What Is a Mobile App? | App Development Basics for Businesses
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.
Mobile is a growing industry that attracts businesses from every marketplace. No wonder – mobile app revenues are projected to reach almost $600 billion in 2020. 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.
1. 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.
2. Key mobile app development technologies
To help you understand the process of building a mobile application here’s a closer look at all the different technology considerations business owners must make before building an app.
What are native apps? Such apps are built for a single mobile operating system. That’s why they’re called native – they’re native to a particular platform or device. The majority of mobile apps today are built for systems like Android or iOS. To put it simply, you can’t install and use an Android app on iPhone, and vice versa.
The main benefit of native apps is their high performance and excellent user experience. After all, developers who build them use native device UI. Access to a broad range of APIs also helps to accelerate the development work and extend the boundaries of app usage. Native applications can only be downloaded from app stores and installed directly into devices. That’s why they first need to pass a strict publishing process.
The most important drawback of native apps is their cost. To build, support, and maintain an app for Android and iOS you basically need two development teams. As you can imagine, this results in a much higher price tag on your mobile development project.
Since all of the personal databases will be saved on the server, users can only use the application if they have an internet connection. This is the main drawback of web apps – they always require a good internet connection. Otherwise, you risk delivering subpar user experience.
Moreover, developers don’t have that many APIs works with, except for the most popular features like geolocation. The performance will be linked to browser work and network connection as well.
Hybrid apps are easy and fast to develop, which is a clear benefit. You also get a single codebase for all the platforms. This lowers the cost of maintenance and streamlines the updating process. Developers can also take advantage of many APIs for features such as gyroscope or geolocation.
On the other hand, hybrid applications may lack speed and performance. Also, you might experience some design issues as the app might not look the same on two or more platforms.
3. Types of mobile applications
Mobile applications come in many shapes and sizes. Here are the most popular types of mobile apps to help you understand the current trends in the mobile landscape.
- Gaming apps – this is the most popular category of mobile apps. You’d be surprised to learn how many users install games on their phones. Businesses invest an increasing amount of time and resources into creating games and mobile versions of well-known stationary games because it’s such a profitable market. According to a recent study, mobile games account for 33% of all app downloads, 74% of consumer spendings, and 10% of all the time spent using apps. The most successful mobile games like Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds become known all over the world.
- Business or productivity apps – these apps hold a large chunk of the market today because people are increasingly prone to using their smartphones and tablets to perform many complex tasks on the go. For example, apps can help them to book tickets, send emails, or track their work progress. Business apps are geared at boosting productivity and minimizing expenses as they allow users to complete a wide range of tasks, from buying new cartridges for office printers to recruiting a new office manager.
- 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.
- Lifestyle apps – this broad category of apps spans shopping, fashion, virtual fitting rooms, workout, dating, and diet apps. These apps basically focus on various aspects of personal lifestyle.
- M-commerce apps – the most popular shopping apps like Amazon or eBay offer the experience of their desktop versions to mobile users. Mobile commerce applications provide customers with convenient access to products and seamless payment methods for an optimal shopping experience. Learn more: What is Mobile Commerce? Definition and Types of Mobile Commerce
- Entertainment apps – these apps allow users to stream video content, search for events, chat, or watch content online. Social media apps like Facebook or Instagram are great examples. Moreover, video streaming apps such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video have become incredibly popular with users all over the world. These apps usually boost user engagement by notifying members about updates and newly added products.
- 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.
- Travel apps – the main idea behind this category is helping users to travel easily. Travel apps transform a smartphone or tablet into a travel diary and guide that helps users to discover everything they need to know about the site they’re visiting. Most of the tourists are digitally savvy travelers who know how to use apps to their advantage. Can you imagine what traveling would look like without Google Maps, Airbnb, or Uber?
4. 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.
- An average mobile app user in the United States has over 100 apps installed on their device. (Source)
- A typical mobile user will check their smartphone 63 times a day. (Source)
- 87% of users check their phone at least one hour before sleep. Out of those, 69% will check their phone at least five minutes before sleep. (Source)
- 79% of users will abandon a digital product after only one day of use. (Source)
- Mobile apps today account for more than 57% of all digital media usage. (Source)
- By 2021, almost 7 billion people worldwide will be using mobile devices. (Source)
- By 2022, the mobile app downloads number or year will reach 258 million. This is a great increase from 2017 when that number reached 168 million. (Source)
- By the same year, the app store consumer spending will increase by 92% to reach a smashing $157 billion all over the world. (Source)
5. 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 device hardware.
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. Location-based services delivered on a desktop app make less sense because desktop users aren’t moving around.
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 create 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.
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.
6. 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 team
If you decide to create an in-house development team for your project, you will have full control over the direction developers take in building your mobile app. However, this will come at a high cost.
After all, you will not only have to pay for developers’ salaries but also a range of overhead costs such as workspace, benefits and perks, hardware, software licenses, and many others. This can be especially difficult if you’re located in a region where hiring mobile developers is expensive.
If you choose this option, expect a very high price tag on your app. The risk of your project will increase as well because you will be responsible for the work of your team.
Hiring a freelancer
This option is definitely the cheapest one of all three. By hiring a single freelancer to build your mobile app, you will enjoy a simplified development process. Communication might be easier, and you’ll face no collaboration issues because only one person will be responsible for building your app.
However, finding a reliable and trustworthy freelancer is a challenge. You will be better the entire success of your project on a single person’s skills and expertise. Even if you hire a talented mobile developer, they might be really talented in backend development and have limited knowledge of frontend development. If you create an app that works well but has an unattractive user interface, your product will suffer.
Hiring a freelancer is a cost-effective option, but it comes with many different risks that may compromise the process of building your app at every single stage.
Hiring a software development company
There are many software development agencies that specialize in mobile development today. By teaming up with such companies, you will be delegating the task of building your app to a group of professionals who can provide you with a broad range of services such as:
- UX/UI design,
- product development,
- backend and frontend development,
- quality assurance (QA),
- and project management.
The main benefit of this option is that you can take advantage of the collective expertise and knowledge the team has acquired through realizing projects that are similar to yours. You can confirm their experience and skills through the portfolio and ask for client recommendations as well.
This option offers an excellent cost and quality balance, especially if you decide to outsource your project to a team located in a region where the development rates are lower than locally.
For a more in-depth comparison of these options, read our guides:
We hope this guide helps you understand what the mobile app development landscape looks like today. In the future, we’re going to see even more innovative mobile applications take advantage of cutting-edge technologies like the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and many more.
And here’s something you can be sure of:
Businesses are going to be investing in more resources in mobile apps as mobile devices overrule desktop devices when it comes to the number and engagement of users.
Are you looking for an experienced mobile development team for your project? Get in touch with us.
We specialize in mobile development, and our experts know all the latest technologies to help you create a mobile app that offers an outstanding user experience and generates a tangible value for your business.