In today’s world, the smartphone is the King, Queen, and all of the other pieces on the board. People use these devices for everything in their lives, from ordering food to checking the weather and news. Smartphones are used for work and play and their popularity is only growing. In fact, since 2013, the global number of smartphone users has increased from almost 2.6 billion to 4.8 billion. This is an increase of almost 50% in a very short period of time and with emerging markets like India and China having low smartphone penetration, the expectation is that this will only continue to increase.
The true power behind smartphones is the apps that run on different operating systems. Businesses worldwide are trying to take advantage of the smartphone market for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it’s a sales tool to better market and advertise their products and services. In other instances, it’s a means of communicating with their clients to assist with problem and issue resolution. Businesses know that a mobile app is essential today if they want to stand out from the competition as that’s what their clients are looking for.
When it comes to obtaining a mobile app, the operating system of the smartphone or device is instrumental. Each device is dependent and tied to a different app store where all of the apps are available for download. For example, according to BankMyCell, in 2022, there were about 1.6 million apps available in the App Store with about 8.1 billion app downloads in the same period. At the same time, the Google Play Store had over 3.5 million apps with 27.5 billion downloads, while the Windows and Amazon app stores were both significantly lower.
However, opportunity within the mobile app space for businesses is massive. Currently, revenue for paid downloads and in-app advertising globally account for close to $582 billion USD, but this number is set to skyrocket to $935 billion USD by the end of 2023.
The opportunity within the mobile app space for businesses is however massive. Currently, revenues for paid downloads and in-app advertising globally account for close to 582 billion dollars, but this number is set to skyrocket to 935 billion US by 2023.
When building an application, architects need to have a plan in place before they start. App architecture is the underlying structure that developers work with to build an application. This foundation describes the tools and techniques that need to be used to ensure that the app is well-designed and functioning at the highest level.
Clean architecture for mobile organizes a design’s elements into concentric layers. The primary goal of clean architecture is to provide developers with a framework for organizing their code in a manner that integrates business logic without entangling it with the delivery mechanism.
When building a mobile or web application, ensuring that each component performs its function is critical. A small problem in the creation phase of the architecture for a mobile application can have far-reaching consequences on the viability of the final product. Popular mobile apps understand this principle—they are built with stability and functionality in mind and demonstrate these concepts daily. Apps that fail to consider a mobile application development architecture in their planning generally do not survive for long on any of the app stores as users quickly demonstrate their dissatisfaction. Mobile app security architecture is another key feature of a reliable app, whether iOS, Android, or hybrid. When choosing a good mobile app architecture and developing the app, try to avoid loopholes in mobile app security.
When discussing mobile application development architecture, architects look at industry-specific best practices and standards. Architecture mobile application developers need to consider all types of wireless products in this analysis so that the application works with both smartphones and tablets seamlessly.
From a simple perspective, applications are designed with three different layers in mind. The data layer of a mobile app architecture diagram includes all the data utilities, service agents, and data access components. Moving up from data, the business layer includes all of the different workflows and business entities as well as the business components themselves. Finally, the presentation layer is where the user interface (UI) processes and components sit.
While this level of information is suitable for a high-level explanation, it is possible to drill down to gain even more insight into the underlying mobile application structure. In this instance, you need to understand your target audience and how they will be using the mobile application. If you are building a rich client, for example, the business and data layers will sit on the mobile device. Conversely, thin client mobile applications will have these two layers sitting on the server.
Other considerations to keep in mind are the devices your mobile application will need to support. This includes an understanding of hardware specifications like screen size and resolution as well as underlying processing power and memory. Depending on your use case, your application might require a camera or GPS to function correctly, which will impact your decision-making. In all cases, design should be based on minimum requirements vs. ideal solutions. That is, look at what you need with limited network connectivity instead of an always-connected solution, as you won’t always know how end-users will access and use the mobile application in real use cases.
Another important feature to consider when choosing an architecture pattern is app security. Mobile app security is a measure to protect applications from external threats like malware and other digital frauds that compromise critical personal, corporate, and financial information.
