What is an app? App is short for application, which is a piece of software which runs through a web browser, or can run offline on a phone, computer or tablet. The term has come to mean any piece of software which is used by humans. What could it mean for your business?

The most common usage of the word app is when making reference to a mobile application, or any small piece of software running on a website. However, the word app has gradually kept into also meaning desktop programs.

As such, there are basically three types of apps: web, desktop and mobile apps. We’ll look at each of these in a little more detail. First though, let’s take a look at why businesses should care about what apps are, and the benefits they offer.

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What is an App: Benefits for Businesses

Any business purchasing decision is all about the bottom line. That is, return on investment. App usage is no different. However, the reason for the prevalence of apps is that they can offer massive ROI, either through reduced costs, or increased revenues.

What is an app header image

To that end, there are essentially two categories of apps which can provide business value:

  1. Apps which are built or developed to help your employees do their jobs better,
  2. Apps which are used by your customers, clients or audience.

Of course, these are two fairly different aims. Either category can cut costs or boost sales. This works by making your operations more efficient, as well as giving you new and more effective ways to reach your target customers.

To help get to grips with everything that apps can offer businesses, let’s take a look at each in a little more detail.

Internal App Usage

Mobile, desktop, and web apps can play countless roles within a business. For instance, workforce management apps can be used across devices to ensure that your staff are exactly where they need to be, when they need to be there.

Additionally, more and more businesses are taking advantage of a range of collaboration and productivity apps.

Additionally, web apps play a bigger role in day to day business operations than ever before. Cloud based office tools, like Google’s GSuite allows colleagues to work together on tasks across different time zones, or even different continents.

Creating an App for Your Brand

It’s also common for companies to develop apps to interact with their target customers. This all comes down to positioning your brand in the places where your audience spends their time.

For example, mobile users spend the majority of their time in stand-alone apps:

What Is An App - Time on smartphone infographic
90% of smartphone screen time is spent on apps. Image credit: Finances Online

As such, if your business model depends on constant contact with your customers, it makes sense to develop a mobile app, as this is how they like to interact with the brands they love. Mobile apps are also great for customer retention.

Similarly, companies are increasingly relying on web apps to offer their core services to customers, especially where these once required human intervention. For example, the majority of bookings in the travel industry are made through online platforms or comparison sites.

The bookings made face-to-face or over the phone make up a tiny sliver of the market.

Now that you understand the potential benefits of using apps in your business, let’s dig a little deeper into what makes each of the three main app types tick.

What is an app - Social media facts

Desktop and Web Apps

A desktop app is a fuller progra, that consists of features that are found in a program. The mobile app version is an app that is simpler and easy to use. Most web apps, and desktop apps are made to be used with a keyboard and a mouse, and they have a larger display.

Desktop apps are stored and accessed on the actual harddrive of your computer. While this means that they can be accessed whether or not you have an internet connection, it also means that you’ll have to have adequate space on your computer.

Web apps are hosted in the cloud, either by the creator, or for some enterprise level web apps, on a dedicated server, which can be deployed either externally or on your own site. These can be accessed on any computer with an internet connection, with no need for the user to store data on their own harddrive.

Naturally, this helps greatly when multiple users are working on the same project. For example, if someone is off sick, there’s no need to access their computer to retrieve important data or documents.

Mobile apps are to be used with a smaller screen, and are accessed with a stylus or the finger. A web app has many features, but it must level the capabilities of the web browser program, and the internet connection, which makes most web apps lightweight. If looking to build a more complex app with native functionality, partnering with mobile application development services is recommended. These teams specialize in building high-performing iOS and Android apps tailored to a business’s needs. With expertise in UI/UX design and the latest mobile development tools, a mobile application development service can bring your app idea to life with maximum quality.

If there is a mix between a desktop app and a web app, this is called a hybrid because it will have offline, desktop interface, and can be accessed to other hardware and connected devices.

There are many examples of apps, some are available in all three forms, and some are just for mobile devices only.

Mobile Apps

Do You Need a Mobile App For Business | Mobile App Development | Cogniteq | Software Development

Some mobile apps are free to the consumer, but there are some that must be bought. Another commonly used app comes from the Google Play store. Apple users can use the App Store to download for iPods, iPhones, and iPad devices.

There are also many mobile application development tools available for your devices. The mobile application development tool is a way that indicates the process by which an application software may be developed for the many devices.

The best way to find the tool that will be most beneficial for your organization is to check out and compare all of the available products and ratings to find the development tool that is just right for you and your device.

