App Design History

A mobile app is a computer programme designed to run on a mobile device such as a phone/tablet or watch.

Mobile applications often stand in contrast to desktop applications that run on desktop computers, and with web applications which run in mobile web browsers rather than directly on the mobile device.

.By Boris Cornet -, Copyrighted free use,

The first public cellular phone call was made by Martin Cooper of Motorola on 3rd April 1973 in a publicity stunt in New York. There would be another ten years of R&D however before the first cell phone would hit the market. The DynaTAC 8000X weighed in at around 2 pounds, cost $4,000 and didn’t run any apps.

The first recognisable apps came with Psion’s range of handheld computers – mostly PDAs – that used the EPOC operating system. First released in the early 90s the sixteen bit machines (SIBO) which ran EPOC allowed users programmes such as a word processor, database, spreadsheet and diary. Later models in the range, running a 32-bit OS, would come with up to 2MB RAM and allow users to add additional apps via software packs (or via download if you were lucky enough to own a modem). EPOC, which was programmed in OPL (Open Programming Language) and allowed users to create their own apps, would later form the backbone of the Symbian operating system.

The first recognisable apps came with Psion’s range of handheld computers – mostly PDAs – that used the EPOC operating system. First released in the early 90s the sixteen bit machines (SIBO) which ran EPOC allowed users programmes such as a word processor, database, spreadsheet and diary. Later models in the range, running a 32-bit OS, would come with up to 2MB RAM and allow users to add additional apps via software packs (or via download if you were lucky enough to own a modem).

EPOC, which was programmed in OPL (Open Programming Language) and allowed users to create their own apps, would later form the backbone o


Original Game concept

The game is set in current time,

You play as Shaq, who is a student at what was until recently a normal school. During the past few months, however, students have started to vanish and no one knows why. One day his friend Asnee is summoned to the headmistresses office by the maths teacher, midway through his class, although he had done nothing to break school rules. Starting to get suspicious, Shaq follows them both at a distance so as to not get caught. Once the maths teacher has escorted Asnee, he disappears into one of the surrounding classrooms and the coast is clear for Shaq to move closer. As he nears, he hears a strange assortment of sounds coming from inside *gobbles*. Afraid of what he is going to see, he puts one eye up to the keyhole. As he had feared by the sounds, the headmistress had eaten Asnee, just a leg remained. The worst part however, was that she had transformed into an ogre, and had many other body parts laying around! Horrified, Shaq decides to go and get help, however just as he is straightening up, he feels a hand on his shoulder. He whips around to see the maths teacher had returned, and he had horns sprouting from his head! A sudden realisation hits Shaq, all of the teachers are monsters and are working together to eat all of the students. He ducks into a classroom and hides, he must get past them and alert the authorities.



App Research


Strategy Games


A strategy game or strategic game is a game that emphasize players’ decision-making skills having a high significance in determining the outcome. The aim of the game is usually to achieve victory which is achieved through superior planning, which is where the element of chance takes a smaller role. In most strategy video games, the player is given a bird’s eye view of the game world, and indirectly controls game units under their command, thus most strategy games involve elements of warfare to varying degrees, and feature a combination of tactical and strategic considerations.


List of well-known strategy games:


-Clash Of Clans (CoC)

  • Simple to use
  • Spread out interface

Mobile Strike


Clash Royale


  • Turn based game
  • Player vs player
  • Simple interface



-Fire Emblem


Here is an example of what you may come across during a strategy mobile game (These screenshots were taken from Naruto Blazing)

*Primary data


In this game specifically you have 3 modes to choose from, single player, join lobby and/or host lobby

Mobile App Design History

Psion EPOC


The first recognisable apps came with Psion’s range of handheld computers – mostly PDAs – that used the EPOC operating system. First released in the early 90s the sixteen bit machines (SIBO) which ran EPOC allowed users programmes such as a word processor, database, spreadsheet and diary. Later models in the range, running a 32-bit OS, would come with up to 2MB RAM and allow users to add additional apps via software packs (or via download if you were lucky enough to own a modem).

EPOC, which was programmed in OPL (Open Programming Language) and allowed users to create their own apps, would later form the backbone of the Symbian operating system.

