By 2023, mobile apps are forecasted to generate more than US$935 billion – almost triple the amount of what it made in 2018. With over 3.5 million smartphone users, such a figure is not at all a surprise.
But what is more astonishing is that the industry is facing a significant talent shortage for mobile app developers. This makes mobile app development one of the most fun-filled and in-demand jobs on the planet right now.
If you are keen to learn the trade, this article will present you with everything you need to know about how to become a mobile app developer. And not just any app developer, but a successful one. Before that, let’s look at the everyday responsibilities of a mobile app developer.
What Does a Mobile App Developer Do?
Apart from developing “apps” there are several duties bestowed upon mobile app developers, depending on the organisation they work for.
Generally, the smaller the app development team is, the higher will be the responsibilities of each developer. This is one of the main reasons why developers may prefer to spend their initial years working for startups, as they can quickly expand their skillset.
The duties may include, but not limited to, the following.
- Talking with clients or team managers about app specifications.
- Creating mockup apps.
- Breathing life into apps by coding.
- Connecting apps with other apps and databases.
- Discussing progress with clients.
- Beta testing the program.
- Discussing crash reports with the QA team.
- Fixing bugs.
- Updating app features.
- Documentation of the app development processes.
- Continually sharpening their skills.
What Are the Different Kinds of Mobile App Developers?
In the broadest sense, mobile app developers can be differentiated based on the type of mobile apps they develop such as:
- Native App Developers
- Mobile Web Developers
- Hybrid App Developers
More specifically, mobile app developers can be differentiated by their roles:
They develop the part of the app the users interact with, known as the user interface (UI) and defines the user experience (UX) of the app. The look and feel of every app are in the hands of front-end developers.
As the name suggests, they build connections between different app components and databases. Basically, the features and functionality of an app are developed and powered by the back-end developers.
Full-stack developers do all or some of the tasks performed by front-end and back-end developers.
How to Become a Mobile App Developer?
Just like any other skill, mastering the art of mobile app development takes time, and more importantly, an eternal eagerness to learn and experiment with new things. Although the basics remain the same, you will have to continually update yourselves with changing technologies and programming languages.
It will be unfair if we say there is just one way to become a successful mobile app developer. After all, thousands of teenagers start out as developers because of curiosity and enthusiasm to innovate.
There are numerous ways that may or may not involve the steps we will discuss below. However, following these steps will give you a headstart and reassure you that you are heading in the right direction.
1. Decide to Code or Not Code
The difference between coding mobile apps by yourself and depending on no-code app builders can be seen as the difference between taking the stairs or using the elevator. Although no-code app builders can help you reach your goal effortlessly and within a short amount of time, it isn’t “healthy”.
If you are to think outside the box, beyond the conventional set of features, no-code app builders won’t have your back. For example, if you are planning to develop an augmented reality app, the functionalities associated with such an app are currently far from what no-code app builders offer.
If you plan to learn the hard way, that is, by learning how to code, you will only be limited by your imagination (and the current technology stacks). You can develop each element of the app from scratch, just the way you like it.
Nevertheless, if you are in a hurry to develop a mobile app, then no-code app builders are an excellent choice. If you want to know more about no-code app builders and want to start-off with app development, we have a killer article that talks about 28 platforms that let you develop Android apps without coding.
2. Have a Mentor
One of the best ways to learn the dos and don’ts of becoming a mobile app developer is by directly asking someone who has seen the ups and downs of the business. More precisely, we mean a developer who has the expertise in the kind of app development you are planning to indulge in.
Seeking out help from experienced developers and having someone as a mentor will help you not to repeat the same mistakes they made. There are plenty of online platforms where developers hang out, starting with LinkedIn, Reddit, Quora, 9GAG and so on.
If you have someone specific on your mind, and whom you admire, try sending an email telling them how much their work means to you. Following the progress and works of developers will also help you analyse how the industry is shifting with technological advancements.
3. Choose a Platform
One of the most critical decisions you need to make while becoming an app developer is choosing a platform for development. Of course, learning to code for multiple platforms is a breeze if you know the basics, but concentrating on just one can help you explore deeper and not become a jack of all trades and a master of none.
