The 5 Categories of Custom Mobile Apps

Millions and millions

As of October 2013, there were over a million apps in the Apple App Store. You might think that with that many apps available, every possible need has been addressed already. And yet, there's probably a million reasons why you might want a custom mobile app. 

One of the primary ways that we help companies and non-profits is by helping to define their mobile strategy. Part of that strategy is to determine whether a custom mobile app is right for them. Through those efforts, we've identified 5 main categories that encapsulate the different reasons that people have come to us with app ideas.

Those 5 categories are:

  • Speculation
  • Integrated Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Business Essential
  • Line of Business

The 5 Categories of Custom Apps


The most common requests we get sadly fall into the bucket called "Speculation". The apps in this category can best be summarized as "I have a great idea for an app, it'll make millions!" There's a lot more that goes into an app than just an idea. We turn down almost all requests that come to us from this category. If your entire company is the app, you're better served by seeking out a full-time development resource.

Integrated Marketing

An integrated marketing app is one that provides some inherent value to your customers, fulfilling their needs ahead of just advertising to them. A great example of this is the app for a convenience store chain, like the Sheetz chain in Pennsylvania. The app enables their customers to easily find the closest Sheetz by using GPS and maps. It also shows current gasoline prices, loyalty rewards, coupons, and more. An app for a restaurant chain might also have a store locator while showing the menu, nutritional info, and daily specials. For a medical practice, your app might allow you to schedule appointments, get reminders, and show the current wait time for your patients. The key to remember for this type of app, is that your primary goal is to provide additional value to your customers to increase engagement.


Advertising apps have different goals than their integrated marketing counterparts. While in the previous category our goal was to drive engagement by providing value, the goal of an advertising app is to get attention and build brand awareness. A good example of this is the Cracker Jack app for the popular popcorn snack. The app consists of 3 mini-games meant to evoke the classic prizes found in a Cracker Jack box.  Coca-Cola is actually a master of this type of advertising application with over 25 apps currently in the Apple App Store. In addition to advertising apps on the App Store, we've also seen companies setting up Custom Applications running as kiosks in building lobbies, at trade shows, conferences, and seminars.

Business Essential

A business essential app is one ties in directly with your business and either generates additional revenue directly, or is essential for interacting with your business. The Pizza Hut app from Pizza Hut helps to generate sales by letting you order pizza directly from the app.  Amazon's app lets you buy any of their millions of items right in the app. The app for Salesforce is an essential part of their service and provides an easy, on-the-go experience for all of their paid subscribers. Any app that brings you direct revenue through additional sales or enables more effective service use by your customers should be considered business essential. 

Line Of Business

For all of our categories so far, we've been focused outwards to your customers and all of the referenced apps have been on the Apple App Store. The last category is focused inwards and deals with those application vital for running your business. You probably have a bunch of custom line of business software already. Whether it's a custom order entry website your sales people use, or a custom database to track inventory, or a special excel spreadsheet that you use to do sales projections. Line of business software is all around us, and these days it's also on our phones. You can install custom line of business apps on your iPhone and iPad that are never available on the Apple App Store and installable by permission only, thus protecting your business secrets. If it's essential for running your business, and it's internal only, it's line of business. 


Most custom mobile applications fall into one of 5 categories. Each category has a different value proposition:

  • Integrated Marketing - primarily benefit the customer
  • Advertising - boosts branding efforts
  • Business Essential - increases sales 
  • Line of Business - reduce costs and improve productivity
  • Speculation - tend to not have an effective value proposition

Knowing the category of your Custom Mobile App is important. It can help clarify and focus your discussions as you plan for implementing a successful mobile strategy for your business.

Don't know what category your idea belongs to? Just email me at for help.