Palm OS


Palm emerged as a major rival to Psion in the PDA market with its cheaper, lower functionality range of PDAs – the Palm Pilot. Commercial success allowed Palm to release a new generation of machines in 1996 which utilised the Palm OS. This had a touchscreen GUI and came with a raft of basic apps as well as tons of third party apps programmed in C/C++. From Palm OS 3.0 onwards these included a WAP browser.

Following the acquisition of PalmSource by ACCESS, Palm OS became the ACCESS Linux Platform before being abandoned in favour of webOS (which is now used in LG’s smart TVs).


Wireless Markup Language was based on XML and was developed by the WAP Forum for use in Wireless Application Protocol enabled devices. It was lightweight and good for the low bandwidths you got with mobile devices back in the late 90s because it stripped out much of the HTML that requires processing power.

The lack of content though and the need for users to go through a WAP portal rather than accessing web pages directly – allowing network providers to restrict access to much of the web – meant that WML was quickly consigned to history’s rubbish dump when mobile devices got fast enough to do without it.



As feature phones got faster the possibilities for phone apps expanded and it was Java Micro Edition that won the race to provide a platform for developing them.

Java ME started life as JSR 68, replaced Personal Java and quickly became so popular that it evolved into numerous standards for use across phones, PDAs and other embedded devices like set top boxes. Devices implement profiles (like the Mobile Information Device Profile) which are subsets of configurations (like the Connected Limited Device Configuration).

CLDC, designed for devices with total memory of 160KB to 512KB, contains the bare minimum of Java-class libraries required for operating a virtual machine.

MIDP, designed for mobile phones, includes a GUI, an API for data storage and even (in MIDP 2.0) a basic 2D gaming API. Applications here are called MIDlets. MIDP pretty much became an industry standard for mobile phones.

Java ME spawned an open source implementation, Mika VM, which contains the class libraries for implementing the Connected Device Configuration.

JME was the undisputed king of mobile platforms, it’s used in the Bada and Symbian operating systems and implementation existed for Windows CE, Windows Mobile and Android.



As mentioned earlier, Symbian grew out of the Psion EPOC operating system. Originally developed by Symbian Ltd – a joint venture of Psion, Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia – the operating system was almost ubiquitous. In 2009 250 million devices were running Symbian.

It was Nokia that really drove the development of Symbian OS. The S60 platform was used on nearly all Nokia handsets as well as some Samsung and LG ones. The use of different, fragmented platforms (Sony Ericsson and Motorola used UIQ and there was MOAP(S) for NTT DoCoMo), each with its own API, meant that there were a variety of deployment techniques and no standard market place for apps.

The incompatibility of apps across platforms and the failure to fully move to open source (several key components were licensed from third parties) are probably what sounded the death-knell for Symbian. There were also problems with malware, a browser which didn’t support multiple windows or compress pages and a nightmare process for typing in non-Latin text.

A market share of 37.6% in 2010 had dropped to 4.4% in 2012 after Nokia jumped ship for the Windows Phone platform and other OEMs gathered beneath the banner of Android with its single, unified market place for apps.

The last Symbian smartphone, the Nokia 808 PureView ran the Nokia Belle update which used C++. It was an award winning phone (chiefly because of its 41 megapixel camera) but wasn’t enough to prolong Nokia’s heyday.


Symbian, once the largest codebase ever moved to Open Source, is now licence-only and Nokia’s development of the OS has been outsourced to Accenture.

iPhone OS 1

What was new: In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and iPhone OS 1 along with it. During the press conference, Jobs referred to the operating system as OS X because it shared a similar Unix core compared to the full-fledged desktop version of the operating system. When Apple launched the iPhone SDK one year later, the name changed to iPhone OS.


Why it was important: The first iPhone is one of the most important gadgets of all time. It took ideas from within the budding mobile industry and made them more people-friendly. The candy bar-sized display defines smartphone design to this day (sorry BlackBerry). It also created the basic “SpringBoard” app—a grid of apps on a screen—that hasn’t changed much in nine years.