Since loopholes in mobile security can give access to confidential information and also disclose data like users’ current location, banking information, personal information, and more, it is important to incorporate security features in an app’s architecture.
Let’s take a look at architecture patterns affected by the choice of a specific mobile platform.
Choosing the right Android mobile app architecture can be somewhat complicated as Google does not specifically recommend any specific one. This can be problematic as many older apps were designed without a specific approach or best practice in mind. This unfortunately tends to impact maintenance cycles and future development activities.
However, the Clean Architecture that we discussed earlier is a good solution to this problem. Using this mobile application structure, developers are not tied to a specific framework or database. In addition, each layer is also independent while still being able to transmit information and data.
Unlike Google, Apple had a suggestion when it came to iOS mobile app architecture. They suggested the use of an MVC (Model-View-Controller) architectural pattern for UIKit, although many experts believe that this is not the best solution.
The MVC pattern is made up of three main objects:
Apple’s MVC documentation explains these layers for iOS mobile app architecture in detail and can give you a good theoretical understanding.
When it comes to mobile app architecture, hybrid has many proponents, but before jumping into it with both feet, the first question to be asked is: What does hybrid mean? Apple and Google both prefer developers to create applications targeted toward their OS. In essence, this means developers need to write two completely unique apps that are incompatible with each other.
Hybrid mobile application architecture attempts to mitigate this redundant effort by letting architecture mobile application developers create one codebase that can be used with either OS. At first glance, this might seem to be the ideal solution—and in the right circumstances, it is. However, while time is clearly saved in respect to only one codebase for both OS’s, additional platform-specific revisions are often required so the time saving might not be as large as expected.
Hybrid does have some benefits, but in some instances, it can actually be unsuitable, so once again, a clear understanding of your use case is paramount. For example, native UIs still tend to look better than their hybrid counterparts. This tends to matter if your app requires complex graphics and images, but is not as important if your application is text-heavy.
Now, we will highlight three basic types of app architectures by their build principles.
This type of architecture implies that all the mobile app components are inextricably interconnected. Usually, such an approach to app building is typical for old (and sometimes outdated) software solutions.
However, monolithic architecture has a unique advantage: the ability to fasten and simplify the development process itself. Indeed, as a monolith doesn’t have autonomous parts, it can be easily created, tested, and deployed. Major problems arise only at stages of its update: when you begin to change a feature or add a new one, you have to review the whole codebase and add parts of code that would not be necessary with other development approaches.
Therefore, updating and scaling monolith apps are extremely complex (and sometimes even impossible) procedures.
Layered architecture involves grouping application components based on the similarity of their logic or purpose. Typically, this architectural type is used to implement local software.
As for the number of levels, in addition to the basic three that we wrote about above, there may be more. At the same time, neighboring layers can interact with each other in both directions, which makes it easier to manage dependencies and ensures easy editing of the program code when it has to be changed.
In particular, this is guaranteed by sequential passage through all levels (the first level cannot access the third; to do so it must first go through the second level). Thus, applications created according to this principle are reliable and error-resistant.
On the other hand, as the application’s business logic becomes more complex and its functionality evolves, managing such an architecture becomes increasingly difficult. Therefore, at some point, updating can become a complex and time-consuming procedure. In this case, it makes sense to pay attention to microservices, which will be discussed below.
This type of mobile software architecture implies its division into small autonomous components: microservices. They can function independently and be connected to other applications—for example, through an API.
Today, this approach provides perhaps the greatest flexibility for developers since they can attach necessary and disconnect unnecessary components as needed without spending a lot of time.
On the other hand, microservices are not without their drawbacks: the initial deployment of such an architecture is complex, and the more intricate the business logic of the application, the higher the level of complexity will be. However, microservice architecture is the typical choice when developing large-scale cloud and hybrid applications.
When considering the architecture for mobile applications, there are several questions that need to be asked and answered before a suitable path forward is selected.
Whether an Android mobile app architecture, a hybrid mobile application architecture, or an iOS one, the path forward depends on the devices that will be used most frequently.
