Mobile App Glossary

June 8, 2023

Mobile App Glossary

A mobile application is a software application designed and developed specifically for use on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Typically downloaded from an app store, this provides users services or content like shopping apps, social networking platforms, or productivity tools.

To succeed in the mobile app industry, it’s important to familiarize oneself with the terminology and concepts involved. This knowledge will be crucial in navigating the field. Below are the terms you should know:

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a method developers use to compare different versions of something, such as buttons, CTAs, icons, fonts, or copy, to identify which version performs better in user behavior. It involves dividing the audience into two or more groups, where one group remains unchanged (control group), and the other group is exposed to a variable (test group). The performance of the variable is then measured and compared to the control group to determine its effectiveness.


An accelerometer is a device used in mobile devices to detect orientation and adjust the screen accordingly, depending on whether it is held vertically or horizontally. It measures acceleration, which is the rate of change of velocity, and helps sense vibrations and determines the surrounding environment.


Android is a mobile operating system developed and introduced by Google in 2008, competing with iOS for market dominance. It is free and open-source software, with its source code known as Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Android is specifically designed for touchscreen devices like smartphones and tablets.

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Android Package (APK)

An APK is a file format used on Android to distribute and install mobile apps. It can be written in Java or Kotlin programming languages. Developers can create and store APK files using Android or Visual Studio. These files contain the program’s code, resources, certificates, and other necessary components for the app to run on Android devices.


Short for application cache, this is a feature that developers can use to determine which files should be cached or made accessible offline.

Application Programming Interface (API)

API is a set of rules, protocols, and tools that facilitate interaction and communication between software components. APIs serve as building blocks, accelerating the development of mobile applications by providing predefined functionalities and data exchange capabilities. They enable software applications to access and interact with other applications or platforms, streamlining the development process without creating complex components from scratch.

App Store Optimization (ASO)

ASO refers to the process of improving an app’s visibility on the Apple App Store and Google Play. By implementing an effective ASO strategy, app creators can increase the app’s search visibility and attract more downloads.

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Back End

The back end is the server-side of the application, where data processing, storage, and business logic occur. It works behind the scenes to support the functionality and performance of the mobile app, allowing users to interact with and retrieve information from the application. The back end is responsible for managing data, processing requests from the front end (client-side), and delivering responses to the mobile app.

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Badges are notifications or warnings that inform users about unread messages, notifications, emails, and other relevant information. On iPhones, badges are used to indicate new messages, push notifications, voicemails, or emails.


A beacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device that is used for indoor location tracking and proximity detection. It broadcasts a unique identifier via Bluetooth, allowing nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices to determine their position relative to a specific point of interest.

Apple refers to these devices as “iBeacons,” while Google uses the “Eddystone” protocol as their equivalent. The term “iBeacon” specifically refers to Apple’s trademarked beacon protocol for their devices. Most beacon hardware distributors support both Eddystone and iBeacon protocols, ensuring compatibility across major platforms such as Android, iOS, and Windows.


Bugs are essentially coding errors in mobile apps that can impact functionality or performance. Developers conduct code reviews and address change requests to identify and fix bugs before releasing the application.

Churn Rate

Churn rate is the annual percentage of customers who discontinue their subscription to a specific service. Mobile app developers use churn rate as a metric to assess if improvements are needed, such as enhancing user experience, modifying features, or adjusting prices.

Control Center

Mobile users can use the control center to access basic app settings, such as Airplane Mode, Bluetooth connection, volume, and phone brightness.

Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform development involves creating mobile applications that can run on multiple platforms. This is achieved by using frameworks like React Native, Flutter, or Xamarin, which allow developers to write a single codebase that can be deployed on both iOS and Android platforms. Instead of building separate apps for each platform, cross-platform development enables the efficient development of mobile applications with a shared codebase.

Deep Linking

Deep linking allows developers to seamlessly guide users from a mobile browser to a specific page within a mobile app or game, enhancing user experience. It can also be utilized to track attribution data and measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns, contributing to user engagement and acquisition efforts.

Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY)

DRY is a development principle that advocates minimizing code duplication in an app. This helps developers write simpler functions that can be reused in different areas of the app, reducing the need to test for multiple corner cases. In essence, less code is better.

