Last Updated: March 15, 2024
mobile app database
Published On: June 28, 2023

In 2022, people downloaded approximately 225 billion apps. Organizations increasingly want to bank on the demand for apps in the market. Why? Well, because currently, you might be developing a mobile app for one of the 6.5 billion smartphone users worldwide. Or, you might be waiting if a user decides to download or install your app next.

But before you proceed with it, you need to answer some pertinent questions related to the mobile app database you would use to develop their apps.

Why Should I Need to Consider a Mobile App Database?

Now, this is a question you should ask the developers of the most popular streaming apps like Netflix and Spotify. Both market giants use two compelling databases – Netflix uses MySQL, whereas Spotify uses Postgres. Apart from them, the highly acclaimed cab booking app Uber and social media network Instagram depend on MySQL to store, update, and control their data.

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Here is a use case of how Netflix used MySQL and streamlined its data processes and various other aspects:

how Netflix used MySQL

1. Better Data Management

  • How it functions: It stores everything related to viewing information, account history, and user preferences.
  • How it benefits: It provides personalized recommendations by tracking user activity.

2. Storing Content Metadata

  • How it functions: It stores the tiniest data on TV shows and movies, including titles, genres, cast, and production details.
  • How it benefits: It powers search functions and content recommendations.

3. Playback and Streaming

  • How it functions: It manages the playback state, tracks the progress of the user’s watching experience, and maintains playback history.
  • How it benefits: It seamlessly resumes watching from where they last left off.

Lastly, it helps optimize the streaming quality and improve content recommendations helping the developers make informed decisions.

You might wonder why we have talked about MySQL databases only when so many other equally immersive databases are out there. MySQL is one of the top 10 databases in 2023 and should be a part of your app development. It’s also one of the reasons why most development companies uses MySQL as a significant part of developing the databases for Android and iOS apps. Why?

  • It requires no configuration and is serverless,
  • It’s most stable across all platforms,
  • Security layer for sensitive data,
  • Multi-processing and widely embedded applications.
  • High memory storing efficiency.

What are App Databases?

Simply put, a database is a storage managed within an app for structured data collection. It is a central repository for storing, retrieving, and organizing the required data—a database stores data in rows and columns.

A Database Management System (DBSM) is necessary to modify, upgrade, manage, and edit these databases. Since these are a form of electronic storage, developers use a language called Structured Query Language (SQL) to structure them.

There are two main types of databases:

1. Local Database

A local database stores all the data on the user’s device. For the same reason, a local database is popularly known as a mobile app or simply a mobile database. It stores all the app/user-specific information like settings, preferences, and offline data. Some common examples include Realm and SQLite.

2. Remote Database

A Remote Database is a cloud or backend database hosted on remote servers and accessible by an app through an Internet connection. Through this Database, an app can store and retrieve data from a centralized location for syncing, real-time updates, and collaboration.

Some popular examples include Firebase Realtime DB, MongoDB Atlas, and Amazon DynamoDB. Data storage and processing are the two important application architecture development areas.

It further depends on the database they would use for building their apps and how all these processes will happen. Hence, beginning the app development process requires organizations to understand which Database to select.

Why Selecting the Right Mobile App Database is Important?

Mobile App Database

Effective development of mobile applications involves deciding how data storing, and processing will be a part of the architecture. You can choose between cloud and mobile databases for app development. But how are these two different from each other, and how does choosing a mobile app database impact an app?

Let us explain. If you select a cloud development database, it can make your app dependent on the Internet network. So, an app’s backend would not function when no network is available, like in elevators, airplanes, or travel trips.

Cloud development databases only work where there is a reliable network. In the areas with no connectivity, your users won’t be able to use the app – leading to poor user experience and abandonment.

Every app aims to provide a satisfying user experience with an effective, fast, and always-available app. Simply put, the Database must also be mobile when your users are mobile.

