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51 Mobile Development Terms You Need to Know

51 Mobile Development Terms You Need to Know

For marketers in the mobile tech industry, developer and software jargon can be tricky to learn. Especially if you don’t have a technical background.

So, to help non-technical marketers get familiar with the mobile vocab, we’ve put together a list of the most common 51 mobile development terms marketers need to know. And if you want to see these terms in action, you can check out our annual Research Guide publications on the state of Mobile: “2016 Guide to Mobile Application Development,” and 2015 Guide to Mobile Development.


Accelerometer – A sensor that measures the acceleration (change in velocity) of an object in order to determine movement of a mobile device.

Adaptive layout – A website layout that uses media queries to change the site’s design for specified devices or window sizes. This is a more manual and less granular strategy than responsive design.

Application programming interface (API) – A specification for how various applications can interact with a set of software components. Applications can include APIs for external use by other software.

Appcache – An HTML5 standard that allows a web application to be cached and available offline.


Bluetooth – A wireless technology networking protocol used to exchange data over short distances. Uses frequency hopping spread spectrum technology, which regularly changes the channel in order to avoid congestion caused by competing networks.

Business-to-customer (B2C) – A mobile application built for the average consumer.

Business-to-business (B2B) – A mobile application built specifically for use within another business.

Business-to-employee (B2E) – A mobile application for internal business use (i.e. an enterprise app).


Data animation –  The idea of exposing to the end user the change of data, provided the data is changing quite a lot.

Device API – A mobile platform-specific API that lets applications access specific mobile hardware functionality.


Emulator – An application that duplicates the functionality of hardware or operating systems for testing purposes.


Feature phone – A mobile phone with internet access and music playback that lacks the full functionality of a smartphone.


Gryoscope – An instrument that measures the orientation of a device in order to orient display.


HTML5 – A specification that defines the fifth major revision of HTML. It is often used as an adjective to describe web apps that use newer HTML, CSS, and JavaScript specifications (ex. HTML5 apps), or more generally as shorthand for the browser as application platforms.

Hybrid app – A mobile application written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that uses a web-to-native abstraction layer, allowing the application to access mobile device APIs that pure web applications cannot access.


Internet of things – A netw0rk of physical objects embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with other connected devices.


Mobile app – An application developed for use on small, wireless devices such as tablets and smartphones. They can be web-based, native, or hybrid.

Mobile application development platform (MADP) – A development tool, sometimes including a mobile middleware server, that builds hybrid or native apps for each mobile platform from a single codebase. IncludesMEAPs and MCAPs.

Mobile backend as a service (MBAAS) – A service that connects mobile applications to cloud databases while also providing user management, push notifications, and social integrations.

Mobile consumer application platform (MCAP) – A MADP for developing mobile consumer apps.

Mobile data – Data that is transferred via mobile carrier from one smartphone to another.

Mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) – A MADP for developing mobile enterprise apps.

Mobile middleware – Technology that provides application management functions that allow applications to communicate securely with on-premise and cloud-based applications.

Mobile OS – An operating system designed specifically to run on mobile devices.

MQTT – A messaging protocol that is lightweight and provides network clients with a way to distribute information.

Minimum viable product (MVP) – A version of a product with only the features that are absolutely necessary to go to market.


Native app – A mobile application that is written in a programming language that is directly compatible with the target platform.

Native bridge – An abstraction layer that gives a non-application access to mobile device APIs.

Native packager – A tool that builds a native wrapper and native bridge around a mobile application written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, creating a hybrid app.

Native wrapper – A component that packages a non-native app so that it is viable for native distribution.

Near-field communications (NFC) – A set of protocols that enable two devices in close proximity (up to 10 cm apart) to communicate with each other. Supports three different modes: Card Emulation, Reader/Writer, and Peer-to-Peer.


OAuth – A common open standard for authorization.


Push notifications – Short messages that mobile applications can send to users even if the application isn’t open.


Real-time data – Information that is delivered immediately after collecting it without any delay.

Responsive layout – A website layout based on a fluid grid, allowing the site to have hundreds of dynamically generated states with mostly minor differences based on browser window size. A less manual strategy than adaptive layouts.


Security assertion markup language (SAML) – A common XML-based open data format for authentication.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) – An architecture style that uses discrete software services (each with one clearly defined business task) with well-defined, loosely-coupled interfaces that are orchestrated to work as a complete system by sharing functionality.

Simple message service (SMS) – A text messaging service component of a phone using standardized communication protocols to send short text messages.

Single ign-on (SSO) – A feature for access control systems that allows users to log in to (or log out of) multiple, independent software systems using one set of credentials.

Software as a service (SAAS) – A service residing on a layer of abstraction about IaaS and PaaS with all of the software and features already built and provided over the network. The main advantage of this model is that a customer does not need to install or maintain this software on-premises or store any of its data.

Software development kit (SDK) – A set of programming tools and resources built specifically to aid software development on a particular platform or technology.

Stickiness – For mobile applications, this refers to anything that encourages the user to stay active in the app for a longer period of time.


Test-driven development (TDD) – A development process that works on a very short development cycle. It relies on the repetition of this short cycle to create test cases and pass them.


User experience (UX) – A term to describe all aspects of the end user’s interaction with an application.

User interface (UI) – A term to describe the ways in which the end user directly interacts with a device or application.


Viewport – An HTML meta tag that tells the browser how to behave when it renders the web page. The viewport is also a term for the section of the web page in view.


Webview – A view that displays web pages within an application.

Web app – A mobile application developed using web standards and accessed through a browser.

Wi-fi – A wireless local area network that allows smartphones, computers, and other devices to connect to the internet.

Worldwide web consortium – The main international standards organization for the World Wide Web, developing common web language specifications such as HTML5 and XML.

Write once, run anywhere (WORA) – A description of a program’s ability to run on all operating systems.

What other terms do you often run into when targeting mobile developers?

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