All You Need to Know About Mobile Apps
What Are the Different Types of Mobile Apps?
At this point, apps are an integral part of our daily lives. The marketplace is crowded with all types of mobile apps. Today, even businesses who never would’ve needed apps in the past are getting into the game.
While some are doing their best to stay ahead of the tech curve, many are simply meeting customer demand for an app that makes their lives easier.
As such, there is a wide variety of apps that fit into an increasingly vast array of categories. How many categories, you ask?
There are 6 defining categories that you need to understand before you begin developing your app. Determining where your mobile app idea fits is an important step toward making your idea into a reality.
Read on, and I’ll outline the 6 major types of mobile apps to help you determine in which category your mobile app belongs.
Let’s get started!
Lifestyle apps have come on strong in recent years. A lifestyle app is one that accelerates or supports the individual facets that define your lifestyle. By this I mean those types of mobile apps related to:
The beauty of these apps is that once they’re a part of a user’s lifestyle repertoire, they’re likely there for good. These are the apps that people turn to on a daily basis to help them find the next new song, restaurant, or destination. They’re the apps that help them find themselves, what they like and dislike, and where they’re heading next.
At the risk of getting a little too deep, I’ll stop there. If you’re developing a lifestyle app, you’ll need to do something to wow your user. Something that your competitors don’t do. Something your users just can’t live without.
Some examples of Lifestyle apps are:
Social media apps are some of the most popular types of mobile apps available. We build our social networks, and most of us check in with them every day. Facebook alone reports over 1 billion active daily users.
Naturally, we want to have the ease of access a mobile app provides. Social media apps have to be fun, fast, and continually integrating the expanding features of the social networks they support.
Today’s society shares more about their day-to-day lives than ever before. For that reason, even apps that don’t necessarily fall under the social media category may want to include social sharing functionality.
For an example, let's look at the popular running and cycling app, Strava. It not only tracks your activities but allows you to compare your stats with other people in your network (and even strangers). You can essentially form an online running partnership or even an entire team without ever meeting face to face.
Many other apps allow you to share a product, high score, or news item with your social network. They make it easy for their users to share something they feel passionate about without having to leave the app.
Consider adding social sharing features to your app if you will be providing a service or selling a product that your users can share with their networks. This functionality will keep your users coming back to share again and again while comparing with their networks.
Some common social media apps are:
Utilities are the types of mobile apps that we may use most often without thinking about them as apps. Many of them come pre-installed on your device and serve a single function.
Some examples of common types of mobile apps in the utility category are:
These are the types of mobile apps that we tend to use more often, but for shorter periods of time. You’ll normally only open your calculator in order to solve an equation (like calculating a tip at a restaurant) and then put it away.
Do your best to increase the frequency of your utility app in order to successfully monetize it. Short visits aren’t as profitable, but many of them can add up to a significant revenue stream.
The gaming and entertainment category are huge, and as such, very competitive. Games are one of the more obvious mobile app categories and need little explanation. These types of apps are popular among developers because they bring users back multiple times each week, sometimes multiple times per day.
In the most successful games, both the frequency and length of play is high. Work to make your game as “addictive” as possible by offering incentives to users who come back every day or a certain number of days in a row.
Some examples of game apps are:
While productivity may sound like one of the more boring types of mobile apps, it’s an incredibly popular category. These types of apps help their users accomplish a task quickly and efficiently, making what are sometimes mundane tasks easier and, dare I say, fun?
Examples of productivity apps are, well, many of the products from both Google and Apple, like:
These types of apps are indispensable when they’re done right. That means helping your user accomplish a task more easily, quickly, and efficiently than your competitors. Convenient features that allow them to get from point A to point done are what set this type of mobile apps apart, so get creative and come up with a way to do things that nobody else is doing.
News and information apps are pretty straightforward. They supply their users with the news and information they’re looking for in an easy to understand layout that efficiently navigates them to the things they care about most.
Examples of different types of popular news apps are:
These are the biggest names in news, and they all deliver something different. If you’re developing a news app, you’ll need to find a unique way to communicate with your users, because, let’s face it, the news will all be the same...it’s news.
Your opportunity to shine is in the way you deliver it. Create something unique and tie it into the type of news you’ll be reporting on to give it that special something your users are looking for.
Everyone seems to be under the impression that they can hire a freelance coder, build out their concept, and get rich with the next viral app.
I hate to be the one to burst so many bubbles, but the truth is very far removed from this common misperception of the mobile app development world. In fact, there are so many “behind the scenes” processes involved in the creation of a successful app that, had they been known, it would have discouraged a great deal of failed app startups from ever trying.
That said, understanding everything that is involved in the mobile app development process BEFORE you set out to create one gives you a major leg up over the majority of your competitors.
You see, while app ideas are a dime a dozen, executing a thorough and well-formulated app development strategy is extremely rare.
If you can put together all of the pieces to this intricate puzzle, you’ll have a much higher chance of developing a truly successful app.