A mobile database, hence, justifies its name – a database technology designed explicitly for using mobile apps. With a mobile database, you don’t have to worry about your users going off the radar for extended periods.

A mobile database is deployed by extending the cloud-computing model. It distributes data storage and processes from the cloud to the devices that bring efficiency to running apps.

A mobile app database consists of the following:

  • A central cloud development database,
  • a locally running embeddable database,
  • and automatic data sync between both.

As mentioned above, mobile app databases store and process data on the device while on the go and without the Internet. It allows an app to function reliably by automatically syncing data when the connection is available.

It ensures consistency across the app ecosystem by making the data available in its most compact form between the cloud and the edge. Hence, choosing the right database for mobile app development is paramount for efficient customized mobile app development services.

Such a database provides developers with development tools for mobile apps that support built-in sync. Before we explain the best databases you can use for your mobile app development, let us look at the types of databases available.

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Different Types of Databases

Different types of databases exist to fulfill different app requirements. Some apps have complex relationships and need structured data, such as e-commerce and financial apps. On the other hand, some apps require scalability and flexibility to handle unstructured data and semi-structured data.

Types of Databases

These include content management systems and apps with real-time analytics. Here are the most common types of databases needed to cater to app-specific data storage and retrieval needs:

1. Graph Database

How it functions: Graph databases emphasize the relationship between different app entities. Graph database stores and represents data through nodes and edges.

It is a graph data model to store, represent, and organize data. The nodes are known as vertices, and the edges are known as relationships. Here, nodes represent objects, and edges represent connections.

Popular Graph Databases: Neo4j, OrientDB, Amazon Neptune, ArangoDB

Where to use: These are ideal for managing complex apps like social networks, recommendation systems, and fraud detection systems where relationships between data points are essential.

Why choose it: They deliver faster query performance and are effective for real-time responses. Graph databases are capable of handling large and growing datasets. These are more adaptable and provide deep insights to uncover complex patterns, hidden relationships, and anomalies.

2. Centralized Database

How it functions: All data gets stored in a single location with a central authority, unlike cloud development databases. In this Database, that central server is the only point responsible for data storage, management, and access. Any retrieval or modification is possible only by connecting to this point.

Popular Centralized Databases: Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM Db2

Where to use: Centralized databases are ideal for internal systems like employee management, inventory control, and document management. Other use cases include legacy systems, business intelligence, and content management systems (CMS) for generating meaningful insights, consistent content organization, and maintenance for custom mobile app development services.

Why choose it: It provides consistency of data and reduces discrepancies. It’s simpler to adopt as it requires fewer resources and has a less complex administration process.

3. Distributed Database

How it functions: A distributed database is similar to a centralized database. However, it differs in one tiny aspect. The entire Database has one location to store, accessible through any external resource.

Under this Database, data is stored and managed across multiple physical or logical locations. The Database is divided into fragments or partitions, and each fragment is stored on different nodes or servers within a network.

Popular Distributed Databases: Apache Cassandra, Couchbase Server, Amazon SimpleDB, Clusterpoint

Where to use: Common use cases include large-scale systems, cloud applications, and environments where scalability and fault tolerance are paramount.

Why choose it: A distributed database allows parallel processing and improved performance. It provides scope for scalability with additional nodes as the data grows.

It also has built-in fault tolerance that minimizes data loss. With improved performance and faster response times, it provides localized access to data in different regions.

4. Operational Database

How it functions: An operational database is also known as an Online Transaction Processing (OLTP) database. This type of Database is used to handle real-time transactions and daily business operations. It helps manage all the data related to the immediate processing of business transactions.

Popular Operational Databases: MarkLogic, Amazon DynamoDB, MongoDB, SAP HANA

Where to use: The most ideal use cases are inventory management systems, e-commerce, Point of Sale (PoS), and customer relationship management (CRM).

Why choose it: They allow you to handle real-time read and write operations for efficient mobile app development. ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) ensures correct and reliable transactions. Plus, data retrieval and modification are their priority. They are also highly stable as they accommodate the increased transactional load.

