Who does what in the mobile industry?

Since the beginning of the widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets, the mobile industry has recorded a remarkable growth in both popularity and revenue. The numbers speak for themselves. In the second quarter of 2019, Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store counted as many as 4.4 million mobile apps. 

In 2018, mobile apps generated $365 billion in global revenue, and are predicted to surpass $935 billion by 2023. Yes, you read it right: in just a few years, the mobile app market might be worth close to a trillion dollars. And that’s just the revenue from the apps. There are billions involved in the design and sale of mobile devices, advertising, telecommunications, and more.

There are many cogs in this gigantic and lucrative machinery and they all work perfectly with each other. So let’s take a closer look at who does what and who are the major players in their respective fields:


1. Device manufacturers

None of this would be possible without the physical devices we use every day. Thanks to the mobile device manufacturers and all the hard-working people there, each year is filled with new advances, features, technologies, and all other interesting and original mobile devices and their additions.

Currently, the mobile phone manufacturers are racing against each other in the number and quality of cameras, foldable screens, complete removal of buttons, adapting to the 5G implementation, etc.

The top mobile device manufacturing companies in the world include Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, LG, Motorola, Nokia, and more.

2. Mobile operators

Providing us with wireless Internet GSM services that make these devices worthwhile are the telecommunications companies, or mobile networks such as Vodafone, AT&T, Telenor, Verizon, Airtel, Telefonica, Orange, Vimplecom, T-Mobile, China Mobile, China Unicom, and others.

They are divided into two categories:

  • a mobile network operator (MNO), a provider of wireless communications services that owns or controls the entire underlying network required to deliver the service to an end-user;
  • a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), a wireless communications services provider that buys wholesale service from an MNO and sells it on to its own users at independently set retail prices.

Right now, mobile operators around the world are introducing or making the necessary preparations for the implementation of the next generation in mobile communications – 5G, which will become a full-coverage network in a few years.

3. App developers

This is where things get interesting. Mobile app developers are companies or individuals that are in charge of thinking up, designing, and creating a mobile app. Developers can sometimes self-publish the apps they create, while some large app publishers have developers working for them. This is the most creative role in the whole industry as it includes getting an idea for an app and having a team of artists, designers, and programmers working together to create the details of the app’s appearance and feel.

Some of the best mobile app developers include WillowTree, VironIT, hedgehog lab, Dom & Tom, Intellectsoft, Redwerk, Atomic Object, Appstem, Dot Com Infoway, Appinventiv, Halcyon Mobile, Simpalm, Arkenea, Hakuna Matata, SteelKiwi, and many, many more.


4. App publishers

Mobile app publishers are companies responsible for marketing, sales, and PR of a mobile app. When app developers have an idea and basic design, they’ll often reach out to publishers to pitch their app and/or finance its development. Once the app has been completed, the publishers market and distribute it. Sometimes the mobile app developer = mobile app publisher.

The top-performing mobile app publishers in terms of downloads in the second quarter of 2019 include Facebook, Google, Voodoo, Good Job Games, Outfit7 Limited, Say Games, ByteDance, Tencent, TabTale, Playgendary, BabyBus, Alibaba Group, Azur Interactive, Amanotes, and Miniclip.

5. Advertisers

Most of the mobile apps today are free or very cheap, so they need other ways to earn money. The most popular mobile app monetization strategy is through placing advertisements inside apps. 

An app developer/publisher is paid by an advertiser for all ad impressions served in their app. The advertiser can be a company or individual who wants to advertise their product or service. This product is usually another mobile app.

6. Ad networks

The app publisher and advertiser are connected through an ad network – a company that acts as a mediator between the two, serving the advertiser’s ads inside the publisher’s app. In other words, ad networks’ main role is to collect ad space supply from publishers and match it to advertiser demand.

Facebook audience network, AdMob, Chartboost, Unity Ads, AdColony, IronSource, Oguri, Fyber, InMobi, Vungle, Mopub, etc. are some of the popular ad networks in the industry.

7. Analytics

Last, but not least important, are the analytics platforms. They are especially useful to mobile app developers and publishers who need to stay on top of their game at all times. Thanks to these platforms, they can monitor their apps’ performance to see how well their methods are paying off and if there’s anything to be fixed or improved.

These companies can cover various parts of the app’s performance, ad impressions, identification of ad whales, in-app purchases, traffic sources, etc.

As ever, there are multitudes of such platforms available out there, and they include Soomla, Google Analytics, Localytics, Firebase, Mixpanel, Flurry, Adjust, AppDynamics, AppsFlyer, UXCam, Apple Analytics, Asking Point, App Annie, and more.


The mobile industry offers so many opportunities to earn and have fun while doing it, so it’s no wonder that many want to be a part of it. Whatever your affinities, qualifications, experience, or knowledge are, there is a place for you in this world if you’re truly passionate about it.


If your dream is to become a part of this fast-growing industry as an app developer and publisher, you’ll discover how it all fits in and how all the parts work together to bring new value into the world.

You’ll also see that you need the best possible partners if you want to achieve greatness. Such a partner is an analytics platform like Soomla that will help you see if all your hard work is delivering the desired results and if there’s anything you can do to get the best out of your app.

Feel free to share:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here