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What is a mobile app?

What Is a Mobile App?

Mar 01, 2022

6 min read

A mobile app is a software application specifically designed to run on mobile devices like a phone or tablet. Whatsapp, Facebook, and Subway Surfers are currently among the most popular mobile apps

The original purpose of apps was to facilitate productivity. Calendar, email, and contact list apps once were once the norm. Now, these come built-in in any typical smartphone. 

But demand nowadays revolves around mobile game apps, GPS services, food delivery, and whatever else fills the base convenience and entertainment needs of smartphone users. 

The word ‘app’ in and of itself came into use with the rise in popularity of mobile applications. It was voted word of the year in 2010 by the American Dialect Society. 

The nitty-gritty, software side of mobile apps recognizes three different modes of mobile app development – native, cross-platform, and hybrid. 

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Native Apps 

Native app development involves the process of building mobile apps that are only compatible with one platform. Such specificity allows software engineers to develop apps that are noticeably high-performing and high-functioning. 

Since developers know exactly what platform their app will be released on, they have far-reaching access to targeted features and functionality. 

For developers building mobile apps for iOS code in Swift or Objective-C, XCode is an integrated development environment (IDE) for Apple operating systems where programmers can write and test their apps. 

For developers building mobile apps for Android code in Java or Kotlin, Android’s respective IDE is Android Studio. 

Cross-Platform Apps

Cross-platform apps are made to be compatible with multiple mobile operating systems. 

React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter are common software tools for developing cross-platform apps.

While it is easier to take the cross-platform development route to release your app on a wider network, performance is not expected to be on par with native apps. Customization is also more difficult.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps use traditional web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS but encapsulate the product into an application that’s optimized for mobile users. This is less demanding in regards to cost and time for developers and businesses.

There is some controversy as to whether hybrid apps fall under the category of cross-platform apps, or if they are another category altogether.

As an aside, progressive web apps (PWA) share some similarities with hybrid apps. They are built with web technologies but run in a browser and no installation is required. 

Their overall aesthetic and function is that of a mobile app, but you won’t find them in an app store, only on the web. 

The Ionic framework is a popular developer tool for building both hybrid apps and PWAs. 

What Is a Mobile App Developer?

A mobile app developer is a software engineer who creates, tests, and programs apps for mobile phones. There are quite a few mobile developers who have experience creating mobile apps entirely by themselves. 

Regardless, mobile apps will likely survive longer on the market and with better reviews if a team of mobile app developers works on the product together.

Mobile app developers also have the additional responsibility of creating patches and releasing upgrades regularly to make sure the app is up to standard and addresses user feedback. 

Mobile app developers have to take careful consideration of varying hardware and specifications for different mobile devices. Because details like screen size and resolution must be taken into account, a skillful grasp of user interface (UI) design is required. 

They also have to work with the application programming interface (API) of different devices. Wondering how you place an order or book a flight from your smartphone? APIs are the answer. 

An API is a set of routines specifying how software interacts. API is the explanation for how data is transmitted from one device to another or how different applications share information. 

Mobile app developers either have to work on the front-end or back-end of development. On the front-end, they develop the app’s UI. On the back-end, mobile developers must manage security, authentication, routing, and more.

Why Develop a Mobile App?

Mobile apps are, by definition, mobile. This inherent convenience and flexibility draw a lot more consumers to your product or service than otherwise. 

But in a more general sense, a mobile app can grant you flexibility in your industry market. Developing a mobile app can give you the opportunity to flex your business. 

In public relations, you’ll have the chance to gain a media presence and appear on lists for recommended apps. You’ll also be able to compete in the same market as your competitors. 

The competition more than likely has an app to offer its consumer base already. And if not, you can be ahead of the game. 

Needless to say, you can make money off mobile apps too. You have the option of putting your app on the app store with a price tag. Or, you can look into other strategies for boosting capital from mobile apps – which you can read about in the FAQ.

Advantages of Developing a Mobile App

Many businesses think they are doing just fine because their business has a website, and they feel like this can render the same results. But mobile apps are a whole different ball game. 


Apps are faster than websites. They’re quicker to access and the performance is unparalleled as well. Not to mention, with a mobile app, users have online and offline access as some elements can be stored in cache or downloaded for offline use. 

New Consumer Base

Mobile apps tend to garner a younger fan base. In 2017, people aged 18-24 spent two-thirds of their time on smartphone apps. While Boomers may shun them for their behavior, you can use this new form of consumption to your advantage. 


On a mobile app, you’ll see engagement in two ways. First, you’ll see an increase in engagement in your product due to new consumers. But you’ll also see a larger engagement in the context of consumer-to-business (C2B) interactions. 

Customers are more likely to leave feedback about your product or the app itself through the app store or through a ‘Contact Us’ segment of your app.


Mobile app developers can give smartphone users more personalized experiences. Instead of seeing what everyone else sees on a website, you can use features like Dashboard or Recent History tabs so the experience can be catered to the user. 

SEO Ranking

 SEO plays a part in the app store as well. Both your in-app content and the app itself can be optimized for higher rankings. Naturally, your business will do better the higher it ranks. 

