Platform and Mobile App Engineering: How They Work Together

Platform engineering and mobile application engineering share a symbiotic relationship that drives innovation and enhances user experiences.

Mobile application engineering has grown in prominence due to high demand and new devices. According to Statista, 255 billion mobile apps are downloaded worldwide each year, with an 82% increase in the number of apps downloaded since 2016.

At the same time, a new form of engineering has emerged as its counterpart: platform engineering.

Platform engineering accelerates the delivery of applications and the speed at which they produce business value by optimizing application development and improving productivity by providing self-service capabilities with automated infrastructure operations. According to Gartner, 80% of large software engineering organizations will establish platform engineering teams by 2026 as internal providers of reusable services, components and tools for application delivery.

At its core, platform engineering lays the foundation for robust infrastructures that support the seamless operation of various applications across different devices and operating systems, including developing scalable architectures, optimizing performance and ensuring security measures are in place. On the other hand, mobile application engineering focuses on crafting intuitive, feature-rich experiences tailored to the unique demands of mobile devices.

With these underlying platforms, mobile app developers can harness functionalities such as push notifications, location services and device hardware integration to create compelling user interfaces and interactions. The constructive collaboration between these two engineering disciplines enables the seamless integration of applications into the broader platform landscape, fostering interoperability, scalability and a cohesive user experience across devices and platforms.

Platform Engineering: The Foundation for Innovation

Imagine a bustling city built on a solid foundation that keeps its structure protected and secure, ensuring a seamless, smooth experience for city dwellers. Platform engineering plays a similar role in the software development landscape. It lays the groundwork, with a focus on designing, building and maintaining the internal developer platform (IDP) — a self-service platform that empowers application developers. An IDP helps platform engineers by providing:

  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC): Tools and processes to automate infrastructure provisioning and management, ensuring consistency and efficiency.
  • CI/CD: Streamlined pipelines for building, testing and deploying applications, accelerating development cycles.
  • API management: A central hub for managing APIs that exposes functionalities to mobile apps, fostering interconnectivity.
  • Monitoring and observability: Tools and practices to gain real-time insights into platform health and application performance, enabling proactive troubleshooting.
  • Mobile application engineering: Building engaging user experiences.

Mobile application engineers, on the other hand, harness the capabilities of the IDP to build feature-rich and user-friendly mobile apps. They are tasked with the design, development and implementation of software applications specifically tailored for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, collaborating closely with designers, product managers and other stakeholders to translate concepts and requirements into tangible, user-friendly applications. Their expertise lies in:

  • Native app development: Using platform-specific languages and frameworks (such as Swift for iOS or Kotlin for Android) to create apps that seamlessly integrate with the native device functionalities and UI/UX paradigms.
  • Cross-platform app development: With frameworks like React Native or Flutter to build apps that can run on both iOS and Android, these teams can optimize development time and resources.
  • Mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS): Integrating with backend services provided by the platform, offering functionalities like user authentication, data storage and push notifications.

A Symbiotic Relationship

By providing a reliable IDP with automated tools and efficient workflows, platform engineers:

  • Increase developer productivity: Reducing the burden of managing infrastructure allows mobile application engineers to focus on core app functionalities.
  • Enhance code quality and consistency: IaC and CI/CD pipelines enforce best practices, leading to more reliable and maintainable codebases.
  • Accelerate time to market: Streamlined development processes enable quicker delivery of mobile apps to the market.

In turn, mobile app engineers provide valuable insights and use cases that inform the evolution of the IDP. They:

  • Identify platform gaps and limitations: Their real-world experience helps platform engineers identify areas for improvement in the IDP’s functionalities.
  • Drive innovation through experimentation: Pushing the boundaries of mobile app development can lead to new features and functionalities being incorporated into the IDP, benefiting the entire development ecosystem.

Beyond the Basics: Emerging Trends and Challenges

As the landscape of mobile technology continues to evolve, so do the challenges and opportunities for platform and mobile application engineers. Some of the emerging trends include:

  • Microservices architecture: Breaking down applications into smaller, independent services offers greater flexibility, scalability and maintainability. Both platform and mobile app engineers need to adapt their skillset, through upskilling and reskilling, to work effectively in this dynamic environment.
  • Serverless computing: This cloud-based model allows developers to focus on application logic without managing infrastructure. Platform engineers need to build and maintain the IDP to effectively support serverless deployments, while mobile application engineers can focus on building more scalable and cost-effective applications.
  • AI and machine learning: Integrating AI and ML into mobile apps offers new possibilities for user experiences and functionalities. Both platform and mobile application engineers need to stay up to date on these advancements.

Platform engineering and mobile application development must co-exist and work in parallel to provide secure and reliable applications in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Empowering Yourself

Both platform engineering and mobile app development offer exciting opportunities, for both the advancement of business and for the digital talent career growth. Check out some valuable resources to equip yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge in both topics:

Tutorials:

Thought Leadership:

Mobile App Development:

Udacity course: Android Development

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About the author:

Based in Lahore, Pakistan, Usman Siddiqui is a member of the Andela Talent Network. As an automation and quality assurance engineer at Arbisoft, he is experienced in software development processes and optimal testing strategies. Usman helps teams to produce exceptional products by through in-depth test automation and quality assurance support.

This article was originally published in The New Stack as part of Andela's sponsored content.

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