What is a mobile app? (With definition, types and examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 November 2022

Published 7 December 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Technology has changed how people operate in both their personal and business lives. People use mobile apps for everyday tasks and business operations. Being familiar with this technology and its uses can help simplify many areas of your life. In this article, we answer what a mobile app is, discuss types of mobile apps, discover the difference between a mobile app and a website, explain how to get mobile apps and how to use them and explore popular examples and statistics.

What is a mobile app?

If you're wondering 'What is a mobile app?', these applications are software designed to run on a smartphone, computer, tablet or other electronic devices. Apps have a design intended for a specific function. Most apps relate to a business or service, but this is not true in all cases. For example, gaming applications often have no relation to a business as far as concerns the user.

Developers can make money through apps by allowing advertisements, collecting revenue from the provider through app stores, charging the end-user to download the app or providing purchasable extras, such as coins in a game or test retakes on a learning application. Businesses can use applications to increase revenue flow by using the app to market their brand and by offering easier access to products and services. For example, airlines often use mobile apps to allow customers to check-in and purchase upgrades before arriving for their flight.

Related: What is mobile device management and why is it important?

Types of mobile apps

There are three main types of mobile applications. Here's a detailed explanation of web-based, native and hybrid apps:

Web-based app

A web-based app requires Internet access to use and stores all application data online. This application type's code is Javascript, HTML5 or CSS. The benefit of a web-based app is that it requires less memory space on your device. Examples of this type of mobile app include Notebook, Netflix and Dropbox.

Native app

Native apps are applications built for a specific mobile platform. For example, Samsung native applications are only accessible on Samsung devices, and users may only access applications from other cell phone providers on their own branded devices. Native apps may offer higher performance compared to more generalised apps that provide the same service.

Hybrid app

Hybrid apps are applications that combine the efficacy of native apps and web-based apps, and support both types of technology. These apps are quick and easy to create on the developer's end, but they often have a lower performance rate and therefore provide a less valuable experience for the end-user.

Where to get mobile apps?

The most common way to get mobile apps is to download them from an app store. Examples of application stores include Microsoft Store, Blackberry World, Windows Phone Store, Opera Mobile Store and Samsung Apps. From these stores, you can purchase and download applications directly to your device. Applications are also available for purchasing and downloading from company websites. For example, if you go to the web version of Pinterest, it urges you to download their app via a pop-up link.

What is the difference between a mobile app and a website?

Mobile apps are programmes that are downloaded and installed on a mobile device. Mobile apps are necessary to download to access their content, yet most mobile apps don't require an Internet connection to use. This technology design has frequent use on-the-go in mind.

Websites are web-based pages originally designed for desktop computers that are now typically adapted to mobile device formats. Websites are accessible through an Internet browser, meaning an Internet connection is necessary, but downloading additional apps isn't. This technology aims to provide information for indefinite periods of time.

Related: Web app vs mobile app: key features and differences

How individuals use mobile apps

People use mobile apps for a broad variety of tasks and purposes. These are just some of the many reasons individuals may use apps:

  • banking

  • learning

  • finding driving directions

  • making calculations

  • watching movies and television shows

  • tracking our diets and workouts

  • keeping in touch via chat apps and social media applications

  • reading e-books

  • listening to music

  • shopping online

  • ordering delivery

  • putting in grocery orders

  • checking the weather

  • checking traffic

  • setting alarms and reminders

  • taking and editing photos and videos

  • finding hotel rooms

  • ordering transportation

  • translating languages

  • gaming

  • managing productivity

  • dating

  • searching for entertainment

  • using utility apps such as barcode scanners for nutritional information

  • booking travel through virtual agencies

  • documenting events in photo books, journals or travel diaries

In addition to developers creating new mobile apps regularly, individuals can often find new uses for current apps and features.

How businesses use mobile apps

Many businesses can also benefit from using mobile apps. Organisations may use mobile apps to:

  • operate more efficiently

  • file documents

  • communicate with stakeholders

  • extend their customer base

  • offer easier access to products, services and information to the customer

  • enable employees to perform business functions outside of the office

  • employ brand advocacy and awareness

  • provide customer service

  • manage inventory

  • share content and workplace updates

  • provide increased value to customers

Just as there are more and more uses for mobile apps for the individual, businesses are increasingly finding ways to take advantage of this technology to drive their work forward.

Related: IT skills: definitions and examples

Examples of popular mobile apps

There are many popular applications being used worldwide. You can also find these mobile apps in most mobile application stores. Here are some of the most common mobile apps and their typical uses:

  • Microsoft Word: You can access, write, edit and print documents using Microsoft word from any device.

  • Facebook: Manage your personal and business pages on this social media platform from all devices.

  • Adobe Photoshop: Edit, enhance, send and print your photos and videos with Adobe Photoshop.

  • Text Grabber: Translate between any two languages using type, photo and voice.

  • Duolingo: Learn a new language on this mobile app by talking, listening and typing.

  • Capital One: Manage your banking information, checking account and credit lines through banking applications such as this one.

  • MyFitnessPal: Log your meals, workout, water consumption, steps and weight in this health tracking application.

  • Spotify: Browse, download and listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts and more.

  • AirBnB: Search for hotels, apartments and rentals worldwide on this booking application.

Careers that involve working with apps

Mobile apps have become increasingly popular over the last several years. Due to this, employment involving working with mobile applications is on the rise. Careers that involve working with apps include:

  • App developer: App developers innovate, design and update programmes for mobile devices, the web and specific operating systems.

  • UI designer: UI, or User Interface Designers, design the screens of an application. This is the facing the end-users see on their app.

  • Software engineer: Software engineers in the mobile application area create the tools to develop the application software.

  • Instructional technologist: Instructional technologists work with instructors and designers to decide on the best uses for instruction-based technology.

  • Customer support specialist: Customer support specialists provide support and information to customers about business operations, services and products through mobile application platforms.

  • Mobile app developer: Mobile app developers are software engineers who focus on app development. They create, program, test and maintain mobile application platforms.

  • App support specialist: Mobile application support specialists typically work in a company's IT (information technology) department. These specialists help application users with the ease of use and functionality of the company's software applications.

  • Social media coordinator: Social media coordinators use mobile apps to manage a company's public relations and social presence. They also research marketing trends, post content and engage with audience members.

  • Brand ambassador: Brand ambassadors use mobile apps to promote and brand and its products and services in an effort to drive traffic.

  • Business managers: Managers in varying departments, such as operations and human resources, sometimes use mobile applications to communicate with employees, partners, clients and other stakeholders. They may also use mobile apps to manage business functions and increase efficiency.

Related: How To Become a Mobile App Developer

Mobile apps trends

Mobile apps have become central to many people's daily lives. Here are some of the current trends with mobile apps:

  • Many people now use mobile apps more often than traditional desktop computers for digital activities.

  • Most of the roughly 8 billion people in the world can report some sort of access to mobile applications.

  • Mobile app technology seems to continue increasing in popularity. Some estimates predict there to soon be hundreds of billions of annual mobile app downloads.

  • As mobile apps become more popular, people may also increase their spending on different apps. This is already a large market that can connect potential consumers worldwide, and some trends show that the financial value of mobile apps can keep increasing.

Related: What are the technology trends shaping businesses today?

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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