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Mobile application development is the process by which software applications or mobile apps are developed for mobile devices. These applications can either be installed priory on phones during manufacturing platforms or delivered as web applications using server-side processing (eg. JavaScript) to provide an application within a Web browser. An ideal mobile app requires network connection to work with remote computing resources. The process usually involves generating installable software bundles such as code, binaries, assets etc.; implementing backend services (such as data access with an API); and testing the application on target devices. Mobile app development sector has shown steady growth in terms of revenues and jobs created. According to a 2013 report, there were 529,000 app economy jobs then and around 60 percent of them were for mobile app developers.

Mobile Applications and Device Platforms

There are mainly two dominant platforms in the smartphone market- a) iOS platform from Apple Inc. which is the operating system that powers Apple’s iPhone smartphones and b) Android from Google. The Android operating system is used by Google devices as well as by other OEMs to build smartphones and smart devices.

Irrespective of the similarities within iOS and android platforms when building applications, developing for iOS vs. developing for Android implies using different software development kits (SDKs) and different development toolchains. Apple uses iOS exclusively for its own devices whereas Google makes Android available to other companies and organizations provided they meet the requirements of including certain Google applications on the devices.

Building Mobile Apps

 There are four major development approaches for developing mobile applications namely:

  •     Native Mobile Applications
  •     Cross-Platform Native Mobile Applications
  •     Hybrid Mobile Applications
  •     Progressive Web Applications (PWA)

Each of these approaches has their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Hence, developers should consider the following factors while selecting the right development approach for their project requirements.

  • Desired user experience.
  • Resources and native features recommended by the app.
  • Development budget.
  • Time targets.
  • Resources available to maintain the app.

Native Applications

Native applications are software programs developed for use on a particular platform or device. They are written in the programming language and frameworks as provided by the platform owner and have the ability to run on the operating system of an Android or iOS device thus utilizing device-specific hardware and software.

Cross-Platform Applications

Crossplatform mobile applications are software applications that are compatible with multiple mobile operating systems. These can be written in a variety of different programming languages and frameworks. But they are compiled into a native application to run directly on the operating system of a device. 

Hybrid-Web Applications

Hybrid mobile apps are deployed in a native container that provides a browser runtime and a bridge for native device APIs via Apache. They are usually built with standard web technologies such as JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5 and are compiled into app installation packages. They use a mobile WebView object that displays web content when the app is used.

Progressive Web Applications

Progressive Web Applications use emerging web browser APIs and features along with an approach to traditional mobile app development by skipping app store delivery and app installations. PWAs utilize a set of browser capabilities eg. working offline, running a background process, and adding a link to the device home screen to provide an ‘app like’ user experience.

Comparing Native vs. Hybrid Applications

There are various ways in which native apps differ from hybrid apps.

Native App

Hybrid App

Programming Languages required Java for android, Objective-C or swift for iOS

HTML, CSS, JavaScript
A separate code for each platformSingle Code base
High performanceLower performance
Requires more time, money and expertiseFaster, cheaper and easier to develop
Platform specificCross platform
Platform frameworksWeb frameworks
Easy to customizePoor customizability
Direct access to native device featuresRequires specific plug-ins
Easier to test and debug

Easy maintenance

Why Choose the Hybrid/ Cross-platform Approach?

There are several advantages associated with Hybrid apps which includes low -cost development and approach to a broad range of various hardware/software efficiency. Hybrid applications can be deployed on multiple platforms. High development speed and cost-effective nature make this approach more suitable for start-ups as compared to native apps which requires a highly specialized skill set. The code can be written once and used for multiple platforms. Additionally, it provides similar user experience and performance as native apps.

ADVANTAGES OF HYBRID DEVELOPMENT

  • Lesser efforts.
  • Reliable Results
  • Cost-effective
  • Timesaving.
  • Allows for fast launching.
  • Requires the key level of knowledge about standard languages because the remaining projects will be checked by using the progress and development tools.
  • Offers near-native practicality and value.

Following factors should be considered while selecting the most relevant hybrid app development solution:

  • Business type: If you have a small-scale business or large-scale business you can choose Ionic or Framework 7. For large-scale companies, Sencha, Xamarin frameworks can also be used.
  • Technical proficiency and expertise of the developers: Ionic would be the best framework to be chosen if the developers don’t have a great amount of high-technical expertise.
  • Nature and type of your end product:  Hybrid app development tools are the best if your aim is to develop applications that are adaptable with all devices.