Edge Case

An edge case refers to a user who tests the limits and availability features of a mobile application. These users can reveal or cause bugs or crashes within the application.


An emulator is a tool or software that enables the replication of a computer system, including its hardware, operating system, and functionalities. It allows for testing and running applications in an environment that mimics the target system.

Front End

The front end of an application refers to the user-facing part of the software that users interact with directly. It includes visual elements such as text, colors, buttons, images, and navigation menus that users see and touch. Front-end development focuses on building the client-side of the application and making it functional based on the design provided by a UI designer.

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Freemium is a business model combining “free” and “premium.” It involves offering a core product or service for free to a large group of users while also providing additional premium features or content for a fee to a smaller group of users.


Geofencing is a software feature that utilizes GPS or RFID technology to define geographical boundaries. It enables app developers to create virtual “fences” around specific areas, triggering actions when a user enters or exits those boundaries.


Gestures refer to the finger actions that users perform on touchscreen devices. These actions include pinching, flicking, scrolling, and other similar interactions.

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

GUI refers to the visual interface that users interact with on their devices. It includes the design, layout, and presentation of elements such as buttons, icons, menus, and screens that allow users to navigate, input information, and perform actions within the app.


A gyroscope is a sensor or instrument used to measure the orientation or rotation of a mobile device. Gyroscopes are commonly used in mobile devices to enable motion sensing, screen rotation, and gaming interactions that respond to the device’s movements.


Haptics or haptic technology refers to any technology that provides a tactile or touch-based response. It involves using vibrations, motions, or other physical sensations to create tactile feedback for the user.

Human Interface Guidelines (HIG)

HIG refers to a set of standard rules and guidelines that developers and designers follow when creating applications. These guidelines ensure that apps are designed and developed in a way that properly functions and meets user expectations.

Hybrid Applications

Hybrid applications are a combination of native and web applications. Native applications are specifically developed for a particular platform (e.g., iOS or Android), while web applications are designed to work on multiple platforms. Hybrid applications bridge the gap by wrapping web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) in a native container, allowing them to be deployed on multiple platforms.

In-App Purchase (IAP)

In-app purchase refers to the ability for users to buy virtual goods or content from within a mobile app. It could be a virtual currency, subscriptions, upgrades, extra lives, cosmetic items, or in-app enhancements. Users can make these purchases using real money, allowing developers and publishers to generate revenue from their apps.

Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

IDE is a software tool that combines multiple development tools into a single program. IDEs provide programmers with a unified user interface for writing and testing code, allowing them to make quick changes, recompile programs, and run them efficiently. IDEs streamline the development process by offering tools for code writing, debugging, and automating application development.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT refers to the network of physical objects, such as vehicles, buildings, and various devices, that are embedded with software, sensors, and internet connectivity. These objects can collect and exchange data, enabling them to communicate with each other and with users.

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iOS is the mobile operating system developed by Apple for their iPhone, iPad, and other Apple devices. iOS apps are typically created using programming languages like Swift or Objective-C and developed using Apple’s Xcode software.

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Jailbreaking is the process of removing software restrictions and limitations imposed by the manufacturer or operating system on a mobile device.

JavaScript Object Notation (JSON)

JSON is a lightweight data-interchange format. Initially derived from JavaScript, JSON has become a language-independent format widely used for transmitting data objects. It utilizes human-readable text to represent data in the form of attribute-value pairs.

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Kotlin is a modern programming language that is specifically used for developing Android applications. It is a relatively new language that offers a clean and simple syntax, making it easier for developers to write code.

Material Design

Material Design is a comprehensive set of guidelines and principles that apps follow to ensure a consistent and visually appealing user interface on the Android platform. It provides standards for visual design, motion, and interaction design for a cohesive and intuitive user experience.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

An MVP is an initial version of an application that is functional and ready for use. It is developed with the purpose of bringing the app to market and gathering feedback from early adopters.

Mobile Backend as a Service (MBAAS)

MBaaS is a platform or service that connects mobile applications to cloud databases and provides essential backend functionality. It offers push notifications, social media integrations, and data management.

