What Is A Mobile App?

“App,” short for “application,” denotes any standalone software that is downloaded onto and runs on top of a smartphone’s operating system (OS) in order to perform a specific task. Examples of well known apps include games like Angry Birds, music playing applications like Pandora, and utility/fun apps that allow you to do anything, e.g. roll dice or look up the weather. Many companies have created branded apps that provide mobile users with functionality designed for the App environment, e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp.
In case you ever hear the terms “native app” and “web app:”
  • A native app is specifically designed for a particular smartphone operating system, which is why you’ll see examples of companies announcing an iPhone app and Android App as two different events. Usually when people refer to apps available for download in an app store, they are describing native apps.
  • A web app, using technologies such as Javascript or HTML5, has aspects that need to be downloaded from the web each time it is run. As a result, it requires an internet connection, but can be accessed by any web-capable mobile device.
  • “Feature phones,” the industry term for phones that run on firmware and do not support third party software, can connect to the web. As a result, feature phones almost exclusively interact with web apps.
Devices that use mobile apps include smartphones, tablet computers, e-readers and portable music players. The main requirement to be a mobile app-enabled device is a portable device that connects to wireless Internet or carrier networks using an operating system that supports the download of third party software. With the advent of apps, “app stores” have popped up, describing where people can go to download apps. Apple’s online App Store is one example, with Android Market being another prominent example.
They key metrics people use to evaluate apps are number of downloads and number of active users. Many apps face steep challenges attempting to encourage user downloads and ongoing, interactive engagement.
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