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What is Mobile Application Development?

Mobile application development is the set of processes and procedures involved in writing software for small, wireless computing devices. Like Web application development, mobile application development has its roots in more traditional software development. One critical difference, however, is that Mobile apps are often written specifically to take advantage of the unique features a particular mobile device offers. For instance, a gaming app might be written to take advantage of the iPhone’s accelerometer or a mobile health app might be written to take advantage of a smartwatch’s temperature sensor.

In the early years of mobile apps, the only way to ensure an app had optimum performance on any given device was to develop the app natively for a particular device. This meant that at a very low level, new code had to be written specifically for each particular device’s processor. Today, a majority of mobile application development efforts focus on building apps that are device-agnostic.

Native mobile apps vs. progressive web apps

In past years, if an app needed to be cross-platform and run on multiple operating systems, there was little — if any — code that could be re-used from the initial development project. Essentially, each device required its own mobile app development project with its own code base. Modern cross-platform tools use common languages such as C# and JavaScript to share code across projects; more importantly, they integrate well with application lifecycle management tools, such as Jenkins. This allows developers to use a single code base for Apple iOS, Google Android and progressive web apps (PWAs). A progressive web app is a website that looks and behaves as if it is a mobile app.

PWAs are built to take advantage of native mobile device features, without requiring the end user to visit an app store, make a purchase and download software locally. Instead, a PWA can be located with a search engine query and accessed immediately through a browser, thereby eliminating the need for e-commerce merchants to develop native apps for multiple mobile operating systems. Just like YouTube videos, PWA content is downloaded progressively, which provides the end user with a better user experience than a traditional website that uses responsive design. Progressive web apps may also be referred to as instant mobile apps.

See also: mobile application development platform

This was last updated in March 2019

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