What is a Mobile App? | Basics You Should Know

Linas App development
Linas Vaitkus Business process manager

What is a mobile app? At the first glance question is quite simple and most probably answer would be that it is mobile program in your smart-phone. And yes, the answer is indeed correct, but we decided to look at this issue in more detail, in other words, to provide essential information about applications, the types of technologies that can create it, etc.

This article should help a business or a person who is considering mobile iOS application development, but first wants to understand it better. In other words, when you have limited knowledge and you want to get some basics about it.


  1. What is mobile application?
  2. Where to place or find mobile applications?
  3. Types of mobile applications
  4. Statistics of mobile applications
  5. Key technologies for developing mobile applications
  6. Development of mobile applications


What is a mobile application?


Mobile application (otherwise – mobile app) – software, created exclusively for mobile devices. Such devices are: a smart phone, a tablet, a smart watch. The very first mobile apps were simple: calendar, email etc., but was quickly discovered that it could be extended to other areas, such as: logistics, games, customers service etc. Quick growth of popularity of smartphones among ordinary consumers contributed to it a lot.

With the development of mobile devices, mobile apps have become more sophisticated and improved. Theoretically, the more features a smartphone has, the more features a mobile app can have, because it is specifically designed for mobile devices – it can “access” and “use” them.

A distinguishable feature is that mobile applications usually solve one specific task, operate separately from each other, and are not integrated with each other, as it is often the case with applications for desktops or laptops.

Although it has already been mentioned that mobile applications are designed for mobile devices, applications for smart TVs are also gaining considerable popularity. Spotify, Youtube, Netflix, Twitch – these are just some of the very popular apps, available for TV users.


Where can I find or upload mobile applications?


If you have a smartphone device, a high chance that the answer to this question is obvious to you, because probably you already have downloaded one or more apps.

There are two main mobile apps stores, which have biggest share on the market:

Google  Play

Google play

This app store has been operating since November 2008. It is possible to download apps for your devices with Android operating system. If you are a business representative, you might want to set up your app to be placed in the store, in order to reach billions of people, having a smartphone with this operating system.

You will need to pay a one-time $ 25 fee to host apps in this store.

Apple App Store

Apple app store

This app store opened in July 2008. You can only find apps there for devices with an iOS operating system. Although devices with iOS operating system are less popular than with Android, but the income from those apps in this store are much higher, than in the Google Play. This can be important moment, if you are a business representative or just have an idea for a mobile app.

You will need to pay an annual fee of $ 99 to host apps in this store.


Important moment. If you create an app and want to put it both on Google Play and Apple App Store, you will need to go through verification process. It will be checked, if your app is in comply to the store requirements, meets the design standards, and so on. In the Apple store, this process is much stricter than in Google. For this reason, it is very important to work with experienced application developers who would be well acquainted with the requirements of both stores and would have uploaded more than one app there. This will avoid potential time and financial costs. As well as stress.


You can see all the major growing mobile apps stores and some statistics by clicking on this link.


Types of mobile applications


All, both Google Play and Apple’s App Store contained apps that can be divided into several categories. There are over 30 of them.

Games are the most popular category. As many as a third of all downloaded apps are in this category. Also, this type of app accounts for almost 75 % of all money spent by users. It is not surprising, because the games is a huge market in the world, and advanced smartphones allows you to create high-quality games that use graphics not worse than, for example, game consoles. Well-known computer games such as League of Legends, Diablo, and similar are already available or will be adapted for smartphones in the near future.

One of the most successful games, which was developed specifically for smart phones, is Angry Birds.

This category is of very high interest due to the sheer number of games and interest in it, and it has smaller sub-categories, such as action, adventure, card, casino, educational, role playing etc.

Education – this is the second or third category, depending if on Google or Apple store, according to popularity. Most apps in this category are related to foreign language learning, educational games for young children, help with studying one or another discipline at school / university, and so on.

One of the most successful examples of this category is Duolingo mobile app. In this app you can learn more than 35 different languages ​​of the world.

Given the COVID -19 situation in the world and the fact that many children have to learn remotely, using digital tools, it can be assumed that this type of app has many potential.

Business – shares the second/third place in terms of popularity with the previous one. In this category, the majority of apps help to read / edit and documentation, manage e-mails, organize and manage employees, tasks, and so on. This category of the mobile iOS apps allows you to search for employees or to look for a job (CV portals).

Examples of apps in this category could be: Asana, Microsoft Teams, ZOOM Cloud Meetings, and more.

More categories can be seen by clicking on this link.


Statistics of mobile applications


Below are some numbers that can help you get an idea of ​​the mobile apps market.

  • In 2020, 218 billion mobile apps were downloaded worldwide. By comparison, in 2016, that number was significantly lower at about 140.5 billion.
  • At the end of 2020 Google Play mobile apps store had about 2,9 million different mobile apps. Apple store – close to 2 million.
  • Most of the apps on both of Google and Apple stores can be downloaded for free.At Google Play store these apps make 96.7 %, at Apple Store – 92,7 %.
  • The most popular category of Google Play store at the end of 2020 were as follows: Games (13.44 % of all the total apps) and education (9,43 % of all apps).
  • Game category also reigned in Apple App Store with 21.68 % of all apps. In second place was again business apps category – 10,11 %, in the third – education (8,68 %).
  • In 2020, total consumer spending on mobile apps was $143 billion, compared to $101 billion in 2018. This was strongly influenced by the COVID-19 virus. Most people, unable to physically visit outlets and spend more time at home, have become significantly more likely to use digital channels, including mobile apps.
  • While consumers more often download apps from Google Play mobile apps store than from Apple’s App Store, but Apple is the obvious leader (almost twice ahead of Google) by how much people spend at it.
  • In the second quarter of 2020, the average number of hours spent on mobile apps per day:

average time spent in mobile apps daily

  • With the onset of the world’s first wave of coronavirus, the global average time spent on mobile apps has increased by about 15%.


