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Grow Your Business Technology

What is Mobile App Development?

What is Mobile App Development?
. / Credit: Mobile Applications Image via Shutterstock

With the exploding popularity of smartphones and tablets, mobile application development is becoming a more and more popular medium of software creation. The creation of mobile applications draws much of its roots from traditional software development. The end result, however, is software intended to utilize the unique features and hardware of mobile devices.

With desktop PC software development, programmers must create an application that can operate on a minimum set of hardware. The same goes for mobile applications, though the hardware variances in this instance are much more minimal. At the same time, the hardware on smartphones and tablets are nowhere near to the caliber of laptops and PCs, which means mobile apps must be designed to show optimum performance. For example, a gaming app would be limited in its graphical elements due to the limited graphics processors of mobile devices.

Solving the issue of performance on any given device is ultimately dependent on developing an app natively on that device. This means designing the code specifically for the hardware on a particular device. In the instance of iOS devices, this proves quite easy as mobile developers only need versions of the app for the iPhone and iPad to achieve universal usability. Where Android devices are concerned, however, each smartphone and tablet is running on different hardware and varying versions of the operating system.

Apps are much like desktop software in that they’re designed using a wide range of programming languages and frameworks. While the most popular operating systems, iOS and Android, have done an excellent job in standardizing the types of mobile app development available for programmers to make, apps can take on a wide range of shapes in some of the following ways:

  • Native apps. These are apps created for a specific platform (iOS or Android) using the software development tools and languages supported by those operating systems. iOS uses Xcode and Objective-C, whereas Android uses Eclipse and Java.
  • HTML5 apps. Based on the near-universal standards of Web technologies, namely HTML5, JavaScript and CSS, this type of mobile app takes a write-once-run-anywhere approach to mobile development. Apps developed in this framework are cross-platform compatible and require only minimal changes to ensure complete functionality in each operating system.
  • Hybrid apps. These entail the creation of a container developed in the native system that makes it possible to embed an HTML5 app within it. This allows apps to make use of the diverse and unique elements of each native system.

Mobile app development requires access to software development kits (SDKs) that provide an environment through which programmers can design and test code in a simulated mobile environment. Creating an app does not require full use of these kits as, for example, mobile games can be created entirely using Unity and then the Android SDK is used to simply ensure its deliverability on mobile devices. Developing apps for iOS requires a paid iOS Developer license, whereas the Android SDK is freely available to users.

Mobile application development is in a constant state of change. Every six months a new operating system typically rolls out with unique features mobile apps can utilize. Developing for a specific version of the operating system or even for a native operating system will be much like the story of Goldilocks, requiring that they try out multiple solutions before finding the one perfect for their development needs.

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