A mobile app is a computer program designed to run on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet computer.
Mobile apps often stand in contrast to desktop applications that run on desktop computers, and with web applications which run in mobile web browsers rather than directly on the mobile device.
The term “app” is a shortening of the term “software application”. It has become very popular, and in 2010 was listed as “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society. In 2009, technology columnist David Pogue said that newer smartphones could be nicknamed “app phones” to distinguish them from earlier less-sophisticated smartphones
Most such devices are sold with several apps bundled as pre-installed software, such as a web browser, email client, calendar, mapping program, and an app for buying music or other media or more apps. Some pre-installed apps can be removed by an ordinary uninstall process, thus leaving more storage space for desired ones. Where the software does not allow this, some devices can be rooted to eliminate the undesired apps.
Apps that are not preinstalled are usually available through distribution platforms called app stores. They began appearing in 2008 and are typically operated by the owner of the mobile operating system, such as the Apple App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone Store, and BlackBerry App World. However, there are independent app stores, such as Cydia, GetJar and F-Droid. Some apps are free, while others must be bought. Usually, they are downloaded from the platform to a target device, but sometimes they can be downloaded to laptops or desktop computers. For apps with a price, generally a percentage, 20-30%, goes to the distribution provider (such as iTunes), and the rest goes to the producer of the app. The same app can therefore cost a different price depending on the mobile platform.
Apps can also be installed manually, for example by running an Android application package on Android devices?
The official US Army iPhone app presents the service’s technology news, updates and media in a single place
Mobile apps were originally offered for general productivity and information retrieval, including email, calendar, contacts, stock market and weather information. However, public demand and the availability of developer tools drove rapid expansion into other categories, such as those handled by desktop application software packages. As with other software, the explosion in number and variety of apps made discovery a challenge, which in turn led to the creation of a wide range of review, recommendation, and curation sources, including blogs, magazines, and dedicated online app-discovery services. In 2014 government regulatory agencies began trying to regulate and curate apps, particularly medical apps. Some companies offer apps as an alternative method to deliver content with certain advantages over an official website.
Usage of mobile apps has become increasingly prevalent across mobile phone users. A May 2012 comScore study reported that during the previous quarter, more mobile subscribers used apps than browsed the web on their devices: 51.1% vs. 49.8% respectively. Researchers found that usage of mobile apps strongly correlates with user context and depends on user’s location and time of the day. Mobile apps are playing an ever-increasing role within healthcare and when designed and integrated correctly can yield many benefits.
Market research firm Gartner predicted that 102 billion apps would be downloaded in 2013 (91% of them free), which would generate $26 billion in the US, up 44.4% on 2012’s US$18 billion. By Q2 2015, the Google Play and Apple stores alone generated $5 billion. An analyst report estimates that the app economy creates revenues of more than €10 billion per year within the European Union, while over 529,000 jobs have been created in 28 EU states due to the growth of the app market.
Developers at work
Main article: Mobile application development
Developing apps for mobile devices requires considering the constraints and features of these devices. Mobile devices run on battery and have less powerful processors than personal computers and also have more features such as location detection and cameras. Developers also have to consider a wide array of screen sizes, hardware specifications and configurations because of intense competition in mobile software and changes within each of the platforms (although these issues can be overcome with mobile device detection).
Mobile application development requires use of specialized integrated development environments. Mobile apps are first tested within the development environment using emulators and later subjected to field testing. Emulators provide an inexpensive way to test applications on mobile phones to which developers may not have physical access.
Mobile user interface (UI) Design is also essential. Mobile UI considers constraints and contexts, screen, input and mobility as outlines for design. The user is often the focus of interaction with their device, and the interface entails components of both hardware and software. User input allows for the users to manipulate a system, and device’s output allows the system to indicate the effects of the users’ manipulation. Mobile UI design constraints include limited attention and form factors, such as a mobile device’s screen size for a user’s hand. Mobile UI contexts signal cues from user activity, such as location and scheduling that can be shown from user interactions within a mobile application. Overall, mobile UI design’s goal is primarily for an understandable, user-friendly interface.
Mobile UIs, or front-ends, rely on mobile back-ends to support access to enterprise systems. The mobile back-end facilitates data routing, security, authentication, authorization, working off-line, and service orchestration. This functionality is supported by a mix of middleware components including mobile app servers, Mobile Backend as a service (MBaaS), and SOA infrastructure.
Conversational interfaces display the computer interface and present interactions through text instead of graphic elements. They emulate conversations with real humans. There are two main types of conversational interfaces: voice assistants (like the Amazon Echo) and chatbots.
Conversational interfaces are growing particularly practical as users are starting to feel overwhelmed with mobile apps (a term known as “app fatigue”).
David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices, says in an interview with Bloomberg, “We believe the next big platform is voice.”
See also: List of mobile software distribution platforms
The two biggest app stores are Google Play for Android and App Store for iOS.
Main article: Google Play
Google Play (formerly known as the Android Market) is an international online software store developed by Google for Android devices. It opened in October 2008. In July 2013, the number of apps downloaded via the Google Play Store surpassed 50 billion, of the over 1 million apps available. As of September 2016, according to Statista the number of apps available exceeded 2.4 million. The store generated a revenue of 6 billion U.S. dollars in 2015.