How Has App Development Evolved Throughout The Decades?

Michael Morales  -  December 20, 2021  -  , ,  

Photo by Maulik Sutariya on Unsplash

The number of smartphones is soon going to overcome the number of humans in the world. The number of apps across iOS and Android is already more than 7 billion, which is far more than the world population. So, having started their journey in a little more than a decade, smartphone apps have come a long way.

Today every business wants to know how to build a mobile app for extending its digital footprint across mobile platforms. The vast majority of large businesses already have their apps, and small businesses are fast picking up. There is an app for every purpose in life. How has this app development started? Well, the apps went through several phases of evolution. We would like to have a glimpse at this evolution.

Software Installation to App Store install 

Previously we needed to install software using a CD drive or any storage device, and normally software used to be installed by the technicians and experts. This situation has now changed thanks to smartphone apps. With the coming of the Apple iPhone and its signature App Store, for the first time, an application offering a similar function of a software program can be installed directly from the designated store of the operating system platform. This has brought a revolutionary shift to the accessibility of software applications. 

No more antivirus software for security issues 

Traditional computer networks stay safe from malicious virus and malware attacks to safeguard against data breaching or hacking attempts used to rely heavily on antivirus software programs. Thanks to mobile app platforms, the scenario has been completely changed. 

Though the security threats such as virus or malware attacks and the data breaching and data theft efforts have only become more sophisticated now, the security safeguards and measures have also become stronger to deal with all kinds of security issues in a more concerted and result-driven manner. The frequent security upgrades offered by all mobile operating systems and security-specific guidelines enforced for the app developers are a testament to how mobile security has become smarter.  

Ability to track and guide customers 

Now unlike the traditional websites running on browsers, apps can know more details about the users from the device. The integrated app analytics working in the background can analyze user behavior and various commands and decipher hidden intent or user preferences. The app can adjust its user experience and customer offerings based on these data-driven insights. 

The latest artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies can further make app analytics stronger to decipher more data-driven insights about the users. These technologies can instantly adjust to user preferences and intent by making content or product recommendations. They can even guide app users through a chatbot when they are confronted with issues. 

The web is shaping itself following mobile apps. 

In the evolution of mobile apps, we must remember the huge role in shaping the modern web experience. Since most people have accessed the web through their handheld devices for many years, the web by and large started to rely less on desktop or laptop users. Thanks to smartphones, mobile-optimized web design became imperative for superior user experience and cracking the search engine ranks.

If this responsive design or mobile-optimized web design represents the first push towards eliminating the gap with mobile experience, the emergence of Progressive Web Apps (PWA) took this even further by offering a number of native app features in spite of being websites. From instant access from the mobile screen to offline access to smooth access to device features, PWA revolutionizes both mobility and the web in a number of ways. 

Cross-Platform App Development

Previously we used to have two broad types of apps, respectively native apps and hybrid apps. While the native apps are always there for allowing developers to build for only the users of that OS platform, hybrid apps have emerged as a solution to allow running the same interface and identical features on different devices across the platforms. 

The main objection to hybrid apps is their compromising user experience, and “one-size-fits-all” user interface in contrast to the native apps. A cross-platform approach with Flutter or React Native development has changed the scenario. React Native can reuse up to 85% of the code across iOS and Android while still building a highly native-looking, platform-specific user interface. 

Wearable apps

Wearable apps have emerged as extensions of mobile apps. At first, the smartwatch apps or the smart health tracker apps were only used to collaborate with the mobile app, and the ultimate control used to reside with the smartphone app. Soon this scene was changed, and we started to encounter apps that work independently and without relying on the smartphone app.

Internet of Things (IoT) apps 

Internet of Things (IoT) apps has brought a groundbreaking change to the app development world besides facilitating a connected world of targets and apps. The IoT apps in smartphones soon started to work as remote controls for different connected devices and gadgets around us. The smart home solutions primarily relied upon mobile tracking and controls. The IoT apps played a major role in the continuing evolution of the connected gadget ecosystem. 


Did we miss anything in the evolution of mobile app development? Probably we missed a lot more than what we could cover in this post. While the app development will continue to evolve, creating many more landmarks and milestones, you must look back from time to time at the long strenuous road it passed through. 

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