A Detailed Guide to Mobile App Backend Development

Being an entrepreneur, you understand how a powerful backend influences the performance of an app.

There is no extra logic; if you don’t build a robust backend, your app simply might not function appropriately and can actually impact the app’s performance.

When already the competition is fierce and millions of apps are available for download, you need to stand out with your app. If you are someone who really believes in offering the best services or performance to the app users, then you need a strong backend for your app.

The backend works exactly the same as powerful engines for a rocket. Being a top mobile app development company, we have gathered all of this information after discussing it with our experienced app development team. If you are looking for a complete mobile app backend development guide, then refer to this guide. This blog talks about the various ins and outs of backend development. Let’s get started.

What is Backend in Mobile App Development?

Mobile backend development is responsible for processing data, business logic, and security of an application. Backend development includes servers, middleware, and databases and it is accessible via an API (application programming interface).

A backend of a mobile app takes care of:

  • Processing and storing data for a smartphone device
  • Syncing and sharing data across multiple devices and platforms
  • Updating content with the mobile app
  • Managing the business logic of an app
  • Authorizing and authenticating the control access of data

Being a backend developer, you may question yourself, how to create an app from scratch? To understand the entire app development process, you need to have knowledge of backend development as well.

The mobile backend runs on a remote server and is used for communication between the machines and servers. An app’s mobile backend processes certain tasks to improve your front-end experience and is easily accessed via APIs (application programming interface).

The backend helps you process heavy operations.

For example, when you open Spotify to listen to songs, the backend of the Spotify app tries to retrieve songs because of the limited capabilities of smartphones.

In short, the backend makes it easy for you to listen to your favorite songs by retrieving the end number of songs.

With this example, we are also going to discuss a few types of apps that require backend support to get operated. Check the next section for this.

What are the Types of Mobile App Backends?

Now you are aware of the functioning of the mobile backend, check the various types of app backends. All the mobile backend solutions serve different mobile app development demands and offer business logic.

In this section, we are going to discuss the three types of mobile app backends in detail.

  1. Third-Party SaaS

    Third Party SaaS

    The solution you want to build might already be launched in the market. That means they have already built a backend from scratch for their apps.

    Some apps or platforms offer you to connect your front end to their backend on a subscription fee model, where you will charge to pay on a monthly or yearly basis.

    This method plays a role as a plug-and-play solution, where you plug in your front-end part of the mobile app to their backend on a subscription fee model and release your app. Such solutions are known as third-party mobile app backend or SaaS solutions.

  2. MBaaS Solutions

    You need strong backend solutions that help you store user data and offer advanced features like login/registration, authentication, and push notifications.

    All you can do is either develop an app to use as a backend or use existing MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service). This not only saves you time but also helps you reduce mobile app development costs to an extent.

    MBaaS offers you pre-developed components with a backend that you can use to implement all the advanced features. In fact, you are allowed to have your own custom code functionalities outside the available libraries and components.

    With this, backend developers don’t need to create a backend from scratch but leverage reusable components and pre-populated libraries. In this solution, app owners need to pay a monthly fee for the usage of services, such as notifications sent and an increasing number of users.

  3. Custom Backend

    You need a custom backend if you want full flexibility and customization in your mobile app. You will require to build the backend from scratch so that you can offer custom features to your app users.

    However, when it comes to customizing a backend, you might need to pay a huge price to the developers or invest in underlying infrastructure. But the custom backend is worth the cost if you are building an app that has to offer high performance and security to the app users.

    If the performance and security of the app are in your mind, then you need to build a custom backend using the right tech stack. Also, you can go for a hybrid approach with a mix of SaaS, MBaaS, and custom backend solutions.

If you are now looking for the best backend tech stacks, then go ahead reading the next section. In the following section, we have discussed the top technology stacks for the iOS and Android backends.

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How Does the Mobile App Back-end Work?

If the front end of an app that you see in your app is a body, then the back end is the soul of the mobile application. The backend app communicates with the front end to answer a user’s requests.

Without the backend, the front end will not function.

And without the front end, a user won’t be able to understand the functionalities of an app.

But how do these front end and back end communicate with each other and understand the requests of a user?

The backend and frontend communicate with each other via APIs.

