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A mobile application also referred to as a mobile app or simply an app is a computer program or software application designed to run on a mobile device such as a phone, tablet, or watch. Apps were originally intended for productivity assistance such as email, calendar, and contact databases, but the public demand for apps caused rapid expansion into other areas such as mobile games, factory automation, GPS and location-based services, order-tracking, and ticket purchases so that there are now millions of apps available. Apps are generally downloaded from application distribution platforms which are operated by the owner of the mobile operating system, such as the App Store (iOS) or Google Play Store. Some apps are free, and others have a price, with the profit being split between the application's creator and the distribution platform. Mobile applications often stand in contrast to desktop applications which are designed to run on desktop computers, and web applications that run in mobile web browsers rather than directly on the mobile device.


In 2009, technology columnist David Pogue stated that smartphones could be nicknamed "app phones" to distinguish them from earlier less-sophisticated smartphones.  The term "app", short for "software application", has since become very popular; in 2010, it was listed as "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society.