Planning your dream app? Let’s talk mobile app terminology.

Planning your dream app? Let’s talk mobile app terminology.

In this multi-part series we talk about how to explore, vet, and develop your great idea for an app. We move from the exciting early phases of brainstorming and ideation, to validating your idea, writing a mobile app project brief, finding the right partner, crafting a strategy, building and testing your app, and then taking your product to market. In this week’s article, we cover some of the important mobile app terminology. This will be useful as we get into the pros and cons and decide on the right OS for your new mobile app. 

Before your app gets under way

So, you’ve got a great idea for a mobile app. You’re committed to making this happen, so you’ve done some market research and refined your idea, maybe even written up your mobile app project brief. Now what? 

Well, you’ve reached a crucial stage. Soon you’ll be making some of your most important decisions. You’ll be choosing an operating system (or systems), a development strategy, and ultimately an app development partner. These choices will have a massive impact on the outcome of your project. 

Before getting into the pros and cons of the various paths ahead, let’s talk terminology. Having a firm grasp on the terms will help with your evaluation process.

What is a mobile operating system?

A mobile operating system is the software that enables you to run applications and programs on your mobile device. An example would be the iOS operating system that’s installed on an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device. This serves the same function as the MacOS platform that’s installed on your Mac computer or the Windows operating system that comes with your desktop PC. Note: we use the terms “operating system” and “platform” interchangeably, though there are some distinctions between the two.

What is the iOS operating system?

The iOS operating system is the mobile operating system designed by Apple exclusively for use on the iPhone and other Apple devices. 

What is the Android operating system?

The Android operating system is the mobile operating system owned by Google; it can be used on Android phones as well as a wide variety of other devices.

What is a native app?

chart processA native app is custom-built for one specific operating system, such as iOS or Android. An app developer uses a programming language that’s unique to the operating system they’re coding for. Essentially, the app has to be built separately for each operating system it will run on. For example, a developer might use Java to code an app for an Android phone. WhatsApp and Lyft are common examples of native apps.

What is a cross-platform app?

A cross-platform app is an app built on a single codebase, but it can be run on more than one operating system. A cross-platform app can be utilized by both iOS and Android users. Flutter and React Native are examples of languages used to develop cross-platform apps.

What is agile software development?

group workshopping at table with laptopsAgile development is an iterative method of software development used in the creation of mobile apps. It’s informed by the principles laid out in the Agile Manifesto. Agile development works in short cycles, or sprints, with working software always being the ultimate measure of progress. The main advantage of the agile method in software development is that course corrections can be made at any step of the process. This way, the final product is almost always guaranteed to fulfill the project goals.

Next steps

Now that you understand some of the important mobile app terminology, you’re ready to talk strategy. In next week’s article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of native vs. cross-platform app development, so you can compare approaches. 

If you’re already in the process of vetting app development teams, get in touch. We’re happy to have a conversation anytime.


LimeTech is a creative tech company with a focus on innovation and adaptive change. We use technical know-how, design skills, and deep experience in entrepreneurship to help companies advance their business goals. Our specialties include mobile app development, website design, technology planning, and remote work solutions.