That’s why I’ve taken the time to create this guide. It outlines everything you’ll need to know about your app BEFORE you start the mobile app development process, such as:
This is the guide that every app startup wished they had before they began development. Seriously, it’s that good.
Before we dive head first into the logistics of the mobile app development process, it’s imperative that you ask yourself a few important questions that will help you understand whether or not you’re ready to launch an app startup.
1. Are you ready to pour your heart and soul into your app to make it successful?
To many, the app business sounds like a fun way to ride the wave of an exploding market. To those of us who live and breathe app development, we know better.
Like any business, mobile apps are hard work. They typically require a lot of equity (financial and sweat) to be poured into them before they become something that can be monetized (if they ever do). Your app idea may seem like a fun new business venture, but unless you’re prepared to give it your all, I would suggest holding back. An app startup is a business, and just like any business you’ll need to be prepared for the highs and lows that come along
As I mentioned above, an app startup is a business. The marketplace is saturated with quality applications, all fighting for a share of the limited real estate available on your phone or tablet. Your app will need extensive promotion and a thorough marketing strategy that you’ll need to implement and execute in full.
Many app owners enter the marketplace with the goal of earning an income right off the bat. It’s possible, sure, but the likelyhood of you turning a profit from your app in months, or even years, could be quite low.
Some of the biggest apps in the game went years before they ever thought about monetization. Instead, they focused on user experience, developing a loyal regular following first.
If you want to monetize more quickly, you’ll need to consider the type of app (category, more on that in a minute) you’re developing, as well as the way you’ll go about doing so (more on that later, too).
You (and those closest to you) may love your app idea, but have you reached beyond your peers to get feedback? How do you know that your ideal user will find your app valuable?
Imagine, just for a moment, that you go through the entire mobile app development process. It fails to take hold and you realize in hindsight that it was because you had missed a few key functional concepts that your ideal user was looking for.
Now you have to go back to the drawing board, update functionality and design, optimize the user experience based on your new revelations, and spend TONS of money doing so. Or worse yet, you’re unable to raise the necessary capital and have to put the project on hold until you can do so.
Do your due diligence BEFORE you develop your strategy and well before you start the app development process.
If, after asking yourself these questions, you still feel ready to move forward with your mobile app development, it’s time to get started!
The first concept to clearly understand are the types of apps available. Without experience in the app development environment, very few people understand that there are different types of apps.
Let’s take a look at all three.
Native apps are the ones that helped coin the term “app.” They are helpful little programs that we download from an app market which live on the homescreens of our mobile devices. What makes native apps “native” is that they are designed and coded for a unique platform, usually iOS or Android.
Generally considered the most basic type of “app,” a web app is essentially a mobile-optimized version of full-size desktop sites.
A hybrid app falls somewhere in between a native app and a web app. They are downloaded to mobile devices and an icon lives on the homescreen, but they require an internet connection to achieve full functionality. While they seem to deliver the best of both worlds, there is a lot to consider before going hybrid.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of the different types of apps you can choose from, let's take a look at the the rest of the items you’ll need to consider before you get started with developing your app.
This section may pertain to more than just mobile app development. In fact, I know it does. One of the main reasons most businesses struggle or fail in their early years is due to lack of proper planning.
The urge to “wing it” is typically a strong one, especially considering the instant gratification most people expect out of their app startup. If there’s one thing I would advise you to put plenty of time, energy, and resources behind, it’s your preparation.
That means thorough research of:
All of your research will help you to develop a mobile app development strategy document that you’ll use to guide your entire development process. Creating this document will allow you to formulate a strategy for every stage of the app creation process.
Taking the time to research your options and make decisions that map out your app development from concept to launch (and beyond) will make the process smoother, faster, and cheaper. That I promise.
Use the following sections to help you create your mobile app development strategy document. Make sure to research and include your strategy for each section in your document, so when you begin development you know exactly how to handle each step of the process.
Now, let’s take a look at what you’ll need to include in your development strategy.
There are a number of details that go into an app that most app startups don’t consider until it's too late. For that reason, I’ve compiled these items into a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to know. I know, pretty convenient, right?
Now that you understand the differences between native and hybrid apps, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which platform(s) to concentrate development. Your decision will be based on your budget, app category, your ideal user, and more.
Many credit Apple with creating the app as we now know it. They certainly were the first to make a major commercial success of the concept. For this reason, many app startups find themselves drawn to developing for iOS before Android.
iOS development is generally:
iOS is generally regarded as the better app market to launch first because:
That said, your ideal user may very well be better represented on Android. It’s important to understand who you’re targeting with your app and the demographics represented by each platform.
Android development has exploded in recent years and now controls over 82% of the market share, meaning Android receives 60% more downloads by volume.
Numbers like that simply cannot be ignored. The truth is that while Android is a more cumbersome platform for development, the extra cost may very well be worth it if you determine that your ideal user is better represented there.