Although there are numerous mobile operating systems, such as Windows Phone, Blackberry OS, LineageOS, KaiOS, and Symbian OS, to name a few, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS constitute nearly 99% of the global mobile OS market share.
So, according to the current state of the industry, concentrating on iOS or Android app development will be more beneficial, in terms of opportunities. Do keep in mind that the industry’s demands can dramatically change within a short time. For instance, in 2012, the Symbian OS was the most extensively used mobile OS, but was shortly overshadowed by Android.
To become a successful iOS developer, you need to master or at the least be familiar with,
- Grand Central Dispatch (GCD)
- Popular databases like Firebase, Realm and MongoDB.
- Swift Package Manager
To become an excellent Android developer you must know,
- Android SDK
- Android Studio
- Popular databases like Firebase, Parse, SQLite
- Material Design
4. Learn to Code
Now that you know what you need to learn to become a mobile app developer, let’s get started with how you can do it. Learning to code will be the most crucial and time-consuming part of your journey to becoming a developer, and you can’t stop at any point. Instead, you need to frequently brush up your coding knowledge and keep up with the changing trends.
If you are looking for an answer to “how to become an app developer with no experience”, then you have four ways you can do it:
Get a Computer Science Degree
If you are graduating out of high school and have an enormous passion for mobile app development, then pursuing a computer science degree can be a great idea. If you are planning to get hired, having a degree will be beneficial as well.
However, unlike self-learning, a Computer Science degree will require you to take classes on a wide variety of subjects, starting with:
- Statistics and probability
- Web and mobile app development
- Algorithm analysis and design
- 3D graphics
The list can contract or expand, depending on the university you choose. Numerous universities around the world offer Computer Science programs, and you are just a Google search away to find one close to you.
Enrol for a Mobile App Development Course
Although having a Computer Science degree makes you look more professional in the eyes of a recruiter, it isn’t a prerequisite to innovate with mobile app development. Almost every famous revolutionaries of our time started out without a degree, including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
What they had instead was a sheer passion for creating something transcendent and unheard of. If you fall into that category, you can self-learn (discussed later) the trade with ease or enrol into a mobile app development course and quickly pick up everything you need to know about mobile apps.
Here’s a list of some of the best mobile app development courses you can try:
Free Android App Development Courses
- Android Basics in Kotlin
- Advanced Android in Kotlin
- Android Developer Fundamentals (Java)
- Advanced Android Development (Java)
- Android Development with Vogella
Paid Android App Development Courses
- Android App Development Masterclass using Kotlin
- Android Java Masterclass – Become an App Developer
- Become an Android Developer – Udacity
- Google: Associate Android Developer (AAD)
Free iOS App Development Courses
- Learn iOS/Swift/SwiftUI Programming
- iOS App Development with Swift Specialization
- iOS App Development For Beginners
- iPhone App Development
Paid iOS App Development Courses
- The Complete iOS 10 & Swift 3 Developer Course
- The Complete iOS 13 Developer Course – and SwiftUI!
- iOS 13 – How to Make Amazing iPhone Apps: Xcode 11 & Swift 5
- The Complete Guide to JSON Parsing Using Swift 5
Attend Coding Bootcamps
Nearly a decade ago, a new method of learning to code, known as coding bootcamps, came into existence. They are intensive training programs that can teach you how to code within a short time and are equally useful for newbies, Computer Science graduates or experienced developers.
Coding bootcamps may last for a weekend to a couple of months, depending on the type of programming languages and frameworks used. An interesting characteristic of bootcamps is that they directly get into practising coding by spending the least amount of time in lectures.
Some bootcamps may require students to be physically present at specific venues, whereas most of them are conducted online, and often follow a self-paced curriculum.
While a traditional education like a Computer Science degree focuses on the fundamentals first and then systematically progresses, bootcamps cut to the chase by directly teaching students how to code. This allows students to develop skills that can be directly applied to a specific field of coding.
However, some of these bootcamps can be extremely expensive as compared to mobile app development certification courses because they can give you highly-specific app development training.
Here are some online coding bootcamps for you to consider.
- iOS 12 Swift 4.2 – The Complete iOS App Development Bootcamp
- iOS Development Course
- Modern Android App Development Bootcamp With Kotlin 2020
- Android Development Immersive
Self-Learn From YouTube and Developer Forums
If you are incredibly passionate about mobile apps and want to learn to develop one with limited resources, then self-learning how to code from YouTube and developer forums is more than enough. After all, even if you enrol for a CS program, courses or coding bootcamps, you will need to self-learn and experiment a lot.
