers, from camera to speed, to work really well. You install them right on your phone, and they work the best and look the nicest compared to other kinds of apps.

Technology examples: Swift (for iOS), Kotlin (for Android)

Characteristics: High performance, best user experience, full access to device capabilities. The main drawback is higher development and maintenance costs due to separate codebases for each platform.

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Web app development

Although traditionally not considered “mobile apps” in the strict sense, web apps are websites that look and feel like apps on your phone or computer. You use a browser like Chrome or Safari to open them. They adjust to fit any screen size, from big computers to small phones. You don’t download them from app stores, so they require minimum device memory. But, they might not work as smoothly or use your phone’s features as well as apps you install.

Technology examples: HTML, CSS, JavaScript

Characteristics: Runs in web browsers, no installation needed, easy to maintain but performs worse than native apps, with limited device features access. Main downside: needs a strong internet connection. Developers have fewer API options, mainly for common features like geolocation.

Hybrid app development

Hybrid apps mix web apps and regular mobile apps. They are made with web technology (like websites) but are put into a mobile app shell, so you can download them from app stores. They can do some things that regular apps do, like using your camera or notifications. They’re a middle ground, not as perfect as regular apps but better than just web apps.

Technology examples: Cordova, Ionic, React Native, Flutter

Characteristics: Quick and simple development with a single codebase for all platforms reduces maintenance costs and simplifies updates. Developers can use APIs for features like gyroscope or geolocation. However, hybrid apps may run slower and have performance issues. Also, their appearance might vary across different devices.

Cross-platform app development

Cross-platform app development lets developers create mobile apps for iOS and Android using one code base, unlike native app development that needs separate codes for each platform. This approach saves time, effort, and money, making it attractive for businesses aiming to reach more users. It also provides a consistent experience across different devices and platforms, making app development more efficient.

Technology examples: React Native, Flutter, Ionic, Kotlin Multiplatform

Characteristics: Allows development with a single codebase for multiple platforms, closer performance to native apps compared to hybrid, access to device features through plugins or native code, growing in popularity due to balance between performance and development efficiency.

Progressive web apps (PWAs)

PWAs are web apps that feel more like regular apps. You can put an icon on your home screen, use it without the internet, and get notifications. They try to give you the best of both web and mobile apps, running in a browser but acting like a regular app.

Technology examples: Service Workers, Web App Manifests

Characteristics: A type of web app designed to work on any platform that uses a standards-compliant browser, including both desktop and mobile devices, offering functionalities like offline availability, push notifications, and device hardware access, aiming to provide a user experience similar to that of native apps.

Server-side rendered (SSR) apps

SSR is a way to make web apps faster and better for search engines, by preparing the page on a server before it gets to your phone or computer. It’s not a type of app but a technique to make web apps better, especially for mobile users.

Technology examples: Next.js (for React), Nuxt.js (for Vue.js)

Characteristics: Techniques for improving performance and SEO of web applications by rendering them on the server before sending them to the client, often used in the context of building more performant and SEO-friendly web apps.

All these types are important for making apps. They fit different needs, depending on what the app is supposed to do, who will use it, and the budget. What makes an app “mobile” is how well it works on mobile devices, not just the technology used to make it.

Types of mobile applications

Mobile applications come in all shapes and sizes. Here are the most popular types of mobile apps to help you understand the current trends in the mobile landscape.

revenue of mobile apps market divided by app category
Source: Statista
  • Gaming apps: These are the stars of the app world. Many people load their phones with games, from simple puzzles to complex adventures. Gaming is huge because it’s fun and can be very profitable for businesses – games like Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds are famous worldwide.. In 2022, the gaming industry generated $184 billion, with mobile games contributing $92 billion to this total. This means that mobile gaming accounted for 50% of the entire gaming market.

Statista predicts that the mobile games market size will grow to $118.9 billion by 2027.

  • Social networking apps: Using social media is a top activity online. By 2022, there were 4.59 billion social media users globally, and this is expected to rise to nearly six billion by 2027. Apps like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn have become a key part of how people use the internet every day. On average, people spend 151 minutes daily on social media and messaging, which is 40 minutes more than in 2015. Users in Latin America spend the most time on social media each day on average.

