Friday, July 11, 2014

Mobile App Type Classification

WSO2 Mobile

WSO2 is a world re-known Enterprise Middleware provider. Recently around 1-2 years ago, WSO2 started off with the WSO2 Mobile, a subsidiary of WSO2 Inc, the mother company.

WSO2 Enterprise Mobility Manager is a device and mobile app management platform developed by WSO2 Mobile. In order to get an idea of what these mobile apps, what types of apps are available etc, I did a bit of a research.

Mobiles, Smart phones, Tablet PCs, i-Pads all these were luxury high-tech items couple of years back. People quickly adapted to the usage of mobile phones with time.

In past 1-2 years, usage of smart devices in the world, had an exponential growth. Smart phones and devices penetrated the market easily because as they became more affordable, and the availability and competitiveness of 3G and 4G.

There are various applications in the mobile market which works on these devices. According to their characteristics there are 3 basic types of applications.


Native Apps

These are the apps that are installed on the device itself. These apps can be accessed via icons on the mobile device. Such apps are either coming along with the device or any custom apps can be downloaded from an application store. (Google Play store or Apple App store)

These apps are platform specific and can access any device feature such as camera, contact list, GPS etc. Because the platform dependency of the apps, development of such apps are expensive. You need to create the same app in different coding languages depending on the underlying OS of the device.
  • for Android devices - Java
  • for iOS devices - Objective - C
  • for Windows Phone - Visual C++
Also to function most of the native apps, device doesn’t need to be online.
If there are any new versions or updates available for the app, the device user needs to manually download them.

Mobile Web Apps

Mobile Web apps are stored in a remote server and the clients can access the webapp via a special URL through a mobile’s web browser.

Unlike in Native apps, these are not installed on the mobile device. Therefore these mobile web apps have only a limited amount of device’s features such as orientation, media etc.

Typically mobile web apps are written in HTML5. Also other languages as, CSS3, Javascript and other scripting languages like PHP, Rails and Python too are used.

As mobile apps are stored only in the remote server, the updates are applied directly to them. Therefore the users do not have to manually install any upgrades as they have to do in Native app upgrading.

As shown above, there are both pros and cons of both the mobile app approaches. Therefore, the mobile app developers introduced a concept of Hybrid Mobile apps to the market.

Hybrid Mobile Apps

As the name implies, these are like native apps running on the device, but are written in webapp development technologies like HTML5 and Java script. There is a web-to-native abstraction layer that enables the apps to access mobile app features such as camera, storage etc.

Hybrid apps are generally built like mobile webapps using HTML5 etc, and it is wrapped with a mobile platform specific container, so that it brings out the native feature. This way, both the development convenience and presence in the mobile app stores are achieved easily.


In essence, we can classify the types of mobile apps as below.