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What Is Involved in Cell Phone App Development?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

The process of cellular phone application development is typically very similar to other types of software design and engineering, and these projects often go through many of the same steps along the way. Most cell phone app development cycles begin with the decision of what kind of application to create. After that has been determined, the platform must be chosen. The app may then be prototyped to test various functions and features, though some developers will immediately begin work on code for the final product. Other important steps that must be made along the way include decisions on how to monetize and distribute the application.

Cell phone app development typically begins the same way as other types of software development. The first step involves determining what type of app to create. This process can be very simple or quite complex, and it varies from one developer to another. One general practice is to examine the current app marketplace to locate areas that are underserved, or could be served better. After the general concept for an app has been settled on, the platform must be chosen.

A cell phone with apps.
A cell phone with apps.

There are several different cellular phone platforms, each of which offers different benefits and drawbacks in the areas of install bases, marketplace crowding and the general difficulty level associated with development. Some platforms are very closed, while others are quite open. The learning curve for a new developer can also have a very wide range, from less than six months for some platforms to over a year for others.

Cell phone apps are typically developed with specific users in mind.
Cell phone apps are typically developed with specific users in mind.

After the platform has been chosen, the cell phone app development process can enter the programming phase. This may involve languages such as Java™, C and C++, depending on the platform. Some software development kits (SDKs) and third-party tools also allow simultaneous cell phone app development for two or more platforms. This type of cross-platform development can increase the length of a project, though it is typically faster than building two separate apps in different environments.

The final step in any cell phone app development cycle typically involves releasing the application. This stage is vastly different from one platform to another due to the varying marketplaces. Some cell phone platforms have closed marketplaces that involve a very rigorous screening process. Other platforms allow developers to sell apps directly to their customers or have less restrictive marketplaces. This stage also involves a decision on how to monetize the application, as it is possible to sell apps directly, offer them for free with support from advertising revenues, or even include an option for microtransactions.

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Discussion Comments


@Fa5t3r - The amount of money that goes into making an app is often quite high compared with what people expect them to sell for though. I hardly ever spend any money on apps and will search for the free version of whatever I'm hoping to use every time.

If I really like an app and it requires a click on an add or a couple of dollars, I'll usually set it a limit, depending on how useful I find the app and then just spend that amount (of time or money) and no more.


@clintflint - I actually think that they should make it a law that those kinds of games should have an option to just buy the game and not have to pay extra for small parts of it.

I understand that they often need the micro-transactions to pay for ongoing development but they design the games to be just as addictive, or even more so, as gambling and there's a reason that gambling is illegal in a lot of places. I just feel like people will end up getting hurt and the fact that these are often marketed towards children makes it even worse.


Micro-transactions are the most lucrative of all the forms of monetization for applications and games in particular. They set up the game so that you become addicted to it, and then ask for just a tiny amount of money in order to continue playing. But those little amounts soon add up to quite a lot.

I know exactly how they do it and I've still been suckered into paying a couple of times. Generally I have to completely delete the game to stop myself from spending too much. It makes me wonder how many people have spent money they didn't have to spend on these games.

I try to stay away from them altogether now. In theory I don't think they are immoral but they are amoral and that is almost more scary.

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    • A cell phone with apps.
      By: iQoncept
      A cell phone with apps.
    • Cell phone apps are typically developed with specific users in mind.
      By: denys_kuvaiev
      Cell phone apps are typically developed with specific users in mind.