Mobile App Development: Quick Start Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about the mobile app development industry and how you can develop your own mobile app with this guide.

[Featured Image] A man and woman map out a mobile app design on a whiteboard.

Mobile app development has seen extraordinary growth as a subsection of the vast tech industry. Whether a user is interested in finding love, testing a recipe, translating a phrase, or balancing their checkbook, there’s an app on their mobile device for that. Read on to learn more about the mobile app development industry and how you can get involved.

Demand for mobile app development services

In 2021, there were 230 billion mobile app downloads globally [1]. Consumer demand is only rising for more information, services, products, and experiences to be readily available at arm's length. Consumers aren't the only ones who rely on mobile app development. Mobile apps also help companies create secure and scalable solutions for things like data collection, customer service, and automation.

Demand for mobile app developers

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the field of software development is expected to see an estimated 25 percent job growth between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the 8 percent average for all occupations [2]. Roles in this industry earn an average US yearly pay of $109,020, per the BLS. Additionally, this job can be done remotely, meaning it’s possible to live almost anywhere in the world and enjoy the benefits of this growing industry.

Examples of successful mobile apps in today's market

The following sections outline some of today's most successful examples of mobile app development.


YouTube is a social platform. It allows users to share videos about everything from lifestyle to travel, to comedy, to yoga. Today, YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google. In 2022, YouTube had 246 million viewers in the US alone and more than 154 million downloads globally, making it one of the world's most downloaded entertainment apps [3].

Angry Birds

Released as an iOS app in 2009, Angry Birds is now a franchise that stretches well beyond its beginnings. The game has turned its company, Rovio Entertainment Corporation, into a thriving success with more than 4 billion downloads [4]. From the addictive, puzzle-style app also came a movie, a line of plush toys, cartoons, television shows, films, and even its own cookbook. 

Google Maps

The days of unfolding and folding a collection of glove box maps are gone. Today, anyone with a smartphone can have a map in their pocket. Google Maps launched its mobile app in 2007 for Blackberry and Palm devices. In 2008, it was available for Android phones, and finally, in 2012, as an iOS app [5].

Of course, this app is much more than an overview of street grids and highways. Today, Google Maps provides real-time traffic information and acts as a platform for user reviews and business listings around the world.

Fortnite: Battle Royale

Fortnite’s survival game has become one of the most popular mobile gaming apps worldwide. It brought in $5.8 billion in revenue in 2021 [6]. Fortnite has also built a thriving community of streamers, held virtual concerts, and released several celebrity skins (in-game outfits).


One problem that global citizens face is the ability to move currency—to get paid for work or pay for services—in modern ways. The app Revolut has worked to solve that problem, and as a result, its founder is worth more than $7 billion [7].

The idea to provide a global financial app for people to manage their funds through a single platform anywhere on the planet was a disruptive concept for the financial industry. These breakthrough ideas are made a reality with the help of skilled mobile app developers.


If you didn’t use the Zoom app before the coronavirus pandemic, you most likely did at some point in 2020 or later. The company counted more than 300 million daily meeting participants in April 2020. The app itself was downloaded 485 million times in 2020 [8].

The explosive growth proved that hard work and creativity could fill a need exactly when people demand it the most. With 485 percent growth in customers from October 2019 to October 2020, the mobile app brought in over $1 billion in just one quarter of 2021 [9].  

5 traits of a successful mobile app

Think about your favorite mobile applications. What makes them your favorite? Although profit can be a driving force for some mobile app development projects, many successful apps come from creativity and purpose. Ideas that provide entertainment, connection, or innovative solutions to common problems are the best foundations for a mobile app. Five traits of a successful app are:

1. An ability to meet the needs of a targeted audience.

2. Doing something that hasn’t been done before or doing it in a unique and novel way

3. Available on both iOS and Android platforms. Cross-platform apps are accessible to a wide range of users. In comparison, native applications are made with a particular platform or device in mind.

4. Easy to navigate and use.

5. Aesthetics are prioritized in addition to functionality.

The best mobile platforms meet the needs of a targeted audience. They rise above the millions of other applications in the marketplace by being both useful and pleasurable to use.

How to develop your own mobile app

It can be challenging to know where to start after you decide to build a mobile application. Factors like the scope of your project, its specifications, and your technical knowledge will determine your next steps. You can learn about a few of your options in the next couple of sections.

Partner with a mobile app development company.

A mobile app development agency is an organization that provides mobile app development services. For example, they may have a team of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers, marketing professionals, and project managers. In addition to technical help, some may provide guidance and strategic recommendations. Retaining mobile app development services may be the best approach for those who have time constraints or are not interested in hands-on mobile application development.

There are many different mobile app development companies on the market today. Make sure to research and compare options to identify which ones are trustworthy and best suited to deliver your project's needs.


Develop a mobile app yourself.

Mobile app developers are specialized programmers who know how to work with programming languages like Python and JavaScript. Sixty-nine percent of mobile application developers have a bachelor's degree, and 24 percent have a master's degree [10]. You can also teach yourself to code with online courses, boot camps, and Guided Projects. If you're completely new to development, consider a beginner-friendly course like Web Applications for Everybody from the University of Michigan.

How to develop a mobile app in 5 steps

Keep in mind that the software development life cycle (SDLC) is often iterative. Some steps may overlap with one another or take place several times. Microsoft documentation outlines mobile app development process in five steps:

1. Inception. During this phase, you should refine your ideas into a more concrete foundation on which to build your app. This may include researching the market for existing competition, identifying the value your app intends to provide, and deciding which types of mobile technologies you want to employ (like geolocation or camera access.)

2. Design. The design phase requires you to plan and define your app's user experience (UX). You'll need to apply graphic design skills to determine the layout, functionality, and aesthetics of your user interface (UI).

3. Development. The application is built during this phase. A working prototype of the application helps to identify any potential setbacks or additional opportunities that come up during development.

4. Stabilization. You'll identify and resolve any bugs or defects in your application's performance during the stabilization phase. Additionally, you should evaluate its usability. You may need to return to the development stage or reevaluate elements of your design.

5. Deployment. When your application is finished, it's time to release it to the public. Your deployment method depends on the platform you've chosen to develop your application for. For example, if you developed an iOS application, you might distribute it through Apple's App Store. Or, you may publish an Android application through Google Play, Google's official app store.

Develop a mobile app with Coursera

You can build a mobile application with an industry leader by enrolling in one of Meta's Professional Certificate programs. If you're interested in iOS development, build your own iOS app and gain access to the Meta Career Programs Job Board with the Meta iOS Developer Professional Certificate:

Or, gain access to the same job board while building an app for Android with the Meta Android Developer Professional Certificate:

Article sources


Statista. "Mobile App Usage: Statistics and Facts," Accessed March 21, 2023.

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