View from above of swapping application icons

What powers an app? Where are apps stored?

So you’ve scrolled through the app store and finally found an app that you want to download. You hit the download button and square with rounded corners appears on your phone’s homepage. You tap the app icon and your app loads. How does this happen? What allows the app to even load? Where is all of the information stored and how does it get updated? These are some of the questions we will try to answer in this blog article, but as always in a way that anyone will be able to understand!

app icon

Apps are more than a fancy icon.

If you go into your phone’s settings>storage> It should show you how much space each individual app requires or is using. For example check out this screenshot.

app on Iphone screen shot showing application storage

All of the megabytes on the right side of the image are how much storage those apps are using on your device.

You’re probably thinking wow that’s a lot. Actually, no it isn’t. Think about Facebook and consider the fact that there are nearly 3 Billion users. How many videos and pictures do you think there are with that many users? Your little app with 300-400MB of data being used has access to all of that info. But how?

Applications Use Servers to Communicate

Have you heard of AWS? The Cloud? These are tools that enable information to be stored without overloading devices. Let’s start with servers.

Servers are individual computers that can be connected to the internet all day every day.

The Cloud is multiple interconnected computers that talk to eachother remotely.

You’ve probably heard “it’s ran on AWS”. This is essentially Amazon’s Servers. It actually stands for Amazon Web Services. It’s a pay to use cloud computing service.

How Do Apps Talk to Servers?

The answer is API’s, or Application Programming Interfaces. Generally there are four different types of API’s.

  1. Public- available to anyone to use
  2. Partner- accessible only when given access by the developer most likely for a client to use
  3. Internal- a company will use this for their work processes for example a budgeting software the company built
  4. Composite- a combination of two or more of the above

Put simply API’s allow a computer to operate your app.

Where Do Apps Store All of the Data?

Facebook database rows of servers. https://www.datacenterknowledge.com/inside-facebooks-lulea-data-center

Take a guess as to what database this is.

If you guessed Facebook’s database you are correct! It turns out that all of these macines process 4 Petabytes of data per day (that’s 1,000,000 Gigabytes!)

We’re not going to say that every app out there uses a database like this. However, a lot of apps are powered by AWS. You can find some images of thier database through a Google Search and it is impressive!

Breaking It Down

We know this is a lot of information and it is all very complex. In a nutshell, Programmers (this si to mean developers, coders, app builders, etc.) develop an app and code it to speak to a server. That server then stores information in a database.

If you can learn API’s you will be well on your way to understanding how applications even work. As always we like to keep our information simple and easy to grasp. If you find yourself needing more information about how apps work, feel free to give us a call at 208 344 1115. We’d love to get you in touch with a developer that can explain how all of this works.

If you have more questions about apps be sure to check out our other blog posts where we answer other questions people like you have had about apps and application development!