Main mobile application development technologies


There are some basic technological solutions, which allow you to build mobile apps:

One operating system applications (Native)

Applications of this type are designed exclusively for one platform. These are usually iOS or Android operating systems. In other words, an app that is designed exclusively for the iOS platform will not be suitable for a device that runs on the Android operating system. And vice versa.

In what programming languages ​​are these types of apps usually written?

For devices with the iOS operating system, the Swift programming language is most commonly used. In the past, before the Swift, the Objective-C language was commonly used.

For devices with the Android operating system, the Kotlin programming language is most commonly used. In the past, Java programming language was the most commonly used.

Why is technology changing? As in most areas of life, natural progress is taking place. Technologies are emerging that allows it easier and faster to create the same solution.

What are the key benefits of developing applications on a Native basis? The key advantage is the high performance of these apps and the great user experience. They will work and look best compared to apps developed by other technologies.

What are the main disadvantages of developing an application on a Native basis? The main drawback is the price. The app is only available on a single platform and thus will need two programmers / teams that  programs it for two ( iOS and Android ) operating systems. Of course, there are all kinds of projects. In some this statement is fully valid, in others – partly. In other words, the context must be taken into account.


Hybrid applications

These are apps that can run on iOS and Android platforms as it is. In other words, these apps are adapted to run on both platforms and you don’t need to write code for each platform separately.

Apps of this type are usually created using the following technologies: Xamarin, React Native, Flutter, etc.

Main advantages of creating applications in those listed technologies – one code base for both platforms. This means it will be easier to support apps, install updates, and more.

Also an advantage is the slightly lower cost of the project.

With such obvious advantages, why not to create all the projects using Hybrid technology? Here it all depends on the context or so to say – seeing the Big picture. Apps of this type may not be as fast, there may be some design differences between iOS and Android devices. There may also be technical limitations, not allowing the implementation of one or the other function as you would like.


Web based applications

An internet connection is required for this type of app to work properly.

Apps of this type are usually written using Web technologies, for example : HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript.

Because these types of applications are web- based, this means they can be used by most devices that can browse the Internet.

The main drawback is – for smooth experience and in order to function properly for consumers, it needs a good Internet connection.

Also, in most cases it does not work so well and smoothly, when you need to use the functions of the phone.

You’ll also not find them in Google or Apple app stores. This is also important because most people are looking for it there first.


Mobile application development


If you are simply a user who from time to time downloads some applications – then this issue will most likely not interest you. However, if you are a person or company that is planning to build a mobile app, this item will be of use for you. There are actually three possible paths:

  1. Create an app with an internal team.
  2. Create app hiring independent mobile apps creator (freelancer).
  3. Create app in cooperation with the mobile app development company.

It would be possible to write a separate article on the subject, but here we present basis in short of each of these options pros and cons below.


App development with an internal team.

If you already have such a team, this is probably the best or one of the best choices, depending on the situation. However, if you do not have such a team, but want to create a mobile app, this would be the most expensive and time-consuming solution. You will not only need to gather programmers, project managers, designers and other teams, but also will have to manage it. Employee salaries, their selection, hardware and software will cost a lot. What guarantees that you will be able to assemble the right team at all, because often at least a few serious IT companies compete for specialists. If you choose this path, you have to take into account that the project will cost a lot and will not necessarily be created better than hiring an external company that specializes in it.

What is the main advantage? Communication. It will be much easier and simpler to communicate with each other.


Apps creation by recruiting an independent mobile apps creator ( freelancer).

This option is the cheapest of all, but in case of failure it can become very expensive. The main plus of working with a freelancer is the price, as well as communication. All you have to do is communicate with one person, which will facilitate the whole app development process.

The main downside to working with a freelancer is that one person usually can’t be good at everything. To program for different (iOS, Android ) platforms, and to program the server part, if necessary, and to prepare the design, and to communicate properly with the customer. As we have already mentioned, the app creation is a multi-stage process and most of those steps requires different skills and competencies and one person usually cannot have them all.

Another big downside is reliability. It’s really hard to find someone who not only has the required technical skills, but also can be trusted. How to know that he won’t disappear somewhere tomorrow, will he not put your project on hold, and so on.


App development in collaboration with a mobile app development company.

The main advantage of working with such a company is that the development of mobile applications is its specialization. In other words, it will have accumulated a lot of experience working on different projects and with different clients. Such a company will also be able to use this experience in your project.

Here is also a very important moment – you will be able to get everything from one source. Both the design and the programming of the server parts and the mobile applications themselves will be done in one place. You won’t have to worry about it.

Of course, just as choosing an internal team, or like choosing an independent professional – it is very important to choose the right team. How to do this is described in detail here.


An important moment. You don’t necessarily have to hire both a freelancer specialist or an app development team in your own country. In many cases, you can save financial resources hiring outside of your country or even continent.




This article describes the most basic things about mobile applications. For those who have encountered mobile apps or even created it for themselves or their business, these things may seem elementary. However, if you are new in this field – this information can help you understand apps better and raise more specific questions both for yourself and their developers.

One thing is clear – trend is this: the mobile app market is not promising to slow down in the near future and will definitely grow in the next few years. This is driven by both the increasingly efficient and functional mobile devices and the global situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are planning to create a mobile app – get in touch. I know, we can help you find the best solution. 


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