IDAP BLOG Mobile Application Development

A Comprehensive Guide To Web Scraping In Mobile Apps

If you’ve heard of web scraping before, it’s probably mainly in the context of carrying out a deep dive into a third party data repository using a standard workstation.

Of course you could also be entirely oblivious to what this concept involves in any concept, or how it can be achieved and put to effective use.

Whichever camp you’re in, stick with us as we go over the ins and outs of using a website scraper on portable devices, and your other options and considerations if you have a project of your own you want to kick off.

Introduction to Web Scraping

First up, let’s go over the basics. Web scraping is a fascinating technique used to extract structured information from websites. It’s sort of an internet-based mining expedition, but instead of minerals, you’re extracting useful data.

The potential applications of data scraping are vast. A website scraper is widely utilized in market research to gain competitive insights or assess customer sentiment. Researchers employ data scraping techniques too, gathering essential figures across diverse fields like socioeconomics and healthcare app development. Journalists utilize it as well, digging out vital statistics for stories with a potentially significant public impact.

Even everyday tech-savvy individuals find web scraping handy when they’re aiming to harvest substantial amounts of specific data that may be unreachable via traditional browsing procedures. Always wanted a compiled list of all Sci-Fi books mentioned across multiple online book clubs? Not a problem, as there’s usually some form of scraper designed specifically for that. And if not, you can always make your own.

Differences Between Web Scraping on Mobile Apps and Desktops

While the core principle remains the same, there are inherent differences between data scraping on mobile apps and desktop platforms.

  • Interaction With Websites: On a desktop platform, navigating through complex websites might be easier than on a smaller smartphone screen. This difference can influence your choice of device for web scraping.
  • Power Consumption: Running a web scraper tool or API can monopolize computing resources which could drain a smartphone battery significantly faster than if you were using mains-powered desktops for this type of task.

To balance pros and cons from both sides, it’s wise to choose the best web scraping API that offers flexibility in terms of execution environment. Whether you’re on a small-screened mobile phone or heavy duty desk setup doesn’t matter as much then.

Tools Used in Web Scraping for Mobile Apps

Using a website scraper on mobile devices relies on specific tools and technologies, just as is applicable with any digital task of this nature. You’ll need to explore:

  • Languages: Similar to desktop-based web scraping, development languages such as Python or Java are frequently used owing to their robust libraries supporting data extraction tasks.
  • Libraries: On Android platforms specifically, the JSoup library is popular while iOS developers commonly utilize SwiftSoup.
  • Software Development Kits (SDKs): SDKs provide a pre-made set of tools that can expedite the process of developing apps capable of performing effective data scraping.

Remember these instruments simply serve as a means to an end. How well you move forwards depends on your own skills and dedication to the project you’re building.

Step-By-Step Guide: How To Set Up a Simple Web Scraper

Creating your very first web scraper on a mobile app may seem daunting, but it’s easier than you may think:

  • Identify the Data: The first step is to visually identify which data needs to be scraped from your chosen website.
  • Use an HTTP library / SDK: This allows you to send GET or POST requests and manage responses in your mobile application.
  • Parse HTML/XML Files: Utilize libraries like Jsoup (Android) or Swiftsoup (iOS) for parsing the structure of these files easily.

Most importantly, ensuring cleanly organized code can streamline the scraping process and help navigate any web changes that might interfere with your data extraction.

Legal Implications of Mobile App-Based Web Scraping

While web scraping is a powerful tool, it’s crucial to understand the associated legal aspects. In some jurisdictions, unrestricted data harvesting without proper permissions or consent can raise serious issues, such as:

  • Privacy: Make sure not to intrude on individual privacy rights while obtaining information from websites.
  • Copyright Law: Downloading copyrighted material may be illegal and most likely unethical too. It might be supported in some jurisdictions, but others are not so amenable.
  • Website Terms of Use: This is often overlooked, but failing to adhere to a website’s terms could lead you into unwanted litigious territory.

Responsible use of mobile app-based website scraper techniques respects legal boundaries and ethical considerations in one fell swoop. So always keep in mind that just because you can obtain certain information doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

Tips for Successful Mobile App-Based Web Scraping

Embracing the art of web scraping on mobile apps involves more than just technical proficiency. Here are a few tips to make your journey smoother:

  • Choose the Right Tools: Pick programming languages, libraries and SDKs that are reliable, suitable for your needs, and fit well with your comfort level and capabilities.
  • Be Respectful: Don’t overwhelm websites with too many requests in short periods (it’s bad manners!), instead practice something called polite scraping.
  • Adaptability: Websites often change their structure, so make sure your scraper can quickly adapt to such changes.
  • Backup Measures: Always have multiple data recovery options ready. An uninterrupted power supply and saving progress at regular intervals will ensure success, especially in a mobile app context.

Overall, diligent planning combined with experimentation pushes you closer to perfection when it comes to mastering data scraping from mobile apps.


We’ve covered a lot in our journey through the land of mobile app-based web scraping. Hopefully you now understand what web scraping is, and have a grasp on its potential applications. You’re also ideally equipped with the knowledge of how it differs between mobile apps and full-blown PCs, as well as being in the loop on the tools and languages used to perform this task effectively on a smartphone or tablet.

So, with all that said, the last thing that remains is to encourage you to take the plunge and actually begin your own data scraping journey, whatever form it might take.

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