Google Play and the Android platform represent:
Ultimately, you should aspire to develop for both platforms. It may be a while before you’re ready to create a second native app, or you may want to launch both at the same time. It all depends on your budget, testing and optimization abilities, and willingness to manage both projects.
The number of categories varies depending on who you’re asking, but the way I see it there are 6 main categories, each with their own subcategories. If you ask Apple there are 24, but let’s work on fitting your app idea into my 6 first.
Within each of these categories is a variety of unique niches. In such a crowded marketplace, creating a specialized app can help you stand out amongst the crowd.
The way to discover your niche is to determine what makes your app unique.
In order to stand out and promote your app as a unique product to that of the competition, you’ll have to identify that which makes it special.
The user interface is the part of your app that your user sees, touches, and uses to move from screen to screen while completing user flows. It’s also what is often referred to as the design of your app.
Speaking of design, your app can’t feel like a run-of-the-mill, template-style app that you build yourself. In fact, it’s becoming more and more important that your app look and feel as sharp, sleek, and stunning as possible.
Where many apps provide (essentially) the same functionality, your app may be able to blow the competition out of the water and land a spot among your ideal user’s list of favorites if it looks the part. This means that every aspect, from the welcome screen to the buttons, the menus to the social-sharing features, must look like it was painstakingly handcrafted.
You know the type of apps I’m talking about. The ones where, when you open them you say to yourself, “Wow, this is a really great app.” You want your app to make an outstanding first impression and that requires a seriously beautiful design.
It doesn’t have to be lavish or over the top. Simple designs, when done right, can make for gorgeous apps too. Cater to your ideal users and use their preferences when coming up with your app design. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, mobile app development is all about understanding who your app is going to be used by and putting their needs/preferences first.
One of the key components to a well-designed app is that it’s easy to navigate. That means your design should make it clear for people to get from one step of the process to the next. During testing, your design could be the variable that’s holding up an otherwise smooth user flow, so pay careful attention not to let your stunning design compromise usability.
One of the best ways to make sure your app is easy to navigate is to design your interface in a way that makes navigation an intuitive process. Android development and iOS development each have their own standards.
Your user interface will play a major part in creating an outstanding user experience. In case you didn’t hear me say it earlier, user experience is the most important part of any app. If your user experience isn’t on point, your app won’t be used. Apps that don’t get used get deleted, it’s as simple as that.
The best way to provide a flawless user experience is to make your app as intuitive as possible. When a user opens your app to help them accomplish something, it should feel as if it’s simply an extension of their own mind.
The less they have to think about how to get from A to B and B to C, the better.
As I’ve already stated, apps are generally products created to solve a problem or meet a need. One thing you need to consider is whether or not your app meets those needs as comprehensively as possible.
Your app should be everything your user is looking for and more. If you can meet their needs, great. If you’re able to exceed their expectations, your app has a far greater chance of being spread by word of mouth. That’s the type of attention that makes apps truly successful.
The mobile app development process is so much more than coming up with an idea and having it coded into a published product. You’re continually evaluating various aspects of your concept to optimize it pre-launch.
One of the most important parts of the mobile app development process is testing. After all, you want your app to launch with the best chances of taking hold with your users. If a new app is met with a less-than-stellar first impression, you’ll have to work that much harder to win users back (if you ever can).
There will always be small problems that need to be corrected after you launch, it’s the nature of the business. That’s one of the reasons all of your favorite apps are continually updating.
After you’ve tested until you simply can’t test any longer, test again. Then reach out to others for help.
Now that we’ve had a chance to cover testing, it’s time to get into the post-launch side of the development process. After your app goes live you’ll still have plenty of work to do.
One of the things you’ll be doing throughout the life of your app is optimization. Mobile app development is an ongoing process. Even if you’ve tested until you’re blue in the face, there will be things that you want to change about your app once it goes live.
In such a competitive industry, you can imagine that marketing will play a vital role in your app’s success.
Just like your mobile app development strategy, you’ll need to create a strategy for just how you'll promote your app once it’s ready. Another similarity between your marketing strategy and development strategy is that they will both be built around your ideal user.
To create a marketing strategy you’ll need to:
The final thing you need to know about the mobile app development process is that it’s something best done by a team of experts, not by a solo developer. Sure, a super-simple app idea may be safe in the hands of a single person, but that’s not the kind of app we’re talking about in this guide. These are the apps that people use, love, and share with their peers. The kind of apps that have an impact on people’s lives. For that you need a team behind you to support your concept and create the best version possible.
Now that you know more about mobile app development than the majority of the population, are you ready to get started?
My Technology is a world-class team of experts that can help you with every part of the process. We love what we do and we take app development very seriously.
We think outside of the box and work with our clients on a level rarely seen in the industry. We love working with startups because of the potential they represent.
We’d love to hear from you, help answer your questions, or simply talk shop. Get in touch today to tell us how we can help you build the app of your dreams!