Mobile Device Management (MDM)

MDM is a security software solution designed to protect, monitor, integrate, and manage mobile devices used within an organization. MDM enables businesses to enforce security measures, track device activities, and ensure compliance with corporate policies.

Native App Development

Native app development refers to creating mobile applications specifically designed to run on a particular platform, such as Android or iOS. These apps are built using platform-specific programming languages and tools, allowing developers to leverage the unique features and capabilities of the operating system.

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Near Field Communication (NFC)

Near-Field Communication is a technology that enables communication between two electronic devices when brought close together, typically within a distance of 4cm. NFC supports various modes of communication, including Card Emulation, Reader/Writer, and Peer-to-Peer.


Objective-C is an object-oriented programming language primarily used for developing applications for Apple’s iOS platform, including iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps.

Operating System (OS)

An OS is a software that manages the basic operations of a device and allows developers to create applications. In the context of mobile devices, operating systems like iOS and Android provide a platform for users to install and run various applications.

Push Notification

A push notification is a message or alert sent to mobile users, even when the corresponding application is not actively used. These notifications are displayed on the user’s device, even if it is locked or the app is not open.

Progressive Web App (PWA)

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are a type of hybrid app that can be saved to a mobile device for offline use. They offer a user experience similar to native apps and can leverage native capabilities like geolocation and push notifications.

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Quality Assurance (QA)

QA is the process of testing and evaluating an app to ensure it meets standards and functionality. It focuses on user experience, bug fixing, and maintenance.

React Native

React Native is a framework that enables the development of native mobile apps for both Android and iOS using the React JavaScript library. It utilizes native app components for a seamless user experience, distinguishing it from other JavaScript-based frameworks.

Retina Display

Retina Display is Apple’s term for high-resolution displays found in iPhones and iPads. It refers to screens with increased pixel density, resulting in sharper and clearer text and images.


An SDK is a collection of tools and resources that developers use to create applications for specific platforms or software packages. It provides pre-built functionality and libraries that help streamline the app development process.


Swift is Apple’s programming language, introduced in 2014 as a successor to Objective-C. It is designed to build applications for various Apple platforms such as iOS, tvOS, watchOS, macOS, and macOS Server.


Swizzling is a feature in iOS app development that allows the dynamic switching of default functionality at runtime for new functionality. It is specific to the Objective-C runtime and is sometimes used by third-party analytics SDKs to simplify their integration into apps. However, swizzling can be risky, and it is generally recommended to avoid its usage.

Touch ID

Touch ID is a biometric fingerprint recognition feature developed by Apple. It enables users to unlock their devices, make purchases in the App Store, and authenticate Apple Pay transactions online or within apps.

Unique Device Identifier (UDID)

A UDID is a unique identification code the manufacturer assigns to each mobile device. It is used for various purposes, such as provisioning profiles in development builds and device identification.

User Experience (UX)

UX involves the way users engage with an application, including their emotions, reactions, and perceptions. Conducting UX testing is crucial to assess how users will perceive your application’s practicality and ease of use.

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User Interface (UI)

The term “UI” refers to the visual components of a mobile app that users interact with directly. It plays a vital role in developing mobile apps as it directly impacts the user experience and overall product satisfaction.


Wearables are electronic devices that you wear on your body as accessories. Some examples include smartwatches and fitness trackers.


A webview is a component used to develop hybrid mobile and desktop applications. It enables the creation of mobile apps using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.


Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that enables devices like smartphones, computers, and other devices to connect to the internet through a local area network.


A wireframe is a visual representation that outlines the structure and functionality of a mobile app or website. It provides a skeletal framework that helps developers understand how to create the app and visualize its elements, functions, and content.


Xamarin is a Microsoft-owned company based in San Francisco. It offers tools that allow developers to write native Android, iOS, and Windows apps with native user interfaces. With Xamarin, developers can share code across multiple platforms.


Xcode is a software development environment for Mac OS X. It is provided by Apple for free and allows users to create software for Mac OS X and iOS platforms.

person using a smartphone

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About the author: Andrea Jacinto - Content Writer

A content writer with a strong SEO background, Andrea has been working with digital marketers from different fields to create optimized articles which are informative, digestible, and fun to read. Now, she's writing for StarTechUP to deliver the latest developments in tech to readers around the world. View on Linkedin