Whenever a user taps on their app screen, the front end understands the request and sends it to the backend. On the other hand, the backend of the app retrieves the information which was requested to perform via an API and sends it back to the front end to display the information.

Let’s understand this with an easy example:

You are purchasing a dress online, and you have finalized it, and now you want to make a payment for it. Supposedly, you will click on the ‘Buy Now’ button and get redirected to the checkout page to choose one payment option.

Now the front end of the app will send a request to the backend servers to connect with an external payment gateway. If successfully done, you instantly see a banking page that will ask you to enter your credential details, such as card number, name, and CVV, for secured payment.

This communication is done by the API, which connects the front end and the back end of the mobile application to the external service (payment provider) to help you view the payment page.

The communication between both the front end and the back end ensures that the app functions seamlessly and is able to offer the expected solution to the users. In this case, you are able to purchase a dress while making an online payment.

What Type of Apps Require Backend Development?

Mobile apps that store user data allow for login/registration features, and authentication, and offer login/registration features that require a backend.

Let’s quickly discuss such apps to find out why they need backend support.

  1. Netflix

    Netflix is a streaming service provider for watching and downloading movies and TV series. Netflix has an admin panel (backend), allowing admins to manage videos available to users. It also requires the backend to allow app users to sign into their accounts. Here are the programming languages used by Netflix.

    Programming LanguagesPlatform and Storage
    JavaAWS S3
    PythonAWS EC2
    NodejsAWS Lamda
  2. Amazon

    Amazon is an eCommerce site that also needs a backend to manage information on several products that get uploaded on a regular basis. With the help of the backend, this great online marketplace gets the ability to add, remove, and refresh the product list in order to give the best shopping experience to the users. The following table includes the programming languages, platform, and storage Amazon uses to power its mobile app.

    Programming LanguagesPlatform and Storage
    ReactAmazon S3
    JavaAmazon EC2
    AngularJSAmazon CloudFront
    Amazon DynamoDB
  3. Uber

    Uber is an on-demand taxi booking service app that also needs a backend to help app users find a nearby car. It is easy for you to find a car and reserve it to take wherever you like. Hence, the app needs a backend for this to help you place a ride or cancel it. Here are the programming languages, platforms, and storage Uber uses.

    Programming LanguagesPlatform and Storage
    PythonAmazon EC2
    Node.jsAmazon S3
    C & C++ to Write Tools

Even though the mobile app backend plays a crucial role in operating an app, there are a few types of applications that don’t require a backend at all.

Yes, you heard it right. We will discuss such types of apps in the following section.

Using the top mobile app technologies, one of our clients wanted to develop a VPN app that allows him to access restricted websites from across the globe. The client contacted our mobile app development team and discussed his requirements with us. Here is how the TOR VPN works.


TOR – VPN App for Android

The TOR app was developed by our Android app developers. It allows internet speed testing and provides the best VPN service globally. The TOR app has been downloaded by 100K+ users in less than a year and has an overall rating of 4.3 stars.

What Type of Apps Doesn’t Require a Backend?

There are a few app types that function without a backend.

As such apps are already pre-installed on mobile devices and generally don’t need an internet connection to operate, you can easily run them without having a need for a backend.

However, let’s quickly find some of the apps that you use in your daily lives that don’t need a backend at all.

  1. Calculator

    The Calculator app is already pre-installed on your mobile device; you don’t need to install it via the app store. You easily use the Calculator app to perform basic mathematical operations with no involvement of any backend.

  2. Voice Recorder

    Just like the Calculator app, Voice Recorder is also pre-installed on your mobile device to use as a dictaphone. This app functions to record your voice note using the microphone and stores the recording on your device’s local storage. So again, you don’t need a backend to operate the Voice Recorder app.

  3. Measure

    This Measure app is already pre-installed on iOS devices. Hence, you easily measure the dimension of any object using your phone’s camera without installing them via the Apple App Store. For this, too, you don’t need a backend.

  4. Camera

    The Camera app is already installed by default on all smartphones. You use it to capture pictures and record videos. Therefore, it doesn’t require a backend to operate. However, there are some of the latest camera apps which use backends to open GPS while using the camera or to store backups of taken photos to prevent losing data.