Based on the device’s OS, screen resolution, space, and memory, different choices can be made. This is a crucial first step as understanding the hardware that powers a device will drive decisions about the minimum specifications the application needs to comply with.
To understand which option is best for your mobile application, you need to understand how and where it will be used. If your application will always maintain a connection to the server, a thin client approach might be more suitable.
If, however, you can’t guarantee this connection, or you need a more complex UI, then pursue a rich client path. Rich client solutions are generally more complicated to maintain and install, but they might also be the only suitable option.
It’s important to always design and architect a solution based on the worst-case scenario. In this instance consider countries or locations with slow internet. In this case, users will either be unable to use a thin client or will simply abandon the app in frustration. Here, an upfront investment into a rich client experience is the only suitable alternative.
A UI is how users interact with applications. A confusing UI will only cause conflict and will impact how your users perceive the app and its usefulness. While design matters, it should not be at the expense of the user experience itself. Creating a picture-perfect design matters little if your users are unable to understand how to use the interface and application.
How menus are presented and how the app itself functions have a big impact on an application’s usefulness and popularity. There are a variety of different navigation methods that an app developer can pursue when building an application. These include:
Navigation is critical in how apps are used and choosing the right option is a crucial factor on the overall user experience.
When selecting the right mobile app architecture, there are various considerations that a trained and knowledgeable partner can assist with. At NIX, we understand how to design mobile applications, accounting for user requirements and business needs. Our team has experience working with all of the different frameworks currently available and work with you to choose an option that best suits your organization and overall objectives. We understand how to design around limitations in data, hardware, and bandwidth, and can help you choose the right solution based on your requirements. Let us help you choose the right mobile app architecture for your business and customers to ensure that you are successful. Contact NIX to find out how we can help you.
Mobile app architecture differs from traditional application architecture primarily due to the unique constraints and characteristics of mobile devices. Mobile apps often require optimization for limited resources such as battery, memory, and network connectivity. They also need to account for different screen sizes and input methods. In contrast, traditional applications are typically developed for desktop or server environments, where resource limitations and user interaction patterns may differ.
Creating mobile app architecture design comes with several challenges. Some of the key challenges include ensuring performance on resource-constrained devices, addressing varying network conditions, managing data synchronization and offline capabilities, optimizing battery usage, and providing a seamless user experience across different platforms and devices.
The type of app architecture determines its performance and scalability. Well-designed architectures consider factors like efficient data handling, caching mechanisms, asynchronous operations, and modular code organization. These architectural considerations can improve performance, reduce load times, and enhance the app’s ability to handle increased user demand and future growth.
Security is a critical aspect of mobile app architecture. Key considerations include implementing secure communication protocols (HTTPS), properly encrypting sensitive data, securely storing credentials, applying user authentication and authorization mechanisms, protecting against common vulnerabilities (e.g., injection attacks), and regularly updating the app to address emerging security threats.
The architecture of a mobile application significantly impacts user experience. A well-designed architecture can provide smooth navigation, responsive interactions, and fast loading times. It enables efficient data retrieval, synchronization, and offline capabilities, ensuring a seamless user experience even in challenging network conditions. On the other hand, a poorly designed native mobile app architecture can result in slow performance, an unresponsive UI, and a frustrating user experience.
Yes, there are industry standards and guidelines for mobile app architecture. Organizations like Apple and Google provide comprehensive documentation and best practices for iOS app architecture as well as Android architecture patterns that are up to date. Additionally, software development frameworks and communities often establish Android architecture patterns and principles that developers can follow to build robust and maintainable mobile applications. The answers provided here are meant to serve as a starting point for understanding iOS app architecture and a brief glance at Android architecture patterns. For more detailed information or specific implementation considerations, it’s recommended to refer to official documentation and books and/or consult with experienced professionals in the field.
Mobile app architecture continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of users and advancements in technology. Some emerging trends include the adoption of microservices architecture for scalability and flexibility, the integration of machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities into business logic, the use of progressive web app (PWA) architecture to provide a native-like experience through web technologies, and the emphasis on cloud-native architectures to leverage cloud resources and enable seamless synchronization across devices.
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