Many of the biggest social networks with over 100 million users started in the United States. However, Chinese platforms like WeChat, QQ, and the video-sharing app Douyin have become very popular in their own areas, thanks to content that fits local tastes and interests. Douyin’s success even led to the launch of an international version known as TikTok.

  • Entertainment apps: From watching movies on Netflix to checking out the latest viral videos on YouTube, these apps are all about fun. They keep users hooked by offering endless hours of entertainment, including live streams, event searches, and interactive chats. Apps like Instagram also fall into this category, blending social networking with entertainment.

In 2022, Spotify led as the world’s top entertainment app with 672 million downloads. Netflix came in second with 165 million downloads, followed by YouTube with 154 million global downloads. Disney+’s streaming app was the fourth most downloaded entertainment app, with 147 million downloads that year.

  • Shopping apps: Apps like Amazon and eBay make shopping from your phone a breeze. They bring the full shopping experience to your fingertips, with easy browsing and secure payment options. Mobile shopping apps are all about making shopping convenient, anytime and anywhere. Learn more about mobile commerce definition and types of mobile commerce.

An impressive 60% of shoppers favor mobile apps over websites on their phones due to a superior user experience, and 88% of consumers have at least one shopping app installed. Notably, millennials and Gen Z prefer using mobile apps as their go-to way to purchase products online.

In 2023, Temu, a Chinese online shopping platform, topped the global charts as the most downloaded shopping app, with nearly 338 million downloads from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Its main competitor, SHEIN, secured the second spot with around 262 million downloads.

  • Music apps: Turn your device into a personal jukebox with apps like Spotify and Apple Music. These apps offer vast libraries of songs, personalized playlists, and even podcasts. Whether you’re into the latest hits or classic tracks, music apps keep your favorite tunes playing on the go.

The study discovered that 50% of people aged 16-24 stream music on their phones, and 64% of those who stream music do so on various devices, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.

  • Business or productivity apps: These apps are like having a personal assistant in your pocket. They help you do everything from sending emails to organizing your day. Apps like Microsoft Office, Slack, and Asana make working on the go efficient and keep you connected with your team.

As of 2022, the worldwide market for productivity apps was valued at $9,420.35 million and is projected to grow at an annual growth rate of 9.2%. By the year 2028, it’s expected to reach a value of $15,971.55 million.

  • Educational apps – this category includes mobile apps that help users gain new skills and knowledge. For example, language learning apps like Duolingo have become incredibly popular because they give users the flexibility they look for in learning. Educational game apps are an excellent tool for kids. Many educational apps turn out to be popular among teachers too, who use them to organize their teaching process better or educate themselves further.

In 2022, the educational app market hit $7 billion, up 7.2% from the prior year, and is expected to grow at an 8.9% rate annually until 2030. Chegg led in revenue with $766 million, while Duolingo was the most downloaded, reaching over 100 million downloads.

  • Lifestyle apps: This category is all about personal well-being and interests. Whether you’re looking for the latest fashion, a new workout routine, or even dating advice, there’s an app for it. They’re designed to enhance and simplify various aspects of your life.

Some of the most popular lifestyle apps include Calm and Headspace for meditation and mindfulness, MyFitnessPal for health and fitness tracking, and Tinder and Bumble for dating. These apps have become an integral part of many users’ daily routines, offering solutions for mental health, personal fitness and social interaction.

  • Utility apps – these are so obvious that we barely even realize that we’re using them. In fact, utility apps usually have the shortest user session times – people use them to get things done and then move on. The most popular types of utility applications are barcode scanners, trackers, or healthcare apps.

In 2021, the global utility app market was worth $4.7 billion, with a projected CAGR of 7.5% from 2022 to 2028. This growth is driven by businesses across sectors adopting digital technologies to enhance operations, highlighting utility apps’ growing significance for their convenience and business utility.

