Mobile apps are computer programs that were designed for mobile devices, such as tablets or smartphones. They are often an alternative to desktop applications, which are designed for desktop computers, using web applications or mobile web browsers, instead of directly running off a mobile device.
‘App’ is short or ‘software application’. It’s become quite popular, and was given the title ‘Word of the Year’ in 2010 by American Dialect Society.
There are many mobile devices sold with various app bundles pre-installed, such as an email client, web browser, mapping program, calendar, and music applications. While some pre-installed software is removable using standard uninstall methods to free up space, some software is trickier to uninstall. In these cases, rooting the phone may be necessary.
If an app is not pre-installed, you can typically locate it in the app store for your device (Google Play, Apple Store, etc.). Although, there are independent app stores available as well, which may require you to change your settings to download from 3rd parties.
Some apps are free, others will charge, while some have in-app purchases available, others may have advertisements. For those with a price, it is common for the distribution platform to get 20% to 30% of this, while the producer gets the remaining amount. This means price can vary between platforms.
Originally, mobile apps were provided as informational and productivity purposes, allowing people to retrieve weather information, calendar, emails, etc. Although, due to public demand there was quick expansion to the original concept, increasing the amount of apps and categories available. With so many apps available, it became challenging to discover the best ones. Reviews, blogs, and other forms of alerting people of the best apps became popular.
In May, 2012 a study showed a steady increase of app usage from 49.8% to 51.1% from the prior quarter. It has indicated that mobile app usage strongly depended on the time of day and locating of a user. Today, mobile apps have branched into healthcare, and other areas which provides various benefits.
Gartner, a market research firm had predicted that users would download over 102 billion apps in 2013, with at least 91% of apps being free. The generated US revenue being $26 billion, up 44.4% from $18 billion in 2012. In the second quarter of 2015, Apple Store and Google Play generated over $5 billion combined. Meanwhile, analyst reports put an estimate of €10 billion annually from the European Union.
To develop mobile apps, constraints and features of a device must be considered. Like computers, a mobile device has processors, and runs off batteries. However, they are less powerful, but have additional features (camera, GPS, etc.) Developers must consider screen sizes, hardware configurations and specifications.
Due to the requirements, specialized integrated development environments are used and apps are tested using emulators. Mobile device user interface (UI) is another critical area, as the constraints of screen size, mobility, and input must be considered.