Now, you know which apps require a mobile backend and which apps don’t. You must be curious to know how a backend functions. So without any delay, let’s discover how a backend works in a mobile app.

Backend Technology Stack

To build a strong backend, you need the best app development languages. Therefore, let’s check the top technology stack for the Android backend.

Android Backend Technology Stack

Android Backend Technology Stack

While learning how to build an Android app, it is essential for you to finalize the Android app tech stack. The following table includes the list of Android tech stacks, along with their features and top app examples.

Android Backend Technology StackDescriptionFeaturesExamples
AWSAmazon AWS is a backend server for mobile applications. This serverless and cloud-based backend has everything that you need to power a mobile app. It comes with a broad set of libraries, tools, and features, such as push notifications, cloud data storage, and user authentication, that you need to build an Android mobile application.
  • AWS is scalable and cost-efficient to use
  • Easy to use
  • Get a plentiful set of tools to build a backend app
  • Powerful data and relationship management
  • Built-in data encryption
  • Netflix
  • Twitch
  • LinkedIn
FirebaseThis other MBaaS solution, Firebase, is approved by Google to build mobile applications. It has a free plan that helps you try its features like real-time database updates, crash reporting, authentification, cloud computing, and hosting of your Android app.
  • Allow you to do unlimited reporting
  • Easy integration with other systems
  • Cloud messaging
  • Remote configuration
  • Test lab and hosting
  • Gatsby
  • Flutter
  • Shazam
ParseParse is one of the popular open-source and self-hosted backend solutions. It offers a software development kit (SDK) that helps a backend developer build mobile apps. It completely works on the CRUD (Create, read, update, delete) philosophy, and majorly, social media apps are the perfect examples of it.
  • Spreadsheet-like database
  • Create GraphQL APIs
  • Create REST APIs
  • Notifications in real-time
  • Push notifications
  • Social logins
  • Email notifications
  • Facebook

This was all about the tech stacks for the Android applications. We will now discuss the tech stacks you can use for the iOS backend.

iOS Backend Technology Stack

iOS Backend Technology Stack

If you are building an iOS app, you need to use the best iOS app development software to build a powerful iOS app. In the following table, we discussed the top tech stacks, their descriptions, features, and examples. Find out the top tech stacks now.

iOS Backend Technology StackDescriptionFeaturesExamples
FirebaseFirebase is one of the best backend solutions that also help you develop iOS apps with advanced features like a real-time database, automatic synchronization, push and notifications, social media login, API console, and analytics.
  • Allows you to do unlimited reporting
  • Easy integration with other systems
  • Cloud messaging
  • Remote configuration
  • Test lab and hosting
  • Gatsby
  • Flutter
  • Shazam
RestAPIRestAPI offers the best mobile app backend services to build iOS applications. However, with this, you need to repeat your data each time. RestAPI offers the best scalability when compared to other backend tech stacks.
  • JSON and XML supported
  • Informs of errors while working with the API
  • Easier to use than SOAP
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Google

Apart from the tech stacks, there are specific tools that help you with the development of mobile app backends. The next section is all about the tools that you can integrate into your app to develop a strong backend.

Tools Used in Mobile App Backend Development

We have listed the top mobile app development tools for back-end development and compared them based on their functionalities, features, and ratings. To successfully perform mobile app backend services, these tools are applied.