  • Travel apps: Travel apps make traveling easy. They turn your phone or tablet into a guide and diary, showing you all you need to know about the places you visit. Most travelers today are good with technology and use apps to help them travel better. Imagine not having Google Maps, Airbnb, or Uber when you travel!

Last year, the travel app market saw revenues of $556 billion, up 53.4% from the previous year, with Booking leading in revenue among online travel agencies. With over 800 million users in 2022, travel apps were in high demand, where Expedia led the US market with a 21.5% share, and Booking topped downloads with over 80 million.

Also, check out: How to Make an App like Uber: Process and Cost in 2024.

Mobile app statistics

To give you a broader view of the mobile app scene today, here are the most important statistics that show you the current mobile landscape and its future.

  • The global smartphone user base is forecast to grow steadily by a total of 1.5 billion users (+30.6%) between 2024 and 2029. The number of smartphone users is estimated to reach 6.4 billion in 2029. (Source)
mobile apps revenue by type
Source: Statista
  • On average, people spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones each day. (Source)
  • 88% of that time on using apps. (Source)
mobile apps daily usage worldwide
Source: Statista
  • Individuals check their phones an average of 58 times each day. (Source)
  • In the first quarter 2023, total combined Apple App Store and Google Play app downloads amounted to an estimated 35 billion. (Source)
  • On average, a smartphone user typically has between 60 and 90 apps installed on their device. (Source)
mobile apps average revenue per download
Source: Statista
mobile apps downloads by segment
Source: Statista
  • 60% of app users will uninstall an app if it experiences multiple crashes. (Source)

What is mobile app development?

Mobile app development is a process that draws a lot from traditional software development. However, it’s focused on creating software that takes advantage of the unique features of mobile phones.

The most straightforward scenario for building a mobile app is taking a desktop-based application and importing it to a mobile device. However, as the app becomes more robust, this technique can become problematic.

A better approach involves developing specifically for the mobile environment. It’s a technique that takes advantage of all the benefits mobile devices offer. The process takes into account their limitations and helps business owners balance cost with functionality.

For example, applications that use location-based features such as maps are always built from the ground up with mobile in mind. They would make less sense on a desktop since desktop users aren’t moving around that much.

Modern smartphones and tablets are equipped with features such as Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), GPS, gyroscopic sensors, cameras, and many more. Developers can use these features to deliver apps with technologies such as Virtual or Augmented Reality, barcode scanning, location-based services, and many more. The most successful and popular mobile applications use smartphone features in the best possible way.

Optimal performance is a key goal of mobile development teams. Mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets differ from desktop devices in many ways. Experienced software agencies are aware that mobile apps need to be designed and built with performance in mind.


Wojciech Szwajkiewicz
CEO and President of Droids On Roids

The issue of hardware in mobile devices introduces another complication:

While developers building apps for iOS can only expect the apps to be run on two types of devices (iPhones and iPads), Android developers can’t say the same. In fact, for them, every smartphone and tablet may be running on different hardware and various versions of the operating system.

Looking for the best option to create your app? Check out this article Top App Development Companies in 2024 – The Ultimate Guide

How to build a mobile app?

If you’re planning to build a mobile application, you can basically choose from three different options:

  • Build an in-house development team,
  • Hire specialized software development agency,
  • Rely on the expertise of freelancers.

Here’s a short overview of each of the options with its respective pros and cons to help you make the best decision for your mobile development project.

Building an in-house development team

Choosing to build your own mobile app team gives you complete control over your project. You can make the look, feel and features of the app exactly how you want them, whether it’s for the Apple App Store, Google Play Store or Windows Mobile. However, this route requires a lot of money for things like paying developers, buying software and getting the right equipment. The costs can be very high, especially if you’re in a place where hiring technical experts is expensive.

Hiring freelancers

Hiring freelancers is a cheaper way to create mobile apps. This choice can make it easier to build the app and may improve how well and quickly you communicate and get things done. However, the hard part is finding a freelancer who is reliable and good at everything you need, such as backend and frontend development. While freelancers can save you money, they also pose a risk to the success of your project, especially if they’re not a perfect match for what you need.

