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Evolution of Application Development

Review the development trajectory of application development in a historical perspective.


Driven by the rapid development and popularization of mobile devices and the relentless pursuit of user experience, mobile application development has undergone significant evolution, improving the experience for both users and developers. This essay will explore the major stages of mobile application evolution in technology, highlighting these representative characteristics in each era to illustrate the evolutionary trajectory.

Early Stage

In the early days of mobile application development, the process was heavily constrained by poor hardware performance and relatively closed operating systems like Palm OS and Symbian. Due to the lack of a unified standard, manufacturers maintained their own operating systems, so applications were designed to work on specific groups of devices, compromising compatibility across different platforms. Furthermore, developers had to perform significant optimizations to ensure applications ran efficiently within these limitations. Representative techniques of this era included C++ and Java ME (Micro Edition) (The History of Mobile Apps and Evolution of Mobile Platforms, n.d.), tailored specifically for resource-constrained devices (Volle, 2023). Additionally, distributing applications posed significant challenges since the built-in way to update applications was not straightforward. Users needed relevant technical knowledge and experience, and they faced the risk of breaking their devices during the process. This complexity also hindered effective user feedback mechanisms, resulting in unresolved issues and a lack of continuous improvement for many applications.

Modern Style

The releases of iOS and Android marked the beginning of modern mobile application development. Due to their openness and functionality, these platforms gained popularity, dominated the market (Mobile Operating System Market Share Worldwide, n.d.), and unified the fragmented mobile ecosystem. The owners of these two mobile operating systems, Google and Apple, actively drafted standards for mobile application development. These standards included mobile application SDKs (Android Developers, 2024), unified programming languages (e.g., Swift, Kotlin), and unified code editors (Xcode and Android Studio). This standardization provided a consistent platform for developers, enabling more people to engage in development and increase the richness of mobile applications. Additionally, users could easily obtain the latest updates for applications from the built-in App Store and Google Play, while developers could receive timely feedback from app users, improving both development speed and quality. With the high demand for mobile applications, the concept of cross-platform development emerged. Compared to the native application development technology (e.g. Swift, Kotlin), Web-based App (e.g., PWA) and hybrid app (e.g., react-native) are compatible with both Android and iOS, presenting lower maintenance costs and faster delivery.

The Future

With the improvement of hardware performance on mobile devices, the trends for mobile application development are AI-integrated and decentralized. There is an increasing number of devices equipped with supportive AI acceleration chips. Both Apple and Google cater to various tools and frameworks that can be used for developing AI mobile applications, including Android Machine Learning Kit, TensorFlow Lite, and Core ML (Apple Developer Documentation, n.d.). Although it is still in a relatively early stage, it is obvious that there will be an increasing number of functionalities on mobile apps supported by the AI model running locally. On the other hand, following the trend of web3, blockchain can be involved in secure transactions, identity verification, and supply chain management to enable the development of decentralized applications (dApps) (Frankenfield, 2021).


In conclusion, the evolution of mobile application development has significantly advanced from the constrained early days to the modern, sophisticated era driven by AI, decentralization, and cross-platform compatibility. These developments have greatly enhanced user experience and developer efficiency, setting the stage for future innovations in the mobile app industry.


  • The History of Mobile Apps and Evolution of Mobile Platforms. (n.d.). Webandcrafts.com.
  • Volle, A. (2023, July 26). App | History, Types, & Facts | Britannica. Www.britannica.com.
  • Mobile Operating System Market Share Worldwide. (n.d.). StatCounter Global Stats.
  • Android Developers. (2024). SDK Platform release notes.
  • Apple Developer Documentation. (n.d.). Developer.apple.com.
  • Frankenfield, J. (2021, November 16). Decentralized Applications – dApps. Investopedia.
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