The Different Types of Apps - Apps: Beginner's Guide For App Programming, App Development, App Design (2015)

Apps: Beginner's Guide For App Programming, App Development, App Design (2015)

Chapter 1. The Different Types of Apps

We hear the word “app” used so much that we forget its origins. It used to be that an app was a word only used on big corporations, as recently as 5 years ago. So, how did it become such a popular term today and why has it become the most dominant word in technology?

Apps vs Software

So, what is the difference between the two? I’ll tell you now, if you ask 200 people that question, I guarantee you will get 200 different answers! The word “software” is one that covers a whole host of different things, all the way from the latest Call of Duty up to Microsoft Office or Photoshop. Apps are partly software. In traditional terms, software is a product that is packaged whereas an app is a small piece of code that is for a specific use. Apps are built for everything – mainframes, servers, mobile or desktop computers and they may not always need an internet connection to work. The real difference lies in what you mean by the word “app”.

When someone says “app” to you, no doubt you automatically think of a mobile app, ones that you download from iTunes or Google Play Store. These place an icon on your mobile device and you access the app through that icon. These can be somewhat challenging to create as each app has to be created separately for each different mobile platform. You couldn’t build an app for iOS and expect it to work on Android, for example, because the code cannot be shared.

The Different Types

A mobile web application is accessed via the browse on the mobile device and need access to the internet to work. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have both a mobile web application and a mobile application as well as a desktop application and many websites are designed around mobile use these days.

Web applications use a desktop web browser to work and many people get confused about the difference between a web application and a web site. It can be confusing but it’s important to remember that an application is small and are designed to do something specific. Think about the photography sites such as Flickr; sites like LinkedIn or Yahoo Mail accessed on your tablet or phone. They are web applications whereas a page showing the marketing details for a company is most likely to be a website.

Desktop apps only run on desktop computers and do not require access to the internet to work. They may be accessed through icons on your desktop and many are standard additions on brand new computers. Examples of desktop apps include iPhoto, Paint and Notepad.

Consumer Changes

The way in which we use technology today has changed a lot. Traditionally, we needed IT systems and experts to help us find our way around, and find new applications and new software. Apps were mostly designed to be used for business tasks. These days, even your granny probably uses a smartphone to send pictures of her bridge game to a friend!

The modern app for mobiles are easier to use than the older packaged software’s because they are driven by the fact that they are task specific. Mobile apps are easy to find, you simply visit the app store for the mobile platform you are using. You can find both web and mobile apps by using Google, Yahoo! Or another search engine and you will often find a write-up about the app, along with ratings and user reviews.

Installing an app is dead dimple, taking no more than a tap of the “Install” button. Many web apps and some mobile apps don’t even need to be installed to be used. Finding the app you want for a specific task is easy; mobile apps are listed by category in the app stores and, when you find what you want, simply download it to take care of one purpose.

These days, the speed with which apps are developed and introduced to the market is amazingly fast. Many are released in a beta period first, allowing people to test them out, see if it’s something they would buy. A high proportion of app developers are freelance these days and the field has grown by 8% in the last couple of years. And, the amount of apps being developed means that there are far more products on the market.

The very nature of a mobile app leads to quick launching and, because they are task specific, there is no need for a developer to create large tools or integrate complicated databases in the app, making them much simpler and easier.

Web apps may be designed for a specific browser, or a specific device and mobile apps support specific platforms. That means there is no need to add in extra planning to make the app work on a specific device, just the platform.


Lastly, we know that the internet is an integral part of life; no longer do we go out and buy music or game CD’s; we simply purchase them on the internet. We can watch movies, TV shows, videos, play games, get whatever information we need, and communicate with others.

Tablet and smartphone sales are rising fast, heading to take over from the desktop PC or the laptop. While these larger machines will always have a place in society, more and more people are using mobile, even large corporations.

Right now, the mobile app is the top of the heap, the most popular and the most used. They can be produced quickly, they are easy to use, can be used on the internet and fit whatever device they are being used on.

Now you know the difference between all the different types, let’s start looking at what you need to get that app out of your head and into an app store near you.