5. NoSQL Database

How it functions: The NoSQL database differs greatly from other databases. Its flexible schema structure enables data storage and retrieval in shapes and sizes.

Popular NoSQL Databases: Apache CouchDB, Azure CosmosDB, Aerospike, Bigtable.

Where to use: This Database is most commonly used in applications that require agility, performance, and scalability. Use cases include big data analytics, content management systems, and real-time streaming.

Why choose it: It provides flexibility while dealing with unpredictable data as it allows storing different types of data with varying structures. It also provides scalability by adding more servers or nodes. Further, it ensures high availability and data accessibility with built-in mechanisms for distribution, sync with cloud development, and replication.

6. Cloud Database

How it functions: These database apps perform in the cloud and have a lot of space to house data. Instead of on-premises physical servers, cloud databases host and operate on cloud computing platforms. The stored data can be accessed from the Internet.

Popular Cloud Databases: Apache HBase, Bigquery, Amazon Redshift, and Maria DB.

Where to use: Most ideal use cases include the Internet of Things (IoT), web, and mobile applications.

Why choose it: Easily scalable up and down, allowing seamless expansion without additional resources and infrastructure changes. Cloud databases are fault-tolerant and have high availability.

They work on a pay-as-you-go pricing model, charged on the actual resource usage. They also offer managed services like routine maintenance of backups, software updates, and performance optimization of mobile apps.

7. End-user Database

How it functions: An end-user database is designed and managed by an individual end-user to meet specific data management needs. Unlike centralized databases controlled by data administrators or IT departments, users create, maintain, and manage this Database.

Popular end-user databases: Airtable, Zoho Creator, Knack, Quickbase.

Where to use: Use cases include individual or small teams for data management. These include maintaining contact lists, tracking inventory, and organizing project-related information. Small teams can benefit from it as it is user-friendly and doesn’t require advanced programming.

You can tailor the database structure and match the workflows specific to your custom mobile app development services. It promotes teamwork and streamlines collaboration with a shared and centralized data location. 

8. Commercial Database

How it functions: A commercial database is an enterprise-level database, usually designed and used by businesses for managing their data on a large scale. They can handle the needs of multiple users, complex transactions, and simultaneous access.

Popular commercial databases: PostgreSQL, Amazon Aurora, Microsoft Azure SQL, Oracle DB. 

Where to use: Commercial databases are offered by vendors and service providers. They usually come with subscription and licensing models.

Why choose it: Such databases provide scalability to support an organization’s growth. They are reliable, offering data replication, backups, and recovery features with caching, indexing, and query optimization.

9. Relational Database

How it functions: A relational database is a DBMS with a data model defining relationships between data entities. Each table represents a concept representing a specific data attribute in rows and columns.

Popular relational databases: Oracle DB, SQLite, PostgreSQL, MySQL.

Where to use: Most common use cases include enterprise applications like CRM and HRMS, E-commerce websites, financial systems, online booking systems, data warehousing, and educational systems.

Why choose it: It enforces data integrity in mobile app development by making it consistent and accurate. The ACID properties present in relational databases ensure transactional reliability.

Let’s tread further toward the best mobile app databases available today for development.

Best Databases for Mobile Apps

Here’s a comparative overview before we explain each database in detail:

A reliable and feature-rich database with extensive documentation and compatibility across all platforms.

