A mobile application, also referred to as a mobile app or simply an app, is a computer program or software application designed to run on a mobile device such as a phone, tablet, or watch. Apps were originally intended for productivity assistance such as email, calendar, and contact databases, but the public demand for apps caused rapid expansion into other areas such as mobile games, factory automation, GPS and location-based services, order-tracking, and ticket purchases, so that there are now millions of apps available. Apps are generally downloaded from application distribution platforms which are operated by the owner of the mobile operating system, such as the App Store (iOS) or Google Play Store. Some apps are free, and others have a price, with the profit being split between the application's creator and the distribution platform. Mobile applications often stand in contrast to desktop applications which are designed to run on desktop computers, and web applications which run in mobile web browsers rather than directly on the mobile device
Mobile apps were originally offered for general productivity and information retrieval, including email, calendar, contacts, the stock market and weather information. However, public demand and the availability of developer tools drove rapid expansion into other categories, such as those handled by desktop application software packages. As with other software, the explosion in number and variety of apps made discovery a challenge, which in turn led to the creation of a wide range of review, recommendation, and curation sources, including blogs, magazines, and dedicated online app-discovery services. In 2014 government regulatory agencies began trying to regulate and curate apps, particularly medical apps. Some companies offer apps as an alternative method to deliver content with certain advantages over an official website.
Mobile application development requires the use of specialized integrated development environments. Mobile apps are first tested within the development environment using emulators and later subjected to field testing. Emulators provide an inexpensive way to test applications on mobile phones to which developers may not have physical access.
Mobile UIs, or front-ends, rely on mobile back-ends to support access to enterprise systems. The mobile back-end facilitates data routing, security, authentication, authorization, working off-line, and service orchestration. This functionality is supported by a mix of middleware components including mobile app servers, Mobile Backend as a service (MBaaS), and SOA infrastructure.
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