Partnering with a software development agency

Working with a software development agency that specializes in building mobile apps can give you great benefits: improved app performance and a variety of web technologies and services. Agencies offer a full range of services such as UX/UI design (making the app easy and fun to use), product development (building the app), quality assurance (making sure the app works well) and project management (keeping the app project on track). By using the combined skills and experience of an agency, you get the benefit of their successful history of creating mobile apps. This option is particularly good if you want to build apps for different platforms or need specific features such as sending push notifications or connecting to social media apps.

Making the best choice for your project – 10 questions to ask yourself as a CEO

When deciding who will build your mobile app – an in-house team, freelancers or an agency – asking the right questions is key to making a good decision. Here are 10 questions to help you find out, in simple terms.

1. How much money can I spend on the app?Think about how much you’re prepared to spend. Agencies may cost more, but they will provide everything you need. Freelancers might be cheaper, but managing them might mean extra work.
2. How complicated will my app be?The more complex your app, the more you may want to consider an in-house team or an agency, as they can handle large projects better. Freelancers are great for simpler apps.
3. How fast do I want my app to be ready?If you’re in a hurry, an in-house team or agency might be able to move faster because they have more people. Freelancers may take a little longer, especially if you’re working with several at once.
4. Do I know how to oversee the development of the app?If you’re ready to manage the project, you can choose to use an in-house team or freelancers. Agencies usually manage the project for you, which can be easier.
5. Will my app need updates and help after it’s launched?Think about future updates and fixes. An in-house team or agency might be more reliable for long-term work, while freelancers are better for one-off projects.
6. Is my app very specific or does it use special technology?If your app requires special skills, decide which option has the right expertise. Agencies or in-house teams may be better equipped for unique requirements.
7. How important is it for me to be closely involved in the development of the app?If you want to be closely involved, an in-house team may be best. Agencies will give you some involvement, but less than if you manage the team yourself.
8. What kind of communication do I expect during the development of the app?Think about how often you want updates. In-house teams are easy to talk to directly, while agencies also communicate well. Communication with freelancers can be very different.
9. Am I prepared to deal with hiring paperwork and legal issues?Think about the hiring and paperwork. With freelancers or an in-house team, you’ll do this yourself. Agencies take care of this on their end.
10. Where do I see my app in the future?Think long term about the future of your app. An in-house team or an agency may be better suited to growing and updating your app in the future.

These questions should help you decide which way is best for your mobile app, taking into account costs, skills required and how much management you’re prepared to take on.

In the fast-changing world of mobile apps, making informed choices and finding the right development partner or approach is critical to ensuring your app performs well on any platform or app store. Research your options, talk to experts, and start your project to create an app that delivers value to users on phones, tablets, and computers. You can also look for more advice on finding the best app development company for your project.

This approach is great for both cost and quality, especially if you are considering outsourcing your project to a place where app development costs less than in your area. Get quotes from different software companies to see what they offer and find out how much it will cost to make an app in 2024.


We hope this guide helps you understand the world of mobile app development and the amazing things a mobile app can do today. As technology continues to advance, we’re excited to see new mobile apps using cool technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and more.

Here’s a key insight for businesses:

With more people using mobile devices rather than desktops, investing in mobile app development is becoming more beneficial than ever. Understanding what a mobile app is and its potential can open up new ways for businesses to better connect with their customers.

Are you in search of a seasoned mobile app development team for your project? Reach out to us.

Our team is great at creating mobile apps. We’re up-to-date with the latest tech needed to make an app that’s not only easy and fun to use but also truly benefits your business. See how a professionally developed mobile app can elevate your brand.

About the author

Inez Bartosińska

Inez Bartosińska

Content Marketing Specialist

A Content Marketing Specialist with a rich background of over four years in IT and tech-related topics. She has a knack for turning complex industry jargon into relatable stories. Collaborating with our team of developers, business analysts, scrum masters, and designers, she ensures our technical insights are understandable for everyone. Outside of the office, she's a globetrotter with a passion for discovering new cultures and experiences.