Database Where to use Why choose it
MySQL Used in web development, e-commerce systems, CMS, and other data-driven applications.  Scalability, high performance, and convenience to use. A reliable and feature-rich database with extensive documentation and compatibility across all platforms.
PostgreSQL Data warehousing systems, geospatial data, web applications, and financial systems.  Provides disaster recovery, advanced reliability, scalability, and robustness with an extensive feature set. Advanced features like JSON, geographical information system (GIS), and full-text search. 
MongoDB Perfectly suited for apps requiring constant data changes, real-time analytics, and large-scale distributed systems. Common uses include CMS, IoT applications, and mobile apps. High scaling capabilities and flexibility. It helps faster read/write operations as it’s written in Javascript, Python – making it easier to develop, deploy, and upgrade your mobile apps. 
SQLite Mobile applications, desktop software, and embedded applications. An ideal solution for prototypes and apps with moderate data needs. Compatible with almost all programming languages. It supports standard SQL queries, has a small footprint, and provides simplicity.
RealmDB Well-suited for use in mobile and IoT applications. Offers offline cloud development functions and real-time sync. It has ease of use, improved app performance, reduced development time, and a smooth user experience.
ORM Lite Suitable for apps requiring database access and manipulation, like mobile apps, web apps, and small to medium-sized projects. It saves development and enhances code readability. It also makes database integration easier and more efficient.

MySQL

MySQL is at the top as the best mobile app database and is one of the longest-running open-source relational database management systems (RDBMS). Introduced in 1995, MySQL is written in C or C++. Its functions include storing and managing data in tables with rows and columns. It allows efficient data retrieval, querying, and manipulation using SQL.

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL was released in 1996 and is an RDBMS written in C. It’s an excellent alternative for iOS and Android apps. It’s another open-source system that is object-based and highly customizable.

Its key characteristics include efficient working with multi-version concurrency control, tracing errors, and fault tolerance. It also provides an ACID transactional guarantee.

SQLite

SQLite is a lightweight and serverless RDBMS. It’s a self-contained system embedded in the application, eliminating the need for an external configuration or server.

It allows developers to provide local data storage for mobile app users. It’s a compact library-based and file-based database that stores data on a single file.

MongoDB

MongoDB is a document-oriented database using JSON features with optional schemas to help in powerful load balancing, sharding, and better query execution. Flexible schemas allow dynamic updates and schema evolution for high-performing custom mobile app development services.

It makes it easy to represent complex data structures. Its scalability and high performance for handling unstructured and semi-structured data make it one of the most popular NoSQL databases.

Realm DB

Realm DB is a mobile database solution designed for modern applications. It’s an embedded database operating directly on the device. It can provide fast and efficient data storage and retrieval with an object-oriented architecture.

One of the key characteristics includes data encryption with cross-platform support. It has a simple API for automatic data sync and seamless data management.

ORMLite

ORMLite is called Object-Relational Mapping Lite, a lightweight ORM library for Java and Android apps. It’s an efficient database that simplifies mapping database tables to objects with Java.

It provides convenience to perform database operations without writing complex SQL queries. It functions by using annotations that define relationships between Java classes and Java tables.

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Criteria to Choose the Right Mobile App Database

Choosing a database depends on many factors influencing an app’s performance, efficiency, security, data integrity, consistency, reliability, compatibility, and cost-effectiveness. Hence, it’s crucial to understand which Database would provide the best possible outcome for users.

1. Data Structure and App Requirements

How you store your information depends on the structure of your mobile app’s Database. You should choose a database capable of storing data in multiple formats for better performance and efficient syncing for cloud development.

For example, Firebase Realtime Database is a NoSQL database that allows you to store and sync data in real-time formats across multiple clients. It uses JSON features to store data in a hierarchical structure.

2. Data Modeling and Size

Before you select a database for your app, you need to check and use that data model to see if that fits your app’s functionality. Your app must be flexible and adaptable according to times. Each Database has a different type of data modeling. Query flexibility is another important factor for data modeling.

For example, relational databases excel at managing structured data with defined relationships and offer powerful querying capabilities. Similarly, a NoSQL database provides flexibility for structured or semi-structured data and key-value or document-based access, which is advantageous for some data models.

3. Security of Data

If you choose to keep your data in a synchronized or decentralized database system, it’s important that data management is secure. Data security is the most significant concern; hence, it has to be flexible.

Apps often collect sensitive data, requiring a robust security database to protect from unauthorized access. The app also needs adherence to HIPAA and GDPR compliance, which makes it important to have a database that helps meet required constraints.