Sure, iPhone OS introduced multi-touch and the general underpinnings of Apple’s ideas for mobile computing, but the operating system’s greatest triumph was selling the idea that an iPod, camera, phone, and internet machine could really be packed into one device that fits inside your pocket—and that’d you’d actually want to use it.

iPhone OS 2

What was new: On July 11, 2008, Apple dramatically expanded the capabilities of its mobile operating system with iPhone OS 2. The new version added third-party apps (in what is now known as the App Store) and location services through the newly added GPS unit on the iPhone 3G. Apple also introduced its MobileMe cloud software, but the idea never quite took off.


Why it was important: If iPhone OS was the big bang for mobile computing, iPhone OS 2 was when smartphones climbed out of the primordial ooze. The original iPhone was little more than a walking ad for Apple. Any app you wanted to use had to be made by Apple (or otherwise in a licensing partnership with Apple). Releasing the iPhone OS SDK changed all that and made iPhones infinitely more useful. Apple just barely beat Google to the idea. Android announced Android Market, the precursor to the modern day Play Store, about a month later.

iPhone OS 3

What was new: Apple was still riding high after launching the App Store, but Jobs still had some big advancements for iPhone fans in 2009, including copy/paste tools, MMS support, Spotlight, tethering, and push notifications for 3rd party applications.

Why it was important: After two years of dramatic reinvention, Apple finally took a breath for some fine-tuning. Nothing in iPhone OS 3 was quite as transformative as its previous two releases, but it created richer third-party apps with push notifications and an easier way to search across the iPhone with Spotlight, a feature that Apple still tinkers with years later.

iPhone OS 3 also introduced a questionable design decision known as skeuomorphism with the release of the iPad that following January. This meant that apps like Newsstand and Notes were digitally designed to look like a newsstand and a notepad. This choice wouldn’t be undone until the introduction of Apple’s radical design change four years later.

iOS 4

What was new: First off, the name. Apple officially dropped the “Phone” part of its mobile OS, which makes sense considering the software now ran on iPods, iPhones, and the new shiny iPad. But the two big blockbuster features were FaceTime and Multitasking.


Why it was important: With iOS 4, we began to see the development cycle that would define Apple for years. In the example of FaceTime, Apple helped establish an ambitious new communication frontier, making the futuristic concept of video phones a reality (at least for iPhone 4 users). At the time, there was nothing that worked nearly as well. It would take popular desktop software like Skype a few more years before the app was finally made available on mobile devices.

Apple also began copying the best ideas from the competition—this time in the form of multitasking. Google had long implemented a limited multitasking feature with Android and would soon copy Palm’s WebOS-based “cards” multitasking model (also copied by Android) in iOS 7.

iOS 5

What was new: iOS was growing up and added three features that make it hard to imagine how we ever lived without them: Notification Center, iMessage, and Siri. Aside from these big updates, Apple introduced (love it or hate it) iCloud and a more functional lock screen.


Why it was important: The platform was beginning to blossom into the modern operating system we know today. Looks aside, Apple began building conveniences on top of its core services like SMS/MMS support and push notifications. With the integration of iMessages, Apple joined the growing popularity of other messaging apps like WhatsApp, which were only able to flourish after Apple opened push notifications to third-party apps two years earlier. After only a few months, iMessage was already drastically changing the mobile landscape.

Siri also gets a lot of shit nowadays for being all-around unimpressive when compared to Google’s digital assistant. But in 2011, Siri was an unbelievable idea. A personal assistant, on your phone, that can do actions on your behalf. It can even tell jokes. It was a major upgrade for the previous Voice Control feature. No doubt, the idea still needed some work, but Siri was an unmistakable glimpse into the future of mobility.

iOS 6

What was new: Apple launched its own mapping service, Apple Maps, along with Passbook, for storing plane tickets, coupons, and other digital ephemera. Siri also got some much needed updates, and Apple no longer bundled the YouTube app on the iPhone


Why it was important: With the release of iOS 6 one thing was clear: Apple and Google were no longer friends. In 2012, Google Maps was well-regarded as the best online mapping service. Steve Jobs even invited Google exec Eric Schmidt to share the stage when Apple launched the original iPhone. With iOS 6, Apple was going to challenge Google’s mapping supremacy.

Unfortunately, Apple launched a less-than-stellar competitor and sacrificed customer service in pursuit of expanding its software reach. Tim Cook even acknowledged that the app didn’t live up to the company’s own standards.

