Types of apps and popular categories of mobile applications

Basically, there are 3 types of apps:

  • Native apps with a) Objective-C or Swift for iOS b) Java for Android c) .Net for Windows Phone
  • Hybrid apps for all platforms altogether with Xamarin, React Native, Ionic, Angular Mobile Sencha Touch etc.
  • Web apps as responsive versions of website to work on any mobile device.

Types of apps

Native apps

developed specifically to satisfy needs of a particular platform or device. They use various operation systems such as Apple iOS, Android or Windows phone, Symbian, Blackberry etc… That is why the application built for android can’t be run by iOS.

These applications have high performance and provide the highest user experience by use native device UI. They also have wide access to APIs of device that allow apps to use it without any limit. At last every application has excess to App Stores that provide easier way for reaching target clients.

While having strong advantages native apps still have some cons. As usual development is high cost due to the need to create duplicates in one app to all other platforms. In the end all maintenance of each application of all platforms will be separated that provokes higher cost of update and support of product.

Hybrid apps

are built using multi-platform web technologies (for example HTML5, CSS and Javascript). They are mainly website applications hidden in a native wrapper. They include advantages of both native and web mobile applications.

Obvious advantages of multi-platform apps are: they are fast to develop MVP. One code base for all platforms allows using low-cost of maintenance and easy and instant update.  It also uses some device APIs like gyroscope, accelerometer, geolocation etc.

However, hybrid applications have a performance issue that is why in state of optimization they have lack of speed and are less refined (then native counterparts). At the same time, design can’t give a user fully native experience due to the hybrid trying match with one version of two or more platforms.

Web apps

are responsive websites that behave  and only look like native applications. They use browser for running and are usually written in HTML5, JavaScript or CSS. This Apps redirect user to a special URL and ask “to install” by simply creating an icon with a bookmark to that page.

Apps like this usually require minimum of device performance and use a bit of device memory. As far as all personal databases are saved on a server, users can get access to it from any device whenever there is internet connection.

As any web page, web apps would be unavailable if there is no internet connection. At the same time, the use of web applications of low or bad connection would give bad user experience. Meantime applications have low access to APIs device, except for geolocation and some others.

DEVELOPMENT COST Usually higher then hybrid or web, if apps are developed for multiple platforms Commonly low cost, but require high skills for hybrid framework The lowest cost due to single code base
PERFORMANCE Native code has wide access to device functionality, while content, structure and visual elements are also stored in device memory ready for instant use. Apps content is only a wrapper on the used device while most of data should be loaded from a server. Performance is inextricably linked due to browser work and network connection
DISTRIBUTION App stores allow some of marketing benefits (such as rankings and feature placements) while they have their own requirements and restrictions There are no store restriction to launch, but there is also no app store benefits
MONETIZATION Both apps may content in-app purchases, ads, and app purchase itself. However, app stores take fee (around 30%) from all purchase actions, also there is initial fee to deploy an app in the app store Monetization may be mostly provided via advertisements or subscriptions.
TRENDS According to Flurry analysis, users spend up to 86% of their mobile time using native or hybrid apps (still 54% if exceed games from rating) Only up to 14% of time users spend on mobile websites
DEVICE FEATURES Native platform code has wide access to any device APIs Some APIs benefits are close to hybrid apps, however there are still some that can be used of low level features (such as gyroscope or accelerometer) Only some of device APIs may be used (such as geolocation)
USER INTERFACE Apps developed with highly familiar and original UI to native OS Even best apps can’t give to a user fully native experience due to cross-platform UI and UX design, but meanwhile they can achieve a fair native look
CODE PORTABILITY Commonly code for one platform can’t be used for another Most of hybrid codebase tools can be ported to major platforms Browser and performance is only a case
MAINTENANCE / UPDATE Maintenance of app will be as much higher, as much platforms it is developed for As far as there is only one codebase to be maintained or updated all actions are much more easy and fast
RECOMMENDED FOR Apps that will be developed for single platforms Apps that need to be distributed as multi-platform Apps with limited funds, resources or terms
Apps with wide requirements due to capabilities of hybrid or web Apps that will be developed for App Stores Apps that do not require App Stores
Apps that require highly optimization level for stable work Developed with HTML, CSS, Javascript etc
Apps that need best native UI or best graphic animation

Categories of apps

There are several methods to divide applications into different categories or assign to a certain type. Also, we think that it would be better to let numbers and statistics speak for itself. For this purpose in the article, we’re going to refer to Statistica website and pick the most popular categories of apps in Apple Store.