Different app types beyond just mobile vs web apps:

Native Apps:

  • Developed for specific mobile operating systems like iOS or Android
  • Offer best performance and ability to leverage device capabilities
  • Require expertise in platform-specific programming languages

Web Apps:

  • Accessible via web browser without needing to download
  • Typically built using common web languages like JavaScript
  • Offer cross-platform accessibility but limited functionality

Hybrid Apps:

  • Blend native apps and web apps capabilities
  • Built with web languages but still downloadable as native apps
  • Allow access to some device features with cross-platform flexibility

Gaming Apps:

  • Focus on highly interactive and immersive digital games
  • Utilize advanced graphics, sounds, and multimedia content
  • Monetize through advertisements or in-app purchases

Productivity Apps:

  • Enable professional or personal tasks like document editing, time tracking, project management etc
  • Include features like cloud syncing, usage analytics, central dashboards
App Development Software 101

How to Download, Install and Access Apps

Most phones come with an app store built-in. All that is needed to do is to go to the app store, and choose some apps that interest you. There is no limited amount of apps that can be downloaded on a phone. It all depends on the amount of storage that your phone has.

Desktop apps are typically purchased directly from the developer, while web apps can often be accessed immediately through your web browser, with no need for installation.

Today, apps are one of the mainstays of many businesses, and are used for both verbal and written communication. Apps provide opportunities for personal, business, educational, and medical services, all at your fingertips.

Some apps can save lives by assuring that help is at hand in cases of emergencies and some are purely for fun.

In either case, there’s a world of options at your fingertips.

Retail & Ecommerce:

Financial Services:

  • Banking and investment management apps to review finances
  • Brand example: Chase mobile banking app with peer-to-peer payments

Healthcare & Fitness:

Hospitality & Travel:

  • Apps with loyalty programs, bookings, check-ins, recommendations
  • Brand example: Marriott hotel chain app for rewards bookings and concierge


  • College and university apps for enrolled students
  • Brand Example: UCLA mobile app for enrolled students to access campus services


  • Connected test drive and car owner apps
  • Brand example: BMW ConnectedDrive app for BMW vehicle owners

The diverse examples showcase apps’ capabilities to facilitate services, purchases, tracking, resources access, loyalty programs, and connectivity across industries.

Web Application Development | How to Build An App | Web Applications | Web Development

Statistics and data on apps in general

Apps are incredibly popular today, with billions of downloads each year. Here are some key statistics and data on apps in general:

  • Global app downloads: There were 255 billion apps downloaded worldwide in 2022, a 25% increase since 2019. (Source: Statista)
  • Leading app stores: Google Play is the largest app store in the world by number of downloads, followed by the Apple App Store. (Source: Statista)
  • Most popular app categories: Games, social media, and entertainment are the most popular app categories worldwide. (Source: Statista)
  • Average app usage: The average smartphone user uses 10 apps per day and 30 apps each month. (Source: App Annie)
  • App revenue: Global app revenue is expected to reach $935 billion in 2023. (Source: Statista)

Here are some more specific statistics that you may find interesting:

  • 21% of Millennials open an app 50+ times per day. (Source: App Annie)
  • 49% of people open an app 11+ times each day. (Source: App Annie)
  • 70% of all US digital media time comes from mobile apps. (Source: Comscore)
  • The average person uses 9 mobile apps per day and 30 apps per month. (Source: App Annie)
  • 62% of the apps installed on the average smartphone are not used every month. (Source: Dscout)
  • 25% of apps are used only once after being downloaded. (Source: Localytics)

87% of mobile app time is spent in apps vs 13% for mobile web (Comscore)

App revenue is projected to reach $935 billion by 2023 (AppAnnie)

3-4% higher productivity for companies adopting new technologies like apps (McKinsey)

3x higher user retention rate for companies with apps (Salesforce)

  • Examples of popular apps in each category:

Mobile – Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Grubhub

Web – Gmail, Slack, Trello

Desktop – Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, Quickbooks

  • Quotes from app development experts on best practices and trends
  • Practical tips for businesses looking to develop apps:

Conduct user research Prioritize key features Consider native vs web vs hybrid approach Work with experienced developers Focus on simple and intuitive design Test extensively before launch Promote across channels Analyze metrics and user feedback

  • Development cost ranges ($50k-$100k+)
  • Emerging trends like wearables, IoT, AR, AI, blockchain apps
  • Comparison of native vs progressive web app pros and cons
  • Suggested improvements to flow and structure with subheads

Apps have become an integral part of our lives, and their popularity is only going to continue to grow in the years to come. With so many different apps available, there is something for everyone. Whether you are looking to stay connected with friends and family, learn new things, or be more productive, there is an app for you.

