Mobile App Development

Smartphones and other handheld devices have become an everyday essential for many people. These tiny handheld computers allow people to access the internet and perform various tasks through mobile applications.

Mobile applications have several internal and external uses, which is why many companies have decided to develop their own.

They can be pretty profitable, as well. In 2021, there were over 230 billion app downloads worldwide. Global mobile app revenue also reached $400 billion that same year.

Mobile application development can be an excellent step for many startups. It can help improve internal processes and provide better customer and client services.

Key Takeaways:

  • Mobile app development involves creating software for wireless computing devices like smartphones and tablets.
  • Android and iOS are the top mobile app platforms.
  • Creating a mobile app requires front-end or client-side and back-end or server-side development.

What is mobile app development?

Mobile application development involves various procedures to create software for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

It has roots in traditional software development and uses similar principles, except that it maximizes the features unique to mobile devices. For example, your health app could use your phone’s built-in accelerometer and GPS to track your steps.

Mobile applications can be developed to do almost anything, provided it can be done with software code. Several types of mobile applications exist. Popular categories include social media, communication, gaming, productivity, health, and many others.

The leading mobile platforms today are Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Devices with these operating systems usually have built-in apps. Users can then download other applications from their designated app store.

Mobile App Development Approaches

Numerous programming languages and frameworks are available to app developers. This fact means that there are also several approaches to mobile app development.

There are four major approaches to mobile app development: native, cross-platform, hybrid, and progressive web applications.

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, suiting different needs and app requirements. It is up to you and your app development team to decide which method would work best for your organization.

Native applications

A native application is developed with a specific operating system or platform in mind, such as Android or iOS. They use integrated development environments (IDEs), programming languages, and frameworks tailored to their chosen platform.

Many companies prefer native applications due to their performance. Out of all the mobile app types and approaches, native apps have the best runtime performance. They can utilize device-specific features well.

However, you will need to develop the app separately for each platform and use multiple code bases. This step will require more time and resources on the developers’ end.

Cross-platform applications

As the name suggests, cross-platform mobile applications work on multiple platforms. Developers can use a variety of languages and frameworks to build these applications. These technologies still work with different operating systems despite not being native to them.

Cross-platform development is an excellent alternative to native app development. Developers don’t need to develop the application separately for each platform. This advantage can help companies save time and resources.

Once the team finishes the app, they can release it simultaneously across different platforms.

However, since these apps aren’t written specifically for the platform, they might lag behind system updates. The performance also won’t be as seamless as those of native applications.

Hybrid applications

Hybrid apps, also known as hybrid-web applications, are developed through standard web technologies. These technologies include HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS—languages commonly used in web design and development.

Hybrid applications run on a web container, with everything bundled into app installation packages. They provide users with the speed of a regular web application with the user experience and interface of a native app.

Like cross-platform apps, hybrid applications can also work on different platforms. They do not require separate development processes for each operating system. Hybrid app development can cost much less money and take less time than native app development.

However, hybrid applications do have their limitations. They are often more generic and won’t be able to utilize as much of the device’s native features.

Progressive web applications

Progressive web apps (PWAs) are technically not mobile applications at all. They are websites that look and behave like mobile applications.

They also do not rely on app stores and installations to reach users. Instead, users can access the app through a web URL.

PWA development is an excellent alternative to traditional mobile app development. It is more cost-effective and ensures a mobile-friendly user interface (UI). Developers won’t need to go through rigorous app store submissions and reviews.

However, PWAs often have limited features and capabilities. The browser in use limits its functionality. They also have limited access to native device features.

Front-end Mobile App Development

An app’s front end is also known as its client side. It refers to the app’s user interface (UI) or the part that users interact with directly. It covers your app’s layout, text, colours, buttons, and other audiovisual or interactive elements.

Front-end developers focus mainly on the app’s responsiveness and performance. Having a well-designed front end helps attract new users and address their needs effectively.

Native iOS apps often use the programming languages Swift and Objective-C. For native Android apps, developers mainly use Kotlin.

Developers use various technologies to design a mobile app’s front end. Some of these technologies include languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

orange html tag
Source: Unsplash

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

Hypertext Markup Language, usually referred to as HTML, is a markup language used to structure web page content. Hypertext refers to interactive links between pages.

This markup language uses tags to create the structure or architecture of the page. It divides the page’s content into headers, titles, basic text, images, links, etc.

There have been some versions of HTML through the years, with the latest being HTML5, released in 2014. This newest version eliminates the need for third-party plugins and allows developers to make pages more dynamic and interactive.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

Cascading Style Sheets or CSS allow developers to format web page content written in a markup language like HTML. HTML only provides the page’s structure but doesn’t allow for extensive formatting.

CSS helps optimize the page’s layout. It allows developers to implement styles and formats to create pleasing and user-friendly visuals for web pages and applications. Developers can customize colours, fonts, background styles, text alignments, and other visual elements.

It works closely with HTML, ensuring that the implemented styles and layouts don’t mess with the site’s architecture. In simple terms, HTML provides the site’s foundation, while CSS handles the aesthetics.


Modern web pages and applications often incorporate interactive elements to make their content more engaging to the end user. JavaScript helps developers achieve this goal.

JavaScript is an event-based programming language that integrates interactive elements into applications and web pages. Interactive maps, minigames, and content updates are common examples of JavaScript applications.

Numerous JavaScript-based frameworks are available for developers’ use. These frameworks give developers a foundation for their work, saving them from coding from scratch.

Popular JavaScript frameworks include the following:

  • jQuery
  • Vue.js
  • Next.js
  • React
  • Angular

Back-end Mobile App Development

The mobile application’s back end is also known as its server side. Technologies in the back end work behind the scenes. They ensure that the application has the infrastructure to perform as intended.