LogoBackend Development ToolsFeaturesReviews (G2)
Apache Tomcat iconApache Tomcat
  • Use nonce to prevent cross-site request forgery attacks
  • Detection and prevention of a memory leak
  • Aliases for storing static content outside the war file
  • Get the support for servlet 3.0, JSP 2.2, and JSP-EL 2.2
  • Asynchronous logging
4.4 104 Reviews
  • Reverse proxy with caching
  • IPv6 and load balancing
  • FastCGI support with caching
  • WebSockets
  • TLS/SSL with SNI
4.6 94 Reviews
NodeJS iconNodeJS
  • Asynchronous and event-driven
  • Single-threaded but highly scalable
  • No buffering when using Node
  • Licensed
4.6 14 Reviews
Oracle RDBMS iconOracle RDBMS
  • SQL and PL/SQL support
  • Heterogeneous replication
  • Result set support
  • Data dictionary translations
  • Date-time data types
  • Two-phase commit protocol
4.6 378 Reviews
  • Advanced protection for the app
  • Continuous availability
  • Automated administration and tuning
  • Multiple data types and languages
4.0 597 Reviews
  • Open-source, so it is easy to download and use
  • Stores data efficiently in the memory
  • Work efficiently with small amounts of data
  • Support large databases, which contain 40 to 50 million records
  • Secure interface and password encrypted
4.4 1575 Reviews
Microsoft Access iconMicrosoft Access
  • Easier to understand and use
  • Easy to import and export data to other Microsoft Office
  • Readymade templates to create and publish data
  • Allows publishing web databases effortlessly
4.0 804 Reviews
PostgreSQL iconPostgreSQL
  • Supports data types like integer, numeric, string, boolean
  • Compatibility with data integrity
  • Highly extensible
  • Internationalization text search
4.4 550 Reviews
MongoDB iconMongoDB
  • Ad-hoc queries for real-time analytics
  • Proper indexing for better query executions
  • Replication is done for better data availability and stability
  • Sharding and load balancing
4.5 461 Reviews
Apache JMeterApache JMeter
  • Result analysis and caches
  • Highly extensible core
  • Pluggable samplers
  • Multithreading framework
  • Data analysis and visualization
4.3 124 Reviews

This list of tools will surely help you to choose the perfect tool for your mobile app backend development based on your project requirements. However, apart from the tools part, you also need to know various app functions that are offered with the backend development. So let’s discuss that in the following section.

Mobile App Functions That are Provided with Backend Development

You need to take care of various things while integrating the backend in the app development. Here are the basic functions that you utilize while developing a mobile app.

Cloud ServerCloud-based backend servers offer reliability, scalability, accessibility, and centralized management, making them one of the best choices for building mobile apps. In addition, cloud servers have enough physical and network security to help build secured apps. Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon AWS are popular cloud servers that you can use for hosting mobile apps.
Software-As-A-Service (SaaS)It is a special and beneficial add-on to the cloud servers that app developers use for backend development. As a result, you get ready-to-use backend solutions for the front end and back end of apps. Moreover, it is easy to use SaaS-based services just for nominal charges.
Custom ServersIf you need custom functionalities or handling critical data, then implementing a custom server to host the mobile app backend is a perfect choice. You have total control over the backend server. However, you would require a dedicated team to manage the work and implement the server.

Have a Complex App Idea That Requires a Custom Backend?

Talk to us to share your app idea with us. Our technical consultant will validate your app idea and help you build a complex mobile app with a strong backend.

Still, looking to find the backend APIs and mobile app development process of the backend with the mobile? Then, check the below FAQ section where we have answered these questions.

FAQ About Mobile App Backend Development

Which is the fastest backend language?

Java is the most powerful mobile backend language for Android which is replaced by Kotlin is the most utilized language. On the other hand, in iOS app development, Swift is a robust and intuitive programming language to develop apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

Which are backend APIs used in mobile apps?

  • Back4app
  • Parse
  • AWS Amplify
  • Firebase
  • Backendless

Implement a Strong Backend in Your App

Through this blog, you get to learn the various ins and outs of backend development for mobile apps. Now, you know what backend development is, the tools and tech stacks needed to build a strong backend, and how the backend functions.

If you are looking to build an app with a strong backend, then this guide will help you. Also, you can consult with the top mobile app development companies in the USA to build an intuitive frontend and powerful backend for your app.

In fact, at Space-O, we have helped several clients to build powerful backends for their mobile apps. Our experienced app developers will choose the best backend app solution for your mobile app development project. Contact us today to discuss your app ideas.

Bhaval Patel

Written by

Bhaval Patel is a Director (Operations) at Space-O Technologies. He has 20+ years of experience helping startups and enterprises with custom software solutions to drive maximum results. Under his leadership, Space-O has won the 8th GESIA annual award for being the best mobile app development company. So far, he has validated more than 300 app ideas and successfully delivered 100 custom solutions using the technologies, such as Swift, Kotlin, React Native, Flutter, PHP, RoR, IoT, AI, NFC, AR/VR, Blockchain, NFT, and more.