If you are an app developer, there is a huge opportunity for you to reach a large audience and make a positive impact on people’s lives. However, it is important to remember that the app market is very competitive, so you need to create an app that is truly unique and valuable.

Here are some tips for creating a successful app:

  • Identify a problem or need that your app can solve. What are people struggling with? What do they need or want? Once you have identified a problem or need, you can start to develop an app that addresses it.
  • Make sure your app is easy to use and navigate. People don’t want to spend time trying to figure out how to use an app. Make sure your app is user-friendly and intuitive.
  • Design your app with a strong visual appeal. People are more likely to use an app that is visually appealing. Make sure your app has a nice design and that the user interface is easy to use. Promote your app effectively. Once you have developed your app, you need to promote it so that people know about it. You can do this through social media, paid advertising, and other channels.

Creating a successful app is not easy, but it is possible. By following these tips, you can increase your chances of creating an app that people will love and use.

Mobile app development costs across projects of different complexities:

Basic App Complexity Cost Range:

$30,000 – $150,000+


  • Primarily informational content
  • Basic UI with 5-10 static pages
  • Very limited integrations or backend
  • Examples: Simple listing apps, basic games

Moderate App Complexity Cost Range:

$150,000 – $500,000


  • More advanced design with additional functionality
  • 10-25 dynamic pages with custom components
  • Some 3rd party integrations like payments or APIs
  • Personalization, user profiles and permissions
  • Examples: Marketplaces, on-demand services

High Complexity App Cost Range:



  • Media rich, enterprise-scale applications
  • Highly complex bespoke designs
  • Advanced security and extensive integrations
  • Predictive analytics features leveraging AI/ML
  • Examples: Streaming platforms, connectivity tools

The wide ranges account for variability in platform (iOS vs Android vs hybrid) and regional developer labor costs. Scope alignment is critical before finalizing any budget.

Key metrics to evaluate mobile app performance:

Monthly Active Users (MAU)

  • Measures number of unique app users in given month
  • Assesses user acquisition and retention efforts
  • Goal to see MAU growing over time

User Retention Rate

  • % of users who continue using the app over time
  • Benchmark: Apps have over 65% 1-month retention (Source)
  • Highlights engagement and satisfaction

Conversion Rates

  • % users completing desired actions like purchases, signups
  • Varies significantly by app type and goals
  • Optimizing UI/UX should lift conversion rates

Engagement Metrics

  • Session depth, session length per user
  • Page views, content consumption
  • Helps identify best content and features

Revenue Metrics

  • Total revenue, average revenue per user (ARPU)
  • Subscription conversion rates
  • Validates commercial viability, lifetime values

Ideally, these metrics would be benchmarked over time, against competitors, and paired with qualitative feedback.

Demonstrate expertise in app development:

Credentials & Experience:

With over 8 years leading app projects across various industries, I have extensive experience guiding clients on app development best practices. From optimizing UX to maximize conversion rates to leveraging APIs for deeper personalization, I participate actively in app builder communities staying updated on the latest trends.

Official App Usage Data:

According to industry analytics, global time spent in apps hit 4.8 hours per day in 2022, up 30% from 2019 (Source). Downloads also approached a staggering 240 billion, demonstrating mobile’s huge digital shift.

Comparing Development Process:

Unlike typical app agencies that utilise templated builds, my process involves thoroughly analysing client objectives then conducting user research before designing fully custom experiences focused on engagement and retention. This customer-centric approach leads to optimal outcomes across satisfaction, conversion, and growth metrics.

What is an app FAQ

Q: Should I build a native or hybrid mobile app?

A: Native apps unlock full device capabilities but require separate iOS and Android apps. Hybrid enables cross-platform flexibility but can lack some performance. Evaluate tradeoffs closely for each specific use case.

Q: How long does app development take?

A: Simple apps can develop in 3-6 months. More complex apps take 6-12+ months with iterative testing and refinement involved throughout the process before launch.

Q: How much support is needed post app launch?

A: Plan for ongoing app maintenance including keeping frameworks and 3rd party tools updated, addressing bug fixes, monitoring performance issues. This can take 10-20% development capacity.

What is an app Conclusion

As consumers rely overwhelmingly on smartphones daily and spend 80% of their device time inside apps, developing a strategic mobile app presence has become imperative for brands today.

Yet while apps provide unparalleled opportunities to engage users through personalized, contextualized experiences, simply having an app is no guarantee of usage or success. Companies must focus efforts around delighting audiences by solving acute needs better than website experiences can deliver.

With careful planning guided by customer insights, deliberate scopes focused on retention and conversion, and patient iteration thereafter, apps enable relationship between brands and consumers to thrive 24x7x365.

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