Moreover, the Database must also support TLS/SSL for encryption and protection during transit. Further, built-in security measures like vulnerability assessments and intrusion detection can reduce data breaches.

4. Speed and Scalability

Fast and responsive custom mobile app development services are essential in today’s world. Hence, the Database’s speed directly influences the overall experience with features like indexing, caching, and execution mechanisms.

As your app becomes popular, it needs a database to handle increased data volume and user requests without sacrificing performance. Besides these, cost-efficiency is closely related to scalability by optimizing infrastructure costs. Hence, the success of your mobile app highly depends on delivering a reliable experience.

5. Data Conflict Resolution

When choosing a database, data conflict resolution is an important criterion. Data conflicts often arise when multiple users concurrently access and modify the same data. The conflicts can lead to data inconsistencies where the same data exists in different places or is incorrectly merged.

Robust conflict resolution capabilities maintain data integrity. Effective data resolution is vital in improving the user experience by minimizing the chances of encountering outdated data. Also, some conflicts must be resolved with predefined rules and permissions aligning with your app requirements.

6. Support for Multiple Platforms

Deciding the platform you need a mobile app database for is important. However, if you want support for multiple platforms, it would be best to consider it from the beginning. React Native makes it easier to write codes for both platforms.

7. Data Synchronization Between the Backend Server and Local Database

Many databases offer the option to run offline features. Users can access and interact with data locally, and automatic data sync of changes can happen once the connection is available.

Why? Because accessing the frequently stored data improves performance and reduces reliance on the network. Local data access is faster and more responsive and helps maintain data consistency across devices when users access the same information in cloud development.

Best Practices to Make Working Efficiently with Mobile App Database

A well-designed database structure starts by following proven practices to optimize it to correctly reflect your custom mobile app development services and relationships. Eliminating redundancies ensures efficient storage and retrieval of data. Here are some such practices:

1. Use Appropriate Indexing

Using appropriate indexing improves query performance by allowing the Database to locate specific data more quickly and speeding up database queries.

2. Implement Caching Mechanisms

Caching reduces the need for repeated database queries, improving response times and overall performance by storing frequently accessed data.

3. Consider Batch Operations

Batching reduces the number of round trips to the Database, minimizing overhead and improving efficiency using inserts, updates, and deletes.

4. Utilize Connection Pooling

Connection pooling allows reusing existing connections and eliminates the overhead of establishing new connections for each user.

5. Implement Error Handling Mechanisms

Log relevant error details for troubleshooting and future analysis, enabling quick identification and resolution of issues.

Wrapping Up

Mobile apps continue to be highly significant as they are a great revenue generator. And user experience remains the most crucial factor for the users to decide whether they will use your app. In short, it can make or break your success.

For an immersive experience, choosing a mobile app database provides the flexibility to create, update and modify with new resources. Maintaining the same efficient functionality requires choosing the right database to handle requests gracefully.

Change being the only constant makes developers wary of having a functioning database that makes the information available for users anywhere they go. Moon Technolabs has an expert team of developers who implement the suitable mobile app database according to your specifications and supercharge your app’s performance.

FAQs

Whether your mobile app is native or hybrid, it needs a mobile database to work as local storage to connect better with users. It provides speed, reliability, and better performance.

Examples include MySQL, Oracle, and MongoDB, while some applications include CRM systems, account management systems, and Amazon.

Some common types of databases include relational databases, graph databases, centralized databases, end-user databases, NoSQL databases, operational databases, etc.
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Jayanti Katariya

Jayanti Katariya is the CEO of Moon Technolabs, a fast-growing IT solutions provider, with 18+ years of experience in the industry. Passionate about developing creative apps from a young age, he pursued an engineering degree to further this interest. Under his leadership, Moon Technolabs has helped numerous brands establish their online presence and he has also launched an invoicing software that assists businesses to streamline their financial operations.

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