Introduction to mobile application development: Exploring approaches

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Mobile phones are arguably the most popular devices for digital connectivity. Mobile phones have been used to help people and societies stay connected for social, economic, educational and political activities. According to GSMA 5.4 billion people are subscribed to mobile services. This culminated in $ 5.2 trillion of economic value being added and supported 28 million jobs in the mobile ecosystem. One aspect that propels mobile phone usage are mobile applications. Mobile applications are designed and developed to provide digital services as solutions via a smartphone.

Mobile application development is the process of creating software that can be used on a mobile device, such as a smartphone. Primarily, the goal of such software is to provide mobile digital services as a solution to problems being faced by people in their daily life activities. These days individuals or companies develop mobile applications as digital platforms for providing various services in sectors like insurance, healthcare, e-commerce and agriculture. With modern advancements in technologies, there is a need for individuals and companies to develop mobile applications that meet user expectations for real-time transactions and access to accurate and real-time information.

Approaches to mobile development.

There are primarily two approaches to mobile app development: native and hybrid. A native mobile app is primarily designed and developed to run on specific mobile operating systems, which are either Android or iOS. On the other hand, a hybrid app also known as a cross-platform app is developed on a shared codebase and can be built to run on multiple OS. The two approaches are distinctively discussed below.

Native mobile Apps

A native mobile app is developed specifically to run on either Android or iOS. One key advantage of Native app development is that it exposes various specific device built-in features and APIs that developers can take advantage of to create powerful mobile applications.

Android Apps

Android is the world's most popular mobile operating system, powering more than 70% of smartphones. Android was first released as an open-source project in 2003, based on the Linux kernel. Android provides several APIs that can be used to circumvent mobile device limitations. Android applications are simple to distribute on the app store - Google Play - with few publishing restrictions. There are currently nearly four million published Android apps. Java or Kotlin programming languages are used to create Android applications. Recently, Kotlin has been the preferred programming language for Android apps due to its improved performance compared to Java. The official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for android applications is Android studio. Android studio is available for macOS, Linux and Windows.

iOS Apps

iOS is a mobile operating system that runs on Apple hardware like iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Just like Android, iOS also offers various APIs that can be utilized to circumvent the limitations of mobile devices. But unlike Android apps, deploying iOS apps on the App Store faces the strongest quality review before it can be published for distribution. iOS applications are developed using Swift or Objective-C programming languages. The official IDE for iOS apps is Xcode which only runs on macOS.

Hybrid apps

Cross-platform is another name for hybrid apps. Hybrid apps are created with a single code base and can run on Android, iOS, or the web.This means that a developer creates a single piece of source code, which is then compiled to create two distinct applications. One application that runs on Android and another that runs on iOS. As various mobile devices are targeted, this ensures a greater reach and accessibility. However, unlike native apps, hybrid apps have limited access to device features and APIs, which may impact the app's user experience. Some of the frameworks for developing hybrid apps include, Flutter, React Native, Ionic, Kotlin Multiplatform, Xamarin and NativeScript. Flutter and React Native are two popular technologies for developing hybrid apps. The two are briefly discussed below.


Flutter is a cross-platform application development framework that uses Dart as a programming language and enables developers to build responsive and engaging apps. With Flutter, developers can create appealing apps with a native feel as the framework provides a range of tools and services. Flutter provides a rich package of widgets for creating visually appealing UIs, advanced debugging and testing capabilities and performance optimization features.

React Native

React Native uses JavaScript as a primary programming language and follows a component-based architecture by providing components and APIs for cross platform apps. This allows developers to reuse code. Just like Flutter, React Native also provides debugging and testing tools and performance optimization features.


Mobile apps are developed to provide digital services on a smartphone. Mobile apps can be developed as Native or Hybrid. Native apps can either run on Android or iOS operating systems. On the other hand, Hybrid apps share a single codebase and are then compiled to run either on Android or iOS.