Jul 25, 2023, Business, Mobile

What is a mobile app? Get to know the basics!

Joanna Kołodziejak Marketing Specialist
mobile app definition
Each of us has that friend who "has an app" for everything. Need to make a shopping list? iPhone notes, Listonic. Order grocery at home? Walmart Grocery. Make an appointment with a hairdresser? Booksy or Calendly. Have someone remind you to drink water? There’s Hydro. Mobile applications have become part of our daily lives for good. The Statista report from the end of 2021 showed that 57% of internet traffic comes from phones, and this year's The Digital 2023 Global Overview Report revealed that this number has increased to 64.4% within a year!

If you’re thinking about developing your business, you need to focus your efforts on being exactly where your customers are. So, when deciding on a mobile application, it is worth starting from a thorough analysis of a user’s behavior to know that downloading your mobile application can be valuable from your recipients’ point of view. Will it make it easier for them to access your service? Will they use it on a daily basis? Will it really be an essential component in your business growth? By giving your customers a mobile application, will you actually provide them with something so interesting/attractive that they’ll be eager to use it? In-depth analysis and fresh statistics will allow you to determine whether a mobile application is the essence of your business, the main customer service tool, or a web-compatible channel to reach the recipient.

What is a mobile app?

A mobile application is software dedicated to devices such as smartphones or tablets, created to provide specific services. Although every smartphone has a number of built-in applications – a calculator, weather forecast or a voice recorder – the vast majority are downloaded from external suppliers like the App Store or Google Play.

Mobile applications can be divided into several categories:

  • mCommerce, e.g. Amazon, Zalando

  • social, e.g. Facebook, Instagram

  • service, e.g. Ticketmaster, Uber

  • gaming, e.g. CandyCrush, Super Mario

  • education, e.g. Duolingo, Coursera

  • finance, e.g. PayPal, Cash App

  • lifestyle, e.g. Aloe Bud, Ted, Pinterest

  • entertainment, e.g. Netflix, YouTube

The list is pretty long – at the moment (middle of 2023) app stores offer over 3 million different products. A statistical smartphone user uses  an average of 10 applications per day and 30 per month. However, the market is still insatiable – every year more and more businesses decide to invest in a mobile app. Based on data from Serpwatch, mobile applications are projected to generate over $935 billion in revenue by the end of 2023. So, what distinguishes mobile apps from solutions such as RWD or PWA websites?

Mobile application pros

User’s convenience

This is the obvious number one on our list. An application designed typically for smartphones will always be more convenient and user-friendly than a website.

Features available only for a mobile app

Some features aren’t available for solutions such as PWA or RWD. Two main examples are push notifications, being an effective way to increase customer loyalty and save the shopping cart, as well as the geofencing function, i.e. location services, which, after proper coding, can trigger various actions in an application depending on a user’s location.


A mobile application makes it easy for users to personalize their preferences and settings. They can decide whether they want to receive push notifications or give their consent for tracking or location sharing.

Ability to work offline

We first download the mobile application, then install it, and update it over time. Thanks to this process, downloaded graphics, animations and multimedia are saved and don’t require a permanent connection with the Internet. Thus an application can load efficiently and perform its functions offline. Of course, it concerns mobile apps that don’t need an Internet connection for their proper functioning (such as online stores).

Background mode

It’s a way to enhance a user experience when the app is not actively in use. Some of the well-reviewed features include: allowing the app to continue playing audio in the background, or pursuing a critical task after a transition to the background (e.g. downloading data).


All mobile applications available in Apple or Google stores undergo a detailed verification process of functions and operation. These rules are much more restrictive than in the case of regular websites which allows protecting users against viruses, unwanted advertisements or the risk of data leakage.

Easier payments

Monetization of the offered services is easier due to simple integration with mobile payment systems. Mobile apps offer a range of different earning opportunities including subscription, freemium or simply purchasing access to the application at the download stage. 

Mobile application cons

Need for installation

It’s a necessary step to be able to use an app. But why treat it as a drawback? No user will take the time to install a new tool if they are not sure that it will pay off. It is your role to convince them to do so by giving them a unique value gained by installing the application.


Mobile applications are usually created for specific platforms, i.e. iOS or Android. An application written strictly for Apple devices won’t work on devices with the Android operating system and vice versa. The solution to this problem are hybrid apps. 


To meet safety standards and adapt an application to new versions of operating systems, it must be regularly updated, which includes additional time and cost for the solution owner.

Cost of production and maintenance

Although RWD or PWA solutions are considered a cheaper and faster option than a mobile application, it’s not always true. It all really depends on the scope of work, the product development plan and what is hidden “behind” the application, i.e. backend. 


Now you know what it’s all about, so it’s probably time to move on to the more thorough information. Having a gist of knowledge about mobile apps is unfortunately not enough to create a successful project. What does it really look like and what questions need to be asked before building a mobile solution?