Apptivate Partner

Insights | By Dan Holbourn March 9, 2020

What is an app?

An app is more than just an “app” 

When you hear the term “app” your first thought is probably Apple or App store, right? Not quite. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the App Store in 2008, the term “app” has been widely associated with mobile phone apps.

However, the term is actually just an abbreviation for application (aka software program) that can be used across many devices.

Desktop vs. Mobile apps

Put simply, “standard” apps are usually built for two primary devices; desktop and mobile. There are also enterprise apps (we will get this later).

What’s the difference between desktop and mobile apps you say? One of the biggest deciding factors lies within the intention of the app. Take Tinder, for example, the dating platform was intended to be easily accessible with a minimal feature set (swipe left and right) in which a mobile app would cater for.

Mobile vs Web Apps

Whereas some apps may be more suited solely for desktop devices, although, it is very common these days for an app to be built for both mobile and desktop devices, with varying functionality. 

Take XERO for instance; in 2006 XERO launched their high-powered accounting app on desktop with a huge feature set and capabilities. If they were to run this type of app with the same features through a mobile device, it would result in poor user experience. However, in 2011 the accounting app adapted its technology to create a mobile version with a significantly reduced feature set to create a faster and more user-friendly experience.

Consideration before creation

Before you go choosing how your app will be displayed, it’s important to consider the following: 

  • Screen size – Screen size is the main factor for how an app is built. Running a program like Microsoft Word would be too difficult on a mobile phone screen.
  • Operating power of the computer – Second to screen size is computing power. An iPhone simply cannot run a program like Photoshop.
  • Feature set – If an app has only minimal features, it can easily work on smaller handheld devices.
  • Target market – Some demographics still prefer desktop over mobile.
  • Style of app – Social media has benefited a lot from adopting mobile devices. Instagram simply would not exist without mobile phones and the use of the native function of the phone; the camera. 

Reminder: Before starting the development of your app, it’s important to understand the complexities that come with it. Take a look at our Native vs Hybrid vs Web blog post which aims to shed some light on the technical requirements to launch a successful app.

Invisible to the eye

Not every app was built to be seen. There are many instances where an app will be designed to improve internal processes by increasing efficiency or to simplify communications and accessibility for customers; these are called enterprise apps.

Enterprise apps are commonly designed to integrate with other apps in an organisation to improve operational efficiency. For example, a communications app that is developed to help create smooth internal communication in the workplace (Slack) or a customer service app that forms seamless interactions and communications between the organisation and consumer (Intercom).

“Enterprise Apps are Fueling Business Processes and Worker Productivity” – Forbes.

In order to drive innovation and keep up with the looming digital imperative,  it’s important that businesses adapt, or die and with the proliferation of apps in the workplace now available for small businesses, it’s anyone’s game.

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