You can browse YouTube, look into online guides for Android and iOS development, and even post your doubts on Q&A websites like Stack Overflow, Quora, and so on. If you are keen to learn how to develop a mobile app, the Internet is a friendly place that can help you access everything you need to learn, for free.
5. Sharpen and Test Your Skills
Once you get into the process of learning to code, you will be able to pinpoint the skills you need to improve and the ones you are reasonably familiar with. Although doing certificate courses and attending bootcamps are excellent means to expand your knowledge, there are two other ways you can experiment with what you learned and see for yourself the fruits of your labour.
Build an MVP
A minimum viable product (MVP) app is one that has just the basic, yet essential features. These apps take the least amount of time and resources to build and are ideal for representing the concept of your app quickly.
As a budding developer, building an MVP will help you experiment with your gained knowledge, and maybe it has the potential to turn into an overnight sensation. After all, releasing MVP apps are relatively easier than a full-fledged one, and will help you solidify your skills by directly applying them to a project.
If you want to know more about MVP apps, check out our in-depth article that covers all aspects of MVP in mobile app development.
Hackathons are competitions in which you collaborate with multiple developers and designers, either virtually or at offline events. These are competitions in which numerous teams compete to develop prototypes or enhance already existing apps.
By attending hackathons, you can easily assess how skilled you are compared to other developers, meet up with like-minded people, and most importantly, you will be gaining vast amounts of industry knowledge and exposure.
There are numerous cases in which skilled developers were chosen by big names in the industry, due to their performances at hackathons. There are several websites that you can register for local or online events, and hackathon.com is a great place to start.
How Much Does a Mobile App Developer Earn?
The figures for mobile application developer salary greatly depend on several factors, including the country of residence, the platform, and the years of experience. This means that a mobile app developer in the US may earn an average of $107,000/year, whereas a developer in India will only receive an average salary of $4,100/year.
Tips for Becoming a Successful Mobile App Developer
1. Be Active in Developer Forums
Starting with Quora, XDA Developers, Reddit, and Stack Overflow, being active on developer forums has many benefits. You get to clear your doubts, meet like-minded developers, and most importantly, you may be opening gateways to bagging exciting projects.
If you are venturing into becoming a freelance mobile app developer, forums are the first place you need to start being active. An active contributor will always be looked up to.
2. Talk to Developers Who Are Where You Want to Be
Just like having a mentor, you need to continually connect with the industry leaders, read their opinions and learn from them. Since they have years of experience in the making, they will have a completely different perspective on most of the apps you are planning to implement. Such insights will be invaluable to eradicate unprecedented bottlenecks during development.
3. Collaborate With Like-Minded Developers
The culture of collaboration is one of the most celebrated characteristics of the mobile app development industry. You can collaborate with developers who offer diverse skills and can develop sections of your app which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
Also, most employers see the ability to effectively work in teams as an essential soft skill during recruitment.
4. Continually Improve Your Skills
With the technology behind smartphones advancing exponentially, the things you learn today may be relevant only for a few months or less. To not fall behind, you must keep on updating your skills, and there are plenty of certificate courses and online tutorials for that. Staying updated will also help you solve issues with a fresh approach, and probably even faster than expected.
5. Build and Release Apps Often
With ever-increasing competition in the mobile app space, someone may have already begun to implement a similar concept of your app. This makes it highly crucial that you never procrastinate with development; otherwise, the app might be outdated or irrelevant on release. Make sure you develop and release apps as quickly as possible, and try validating your app’s concept with an MVP.
In a nutshell, becoming a mobile app developer can’t be seen as a destination. Instead, it is a fun-filled journey that comprises of enormous learning and career opportunities. Fortunately, there are many ways (including paid and free means) by which you can immediately start your quest of becoming a mobile developer.
If you are in a hurry to build a mobile app, then a no-code app builder will be beneficial. We would recommend that you learn coding from scratch as it allows you to build any type of app.
If you are incredibly enthusiastic about mobile app development, the journey from printing your first “Hello World” to developing complex apps won’t take much time.