The back end handles the collection and storage of relevant data. It also facilitates data retrieval and access. Additionally, it takes care of processes like monetary transactions and ensures the app’s security.

Like the front end, back-end developers also have several technologies and programming language options they could use. Popular back-end programming languages include Java, Python, and PHP.


Java is one of the most popular back-end programming languages available today. It works with nearly all platforms and operating systems, including Android and iOS.

It is an object-oriented programming language that helps programmers write readable, well-organized, and structured code.

One of Java’s most common applications is in creating large, enterprise-level applications. It is secure and flexible but requires a lot of memory space.


Python is a popular, powerful, open-source programming language with flexible use cases. Aside from programming web pages and mobile applications, many also use it in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

It works well when dealing with data-related processes, such as data analytics. Like Java, it is platform-independent and can run on various operating systems.

However, Python can be a bit slower compared to other programming languages. This issue can be particularly noticeable when executing complex programs.


PHP is another known programming language used in back-end development. Like the previous languages, it is platform-independent and works well with numerous platforms and operating systems.

It is a relatively simple programming language, making it popular amongst developers. It is flexible and works well with other programming languages like HTML and JavaScript. It is commonly used for cloud integration, user authentication, and session tracking.

However, PHP can be less secure than other programming languages. It lacks debugging tools that are necessary for spotting errors. It’s best to use PHP for smaller projects.

Mobile App Development Process

There is a wide variety of mobile applications, all with different features, purposes, and target audiences. For this reason, mobile app development workflows can differ significantly from app to app.

Still, the methodology discussed below can be a good baseline. It can help you visualize the mobile app development process from ideation to deployment.

1. Create a strategy

The first step in any app development process is creating a strategy. It helps align the team’s efforts to serve a clear purpose. Why do you need to build a mobile app in the first place?

In this step, you can discuss your app's purpose and how it can help improve your business. Do you need it for internal or external purposes? Who is the end user of the app?

It can also be helpful to look at your competitors’ apps. Pull up your phone’s app store and look at what your competitors currently offer. This step can help you identify a baseline of valuable features and UI design ideas.

2. Identify app requirements

This step allows you to go deeper into how you want your app to work. What features should it include? It can be helpful to create a document detailing mobile application requirements to help you organize your ideas.

You can also refer to existing applications to identify key features for the app you want to build. Competitor apps are an excellent resource.

3. Plan the project

After you’ve identified and settled on your app requirements, it’s time to create a project roadmap. This map will help you track the app development project’s progress and ensure that everything gets done on time.

If you don’t have a team yet, now is the time to look for people to do the job. You can hire individual programmers or work with an app development company for your project.

Work with the requirements you identified in the previous step and create delivery milestones. You can create a reasonable timeline for the project and begin calendaring.

developers looking at board
Source: Pexels

4. Design the app’s UI/UX

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design are essential components of the app. These components make up the client-facing side of the app or the front end. They ensure that your app looks good and addresses users’ needs.

A well-designed UI helps attract new users and can help boost app installations. Meanwhile, intuitive, interactive, and user-friendly mobile app design improves UX and keeps users engaged.

Wireframes, style guides, mockups, and prototypes are valuable tools for this step.

5. Develop the app

After designing your app’s front end, it’s time to build the architecture necessary to support its interface. App development involves working with server technology, the application programming interface (API), and the front end.

Planning is essential in this step. Operating systems and mobile devices are changing all the time. It is, therefore, critical for development teams to stay agile, use resources wisely, and stay on schedule.

Developers can use version control services like GitHub to share and manage source code and app versions with team members.

6. Test the app

Quality assurance testing ensures the stability and usability of the mobile app. You must first prepare test cases to address various situations for thorough testing.

A comprehensive mobile app quality assurance process includes the following:

6. Test the app

Quality assurance testing ensures the stability and usability of the mobile app. You must first prepare test cases to address various situations for thorough testing.

A comprehensive mobile app quality assurance process includes the following:

  • UX testing. Test your app’s interactivity, visuals, and workflow. These elements contribute significantly to user adoption and experience.
  • Performance testing. How fast does the app load? Does it respond well to user requests? Is it draining the device’s battery?
  • Functional testing. Cover as many testing conditions as you can. You should test your app’s features multiple times to ensure you don’t miss any bugs.
  • Device/platform testing. Test your app on various devices, especially if you plan to release it on multiple platforms.
  • Security testing. Security is a major concern for companies and users alike. Make sure user and company information is secure against possible hacks or exploits.

7. Deploy the app and make the necessary changes

After rigorous testing, you can release your app to the appropriate app store, such as Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Your app will need to undergo the app store’s review process, which can take a few days. If your app has some significant issues, it might get rejected. You can resubmit your Apple or Android app after making the necessary corrections.

Did you know?

Mobile users worldwide spend the most time on social media apps, with an average of 55.48 minutes daily. The second most popular app category is gaming.

Create Your Next Mobile App With Brain Box Labs

The mobile application development process involves several moving parts. It requires careful planning and resource management to build useful, interactive, and well-designed apps.

If you’re planning to create a mobile app but are unsure where to start, an app development company can help. Our team at Brain Box Labs can help you design and build mobile apps that suit your organization’s needs.

You might have the next best thing there is to a mobile app on your drawing board. Contact Brain Box Labs to help you bring your mobile app idea to life.


Frequently Asked Questions

Mobile apps can help businesses build their brand, address customer or employee needs, and compete with industry peers.

Mobile apps require downloading and installing. Mobile websites, on the other hand, do not require installation. One can simply access them by entering their URL into a browser app.

Different mobile apps can have significant variations in features and complexity. This variation also reflects in the app development budget. Simple apps can cost around $40,000, while complex apps can go up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.