How Hybrid and Cross-platform Frameworks Work?

Hybrid Mobile app development is smooth and simple for web designers and developers to build as it comes with the advantage of being a single app which executes proficiently on multiple platforms and frameworks namely iOS, Android and windows with no additional effort.

Hybrid apps use web technologies of HTML5/CSS/JavaScript, thereby allowing the web application to act like a native application on the device. Since hybrid mobile apps are web apps running on a browser environment, most of the code from a web app can further be utilized to create a mobile app. As runtime performance of mobile browsers are increasing, progressively, hybrid app development is an advantageous alternative for web developers who want to build mobile apps.

Some of the Hybrid mobile app development tools used worldwide and in many businesses are as mentioned below:

  • PhoneGap (Apache Cordova)
  • Ionic Framework
  • jQuery Mobile.
  • Adobe AIR
  • Sencha Touch 2
  • Kendo U

Most cross-platform frameworks like React Native and Native Script provide native components to function with the cross-platform code. while Flutter and Xamarin brings cross-platform code together with the native code for an enhanced performance.

Similarly, Progressive Web Applications are written using traditional web application programming technologies including JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS which are accessed through a browser on the device or computer. 

The Mobile Application Development Lifecycle:

There are two core components of a mobile application:

1)    the mobile application “Front-End” inbuilt on the mobile device and

2)   the “Back-End” services that support the mobile front-end.

In the early days of the modern smartphone applications, the applications and sites used to be   enclosed within themselves and function as static advertisements for the brand, company, product, or service. However, as connectivity and network capabilities progressed, the applications became increasingly connected to data sources which were outside the app. As a result, apps became significantly dynamic in nature, being able to update their UI and content with data received over the network from queries to data sources.

Front-end vs. Back-end

The interwoven nature of Front-end and Back end

The front-end applications rely on and need to be integrated with back-end services which provide data to be consumed. These data may include product information for e-commerce apps or flight information for travel and reservation apps; for a mobile game, the data even may include new levels, scores or avatar.

The mobile front-end obtains the data from the back-end through several service calls like APIs. Sometimes APIs may be operated by the same entity developing the mobile application. However, the API can also be controlled by a third party where access is granted to the mobile application.

For example, given the scenario that a developer gets social media or an advertising content by making calls to advertising company services or media, he  [u1] is required to sign a contract to obtain credentials that grants access to the API and governs its usage, cost involved, quantity of data and the time frame.

Frontend and backend development can take approximately one month. Which can be further divided into an estimated 8 weeks for frontend development and 10 weeks for mobile app backend development. So, it is better to check for the time frame depending on the planned performance and the functions of the mobile app.

What are the benefits of cloud backend systems?

Organizations pursuing digital transformation initiatives prefer adopting cloud technology specifically for improving business agility. For starters, enterprises achieve improvements in code quality and a significant increase in on-time delivery performance with cloud backend. They are also able to reduce deployment time, enable a faster innovation and reduce product development cycles within budget.

Additionally, cloud backend makes cloud apps easier to scale on demand and provides users with unique ways of gathering data and making informed decisions.

Mobile developers are responsible for creating an application and managing the back-end services for their application. The mobile developer may not be skilled in spinning up and running a back-end infrastructure. In such a scenario, developers prefer to take advantage of a cloud backend service provider that checks for scalability, security, and reliability of a particular app. Overall, the cloud effectively enables the developer to focus on his task of developing the application – instead of spending time on back-office processes. As a result, cloud backends can foster innovation and creativity excluding many of the management and infrastructure hurdles.

Here is a list of key benefits an enterprise can achieve by adopting cloud infrastructure.

  1. Efficiency and cost reduction

Cloud infrastructure increases efficiency that drastically reduces capex costs.

  1. Data security

Cloud offers advanced security features that ensures that data is securely stored and handled.

  1. Scalability

Scalability reduces the risks associated related to operational issues and maintenance. Using cloud enables the enterprise to scale up/down their IT departments according to business demands more quickly and efficiently.