Statistica of the types of apps

We decided to take a closer look at the top 7 types of mobile apps as they managed to break the 3% barrier. This shortlist clearly indicates how and what for people use their mobile phones capabilities today. They tend to do business, communicate, educate themselves, and relax, of course.

Game type of mobile apps

By far the most popular and practically unreachable category for other types of mobile applications. More than 24% of all mobile application, available in the Store, fall into this section. It shows that mobile gaming is thriving, thus prompting app developers to focus on creating new games or porting existing titles to mobile devices.

Why are games so popular amongst other types of apps? From gamer’s’ perspective: they offer the sense of achievement and highest levels of engagement in the process – according to statistics an average gaming session is almost 8 minutes long. And what about developers? Even simpler – games category is the most profitable one.

Best games apps

Business type of mobile applications

When games are done, it is time do some business. In the modern hierarchy of mobile application types, business holds second place with the considerable 10% share. Some smartphones feature serious hardware allowing to perform many complex tasks on the run.

Billing, buying, booking, sending emails, tracking working progress – you name it. Business mobile applications tend to be pragmatic and 100% useful without any unnecessary features. They are designed to boost one’s productivity while saving time and minimizing expenses. Today everyone is using these little helpers – from ordinary managers to executive directors – as they want to be effective doing their jobs.

Best business apps

Educational mobile apps

When it comes to types of mobile apps it is a bit hard to define an educational program because «education» category encompasses a wide array of software. Simply talking: sometimes an app can be educational to some extent but still cannot fit in this category. However, it is nice to see that modern society cares about self-education which brings this category to the top 3 of our list.

Educational apps can be a powerful instrument not only for exercising and expanding knowledge in particular spheres. According to recent reviews many teachers use this type of apps for organizing teaching process, engaging children, and motivating them to learn. Moreover, it allows to constantly broaden students’ horizon as the learning can be taken out of the class adjusting to individual learning pace.

Best education apps

 Lifestyle type of apps

Probably the widest category on types of apps as it encompasses many general interests of people which define their regular way of living. Shopping trends and technical innovations go hand-to-hand here, thus you can definitely find some helpful tools for managing your life.

High demand (almost 9%) for this type of mobile applications proves that it is rather easy to get lost in between work duties, family business, friend meetings, or other arrangements without proper organizing. Types of apps for your lifestyle make it much easier and adapt to your specific needs and requirements.

Best lifestyle apps

Entertainment type of apps

Applications in this section in most cases are closely related to gaming but they offer another approach to agitating your mind. We’re talking about chatting, reading news, or watching videos online. All this stuff helps you to escape boredom. How often do you find yourself in a situation when you turn your smartphone off after getting bored only to log in a few minutes later for the exact same reason you left?

Talking about types of apps you have to distinguish actual games and entertainment applications. Sometimes it can be hard as entertainment apps often tend to «gamify» the process or activities. Yes, both of these have one common goal – to keep you engaged, logged in. Entertainment apps can do this in the much greater variety of ways as they are not limited by any scripts or prearranged scenarios.

Best entertainment apps

Utilities apps

When you think about utility tools in your smartphone, you are probably remembering things like flashlight or GPS in the first place. However, utility type of apps can boost smartphone’s capabilities much further. Their popularity and 6th place on our list can be explained by sheer amounts of practical individuals which want to use their gadgets to full potential. Most popular types of applications of this type are various scanners, trackers, first aid manuals, and etc.

Utility programs are also often used on a daily basis but unlike gaming apps, they have much shorter session times. It is logical because people use such applications for specific tasks without wasting more time than needed to get things done. The common goal for all utility apps developers is to ramp up the frequency of use.

Best utilities apps

Travel apps

These types of apps that makes traveling easier in many ways. Some applications from this category can make your smartphone a universal diary to document all sights and places while others can literally guide you through the unknown territory abroad using maps or translation assist.

Best travel apps

Instead of conclusion

There are many other categories of mobile apps but most of them derive from larger categories mentioned above (e.g. sports, health and fitness rubrics can easily fit into the Lifestyle section). That is why we decided to leave them out this time. If you are a mobile developer remember one thing: no matter what is the type of your application as long as it makes people’s life easier.

Try to follow your ideas of making this world better with digital solutions. The more users you can involve, and the more grateful (and helpful!) feedback you can get. Adapt to people’s desires and they will lead you to the top. Just like that!