But Apple’s work on Siri turned their voice assistant into a much more useful companion. You could see Apple beginning to deal with the inherent limitations of a closed-source ecosystem, by creating its own notification widgets for Facebook and Twitter. Android previously launched widgets as part of its 2011 software release, Ice Cream Sandwich, a feature brought over from its tablet release, Honeycomb, eight months earlier. It would still take some time for Apple to open up its APIs.

iOS 7

What was new: The operating system was completely overhauled with a more simple design, flatter icons, and Helvetica font. Apps were given edge-to-edge designs and the operating system included a new parallax-scrolling home screen. Apple also introduced the frosted glass Control Center, for quick access to options like flashlight, Bluetooth, and another new feature, AirDrop. iOS 7 also added the new Photos app, iTunes Radio, and card-based multitasking. iPhone also introduced Touch ID, though that was more of a hardware feature of the iPhone 5s.


Why it was important: Tim Cook described iOS 7 at WWDC 2013 as “the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone.” It was the first significant design change from any mobile operating system that had come before it. Although it had its fair share of criticism, iOS 7 became the new and modern face of iPhone. Our eyes have mostly benefited from Apple’s efforts.

iOS 8

What was new: With an all-new look, Apple returned its focus to iOS usability, specifically giving developers more control throughout iOS. Apple allowed third-party keyboards, widgets, and the ability to share files from different apps and services. Apple launched Testflight, a way for developers to run betas on iOS, as well as a Health app and number of “kits,” such as Research Kit, Health Kit, and Home Kit. Apple also began tinkering with the idea of tearing down the platform wall between iOS and OS X with Continuity.


[Notably, Apple also launched Apple Pay on iOS 8.1 with the release of the iPhone 6 (outfitted with an NFC chip) and Apple Music with iOS 8.4.]

Why was it important: For years, people could use third-party widgets and keyboards on Android. With iOS 8, Apple finally gave developers tools to dig deeper into its operating system. In many ways, Apple was ceding some ideological ground to Google by loosening its tight grip around iOS.

Though not exactly the first of its kind, Apple Pay was arguably the most complete mobile payments platform at the time. Apple also embraced the world of streaming with Apple Music, announced shortly after iOS 8 was released. Adding options like customizable keyboards made it easier for power users to personalize their iPhones without having to jailbreak them. The iPhone still didn’t have the same customizability options as Android, but it was closing the gap.

iOS 9

What was new: iOS 9 focused obsessively on three things, making Siri smarter, Apple Music, and 3D Touch (above). Siri’s brain got an upgrade with what Apple called Proactive, which brought back the full panel Spotlight feature now with intelligence comparable to Google Now. Apps like Notes, Transit, and News got a major overhaul, iPads received multi-window support, and software download sizes were mercifully much smaller than previous releases.


Why it was important: iOS 9 was Apple in catch-up mode. It was the first year that almost everything Apple announced had a tinge of “been there, done that.” Microsoft and Samsung had been doing multi-window support for years, Spotify had been out in the US for nearly four years, and Proactive was just a slightly less powerful version of Google Now. 3D Touch was a new feature for smartphones (and some Android phones have toyed with adding it but have so far resisted). It created context menus for apps on the iPhone home screen and other convenient shortcuts in Mail and keyboard apps. The feature has yet to catch on, but current rumors say Apple might introduce the second generation of the technology in its 2017 iPhone.

Although more imitation than innovation, every addition was necessary steps toward a more open iOS. It was clear that Apple needed to take a breath and get caught up with the rest of the smartphone world.

iOS 10

What was new: iOS 10 dubbed “the mother of all updates” my Tim Cook. The new software improved the lockscreen and refreshed the look of the News and Music apps. But the biggest feature was opening the software development kit to developers for the first time with Siri, Maps, and iMessages.


Why it was important: While Siri was one of the very first mobile assistants, it since ceded that top spot by remaining closed off from developers. Now with new third-party integration, the potential for Siri grows exponentially. The same can be said for iMessages, which is now much more competitive with apps like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. It’s definitely a new page for iOS, where Apple is more open that its ever been before.