  1. Mobility

Cloud computing allows mobile access which means that resources in the cloud can easily be stored, retrieved, or processed via smartphones and devices. This ensures that all the employees are in the same loop.

  1. Disaster recovery

Cloud infrastructure can assist you with Data loss prevention and Data security. Uploading data onto the cloud, it remains accessible from any system with an internet connection.

  1. Control

Cloud enables complete visibility and control over the sensitive data. This also streamlines work, increase and ease collaboration.

  1. Competitive edge

Organizations that adopt cloud realize that it offers them access to world-class enterprise technology thus keeping them ahead of their competitors and rendering positive impacts to their businesses.   

The Mobile Application Front-End

The mobile application front-end is the visual part of the application which the user experiences and interacts with. It is usually present on the device, or there might be an icon representing the app. It can also be depicted as the interface design and the programming that makes the interface functional.

What a Front-end Development Workflow Looks Like?

There can be several approaches depending on the project type and size including user interfaces, progressive web apps, small business sites, e-commerce themes development and complex projects on JavaScript.

Front-end development is the practice of generating HTML, CSS and JavaScript for a Mobile Application so that a user can see and interact with them directly. The tools and techniques needed to develop the front-end change constantly and so the developer needs to be aware of how the field is developing.

The objective of designing a site is to ensure developing a sequential, relevant, and easy to go through format that the user experiences. This is further complicated by the fact that there are various devices with varying screen sizes and resolutions thus compelling to take into consideration these aspects when designing the site.

There are many graphics designers who are responsible for creating visual elements of applications like icons, backgrounds, themes, and other parts of the app. The team may also comprise of user interface designers who work on the layout of the components; motion graphics developers and engineers to develop engines that govern the physics of movement of components within an app like a car in a racing game.

The Mobile Application Back-End

Regardless of what front-end platform is being used, delivering a high-quality mobile application that motivates and retains users requires reliable back-end services. Backend mobile development can be regarded as the code that will help to connect the database information and the browser. Depending on the significance of back-end services for the success of the mobile application, the developers should consider several important architectural decisions based on which they take further decisions of which services should they build themselves and which third party services should they leverage if required.

The ultimate role of the backend in mobile application development is to ensure the proper functioning of:

  • databases,
  • scripting, and
  • the architecture of the application.

The factors that need to be considered while building a backend for mobile app are:

  • Decide on process endpoints
  • backend and frontend responsibilities
  • Design the API
  • Design the database
  • Get the backend test script ready
  • Checking for the Programming language to implement API
  • Deployment

How Mobile Apps Integrate with the Backend?

A crucial factor within the mobile app development process is building the app logic that is a requisite for making network calls to the back-end services, retrieve data from them and update the data in the back-end systems with new data being released from the app.

The back-end services are typically accessed by various application programming interfaces, known as APIs. There are several types of APIs, namely REST and GraphQL, along with a variety of styles for accessing them. While few of them are directly available to the application through calls in the platform itself, others have to be integrated into the app via a software development kit, SDK. Once SDK is added to the app, the application can make use of the APIs as defined in the software development kit.

How to Interact with the Backend Data?

A database that contains information used in the app could serve as an example of a back-end service for a mobile front-end. The mobile app developer should know the network location of the database, the protocol, the credentials for authorizing the data access, and the specific database commands to extract the necessary information.

Alternatively, specialized APIs can be utilized while interacting with the database.

Usually, a REST API is used to interact with data sources on the cloud database. A GraphQL API that provides querying support through a single API endpoint is also another option which is easier to work with backend data. It also offers a data scheme to build and extend data models.

Key Mobile Application Services

Digital security has evolved as one of the top mobile app development trends in 2020.There are four major digital technology trends—Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Security (CADS).

It comes within the responsibility of the mobile developers that they should check for an effective development environment that makes it easier for them to use, integrate and consume the most commonly required functionalities in their application.

Essential

  •     User Sign-up/ Sign-in and Management
  •     Social login (Facebook sign-in, Twitter sign-in, etc.)
  •     Analytics and User Engagement
  •     Push Notifications
  •     Real Device Testing

Data Services

  •     Cloud Storage
  •     Real-time and Offline Data
  •     Application Logic/Cloud Functions

Machine Learning

  •     Conversational Bots

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