Companies Who Have Mobile Apps

  • Nivea
  • Quickbooks
  • Under Armour
  • Nike
  • L’Oreal
  • Rocket Mortgage
  • Starbucks
  • McDonald’s
  • Ikea
  • Gilt

Reasons to Hire a Mobile App Developer

Mobile apps are a sure-fire way of generating brand awareness for your business. The majority of users – as much as 85% – prefer to use mobile apps over mobile websites. This is because mobile apps offer a certain ease-of-use which mobile app developers are technologically adept at delivering. 

What’s more, skilled mobile app developers can provide users with distinctive, live experiences as technology like AR and VR become the new normal.  

At the very least, mobile apps are an effective way of helping your business stay relevant, especially when you’re hearing feedback from customers who are just as invested in long-term improvement as you are.

How to hire a mobile app developer?

For those who wish to take the high road and hire mobile app developers on their own, we’re still here to help. 

Hiring a developer on your own is a very focused and hands-on process that requires considerable knowledge about software development in general. 

The last thing you want to do is trust your hiring process to someone with no technical ability. If you are a non-technical manager looking to learn a thing or two, we have a great resource here for you to learn more about the hiring process in detail

Otherwise, we’d recommend you contact Trio for consulting and developer allocation. 

What should you look for in a mobile app developer?

Mobile app development is a generalized category. For instance, a developer who builds mobile apps may be familiar with Android software, but unfamiliar with iOS software, or vice versa. 

You may even want to hire a generalist software developer. Still, there are some base qualifications to look for in any mobile app developer. 

At a high level, mobile app developers should be able to:

  • Have experience working with C#, Java, Swift, and/or Objective-C
  • Understand different development methodology such as Agile or Scrum
  • Demonstrate expertise in two or more popular mobile app development platforms like Unity or Ionic
  • Possess up-to-date knowledge of current tech trends

How much do developers cost in the U.S?

Based on ZipRecruiter data, mobile app developers can make as much as $153,000 annually and as low as $76,000 annually in the United States. The average salary for a mobile app developer in the United States is $121,663. 

How much do developers cost in South America? 

Due to economic differences between the United States and South America as a whole, the cost of offshoring software development is significantly lower than hiring full-time with U.S talent. For Senior Mobile App Developers in South America, the average salary is currently around $100,000 whereas a mid-level developer costs around $76,000. 

How much do developers cost in Ukraine / Eastern Europe?

Eastern Europe shares very similar rates to South America, again due to the economic differences. When looking at salaries in Eastern Europe, data shows that a Senior Mobile App Developer costs around $100,000 on average. 

Hourly Rates for Developers

Another way to look at developer costs is through hourly rates. While salaries are good to understand for hiring developers for full-time and long-term, you might just need a developer for a period of 3-6 months or 6-12 months. In these types of situations, it’s best to calculate your costs based on the hourly rates of a developer. 

Below is a table that lists the various hourly rates of developers in different locations based on their job title. 

Why Hire a Mobile App Developer?

Trio mobile app developers are pre-vetted, interviewed, and then trained further to become true software professionals, capable of adapting to situations that are both within and outside of the scope of their general expertise. 

At Trio, we hold our developers to a higher standard. Much like how elite special forces units recruit only the best from main branches of the military, we recruit developers who either show amazing potential or demonstrate exceptional skill. We then take their talents and sharpen them even further.

Another benefit of hiring a Trio developer is that you won’t incur the costs of hiring, which can add up to be around 30% of a developer’s salary on average, as well as overhead costs associated with full-time employment. 

By working with Trio, you can enjoy a highly experienced full-time developer for a fraction of the cost, along with the added project management assistance. 

Interested? Tell us a little about your project and we can get you started today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I hire someone to make a mobile app?

There are many resources out there with the explicit goal of helping businesses and developers alike. Upwork and Fiverr are a couple of examples of platforms where you can find freelance developers. There are alternatives like Trio which lend out software developers on a contractual basis. And of course, you can look for in-house developers on Linkedin or Indeed. But that’s a more costly option.

How much does it cost to build a mobile app?

This is a question with no straight answer as numerous factors will influence the total cost of app development. For an estimate, you can ask experts how much hours each feature of your app costs to develop and multiply this by the hourly rate of your developers. Add a buffer of 20-25% to account for any issues that may arise. Testing and debugging could delay development.

How do free mobile apps make money?

If you’ve ever done a quick browse of your app store, you may have noticed that the majority of apps you came across were 100% free. However, free apps can still make money. Running advertisements on your app is one way to do this. Advertisers will pay content providers like you to run ads. You can also implement in-app purchases and ask users to pay for additional features. These are only two of the most common examples.

How do you put an app on the app store?

That largely depends on the app store you’re shooting for. In the Apple App Store, it can cost up to $99 a year to put out an app on its platform. But it could also be free. Google Play has a one-time fee of $25.

Can I just make a mobile website?

You can, but it’s ill-advised. Mobile websites are a cost-effective way to target consumers who always have their smartphones by their side. At the same time, smartphone users have adjusted to high standards when it comes to functionality and performance. Sometimes only a mobile app can meet these expectations.

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Alex Kugell

Passionate about all things People, Product, Process, and Technology"

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