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Mobile technologies are empowering another age of business and consumer applications. As smartphones become more potent and pervasive, the need for competent mobile app developers will only continue to rise.

Recent projections by the International Data Corporation (IDC) indicate over 50% of all IT spending will go toward digital transformation and innovation by 2024. To further spice up things, the IDC believes that over 500 million digital apps and services will be built and deployed employing cloud-native approaches by 2023. This only spells promising things for the app development landscape worldwide. 

Number of mobile app downloads worldwide from 2014 to 2023, by region. Image Credit: statista.com

That being said, for aspiring app developers, this unprecedented level of mobility has become both an opportunity and a challenge. So how does one get into app development? Let’s find out, shall we?

Image credit: freepik.com

Why Mobile App Development?

While it might seem a no-brainer to get into app development as a lifetime career choice, one must understand the fuss. There must be something exciting that’s convincing more people to get into app development. There is! First, mobile devices have surpassed traditional personal computers as the most influential change in technology over the turn of the decade.

Image Credit: highspeedinternet.net

Smartphone penetration is nothing short of ubiquitous as individuals almost always have a smartphone device within reach. For businesses, customers now product information and accessibility at their fingertips. You don’t have to go to a physical store to get information about or purchase one. 

Even when consumers forget what they desired, the sale is never really permanently lost with smartphone devices as carts and product history are easily accessible. Essentially, customers can make a purchase anytime, whenever they have the urge. Thus, making mobile phones core to brand loyalty and awareness.

The smartphone revolution has also created opportunities for disruption, which could mean more opportunities and financial gain for those in the mobile industry. The mobile industry is a vehicle for innovation like no other. A testament to this fact is the number of companies innovating to provide consumers and businesses the ability to make and receive virtual payments.

For example, Square delivers a simple solution for small retailers to accept credit cards via their smart devices, or even employ an iPad as a cash register, equipped with a complete inventory and listing of all items in a store. In the same breadth, PayPal enables instant sending of money to individuals via their mobile devices. In practice, solutions like PayPal will only continue to pop-up as more disruptors innovate ways to better send money quickly to individuals, wherever they are. This simply means that the sky’s the limit for those interested in app development.

Largest mobile payments providers worldwide. Image Credit: merchantsavvy.co.uk

Why Become a Mobile App Developer?

With smartphone adoption rate and sales outpacing PC sales, mobile apps will become more prevalent, which will mean that more practicing app developers will be required. Furthermore, as more enterprising individuals become more creative and start mobile app-based businesses to make money, app developer demand will only soar.

Fortunately, the Google and Apple App Stores continue to offer app developers access to a wider market of app purchasers. Consequently, app developers do not need to worry about product distribution, returns, or payment collection as the App stores handle this ably.

Image Credit: sensortower.com

Furthermore, mobile apps offer different avenues to make money where apps can be sold for a one-time fee, institute ads, or employ a subscription-based approach. So, all an individual has to do is develop the skills required to engineer great apps.

How Much Does an App Developer Earn?

As has been noted, an amalgamation of continually advancing smartphone capabilities, accessible marketplaces, and the growing number of interested businesses, has made the app development scene highly attractive for aspiring developers.

According to Zippia, the average mobile app developer in the United States averages $88,017 per year or $42.32 per hour. However, worldwide developers’ median is at $44,000 a year, with the top 10% of software developers making approximately $119,000 annually. Most of these app developers specialize in Android development as Android apps predominantly command the current app market.

Skills Required to Become an App Developer

In essence, one can be called a professional app developer if they:

  • Successfully build and monetize their own apps
  • Develop apps for clients as a freelancer
  • Work in a software development company

That being said, an individual doesn’t generally need a degree in Computer Science or Masters in Computer Engineering to become an app developer. They simply need to understand the fundamentals of software development, be willing to engage in iterative development, and have problem-solving attributes. So, to enter into a career of professional app development, certain boxes have to be ticked.

  1. A solid understanding of foundational programming principles.
  2. An honest enthusiasm for mobile technology.
  3. The ability to communicate ideas clearly, vividly, and concisely.
  4. The ability to work in a highly agile team with prioritization skills
  5. Attention to detail with the propensity to follow designs accurately.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Developer?

All things considered, it can take up to 300 hours of intentional and focused practice to become an app developer. While studies have shown that 1000 hours of practice are enough to make an individual an expert at any activity or skill, it’s still essential to put the work in consistently. Even if that means setting aside 3 hours a day.

Technical Aspects and Languages to Focus on to Become an App Developer

Generally speaking, specialization in app development is important. Especially with regards to the programming stacks and platforms one chooses to employ. It is imperative to choose the path of either becoming an Android/iOS developer or frontend/backend developer to increase your chances of success in the mobile development industry. Despite that fact, it’s important to get to always know the foundational languages to learn to kick-start your career. Our starter recommendations are as follows:

  1. Javathis programming language is the building block of Android development. To become a competent app developer, it’s important to get well versed with the ins and outs of Java concepts like loops, lists, variables, and control structures. This will prove a stepping stone later as you branch into other new technologies such as Swift, which is utilized to develop iOS apps.
  2. SQL – SQL is a domain-specific language for databases that is required when engineering and organizing databases within mobile apps. It will enable you to express queries to retrieve information to and from databases, so it’s best to get acquainted with it.
  3. Android Studio, Android and iOS Software Development Kit (SDK)- To develop mobile apps, specific tools are required, and these come in the form of software development kits (SDKs). These SDKs are free and easy to obtain. The Android SDK and  Android Studio, the official integrated development environment (IDE) for Android app development, as well as the iOS SDK.

It is highly imperative that one gets conversant with these tools as they journey into app development. For instance, Android Studio will help when writing code and assembling capabilities from various packages and libraries. On the other end, the Android and iOS SDKs constitute sample code, software libraries, handy coding tools to help developers build, test, and debug Android applications.

  1. XML – The XML markup language is leveraged to describe data when designing UI layouts and parsing data feeds from the internet. While most of what you’d need from XML can be achieved via Android Studio, it is still prudent to wrap your fingers around the basics of the markup language.
  2. JavaScript: If you intend to get into cross platform development. Then you won’t escape JavaScript. Current JavaScript frameworks like React and Vue are well-suited to mobile app development across several platforms, including iOS, Android, and Windows. JavaScript has become popular amongst developers as it arguably provides better UI/UX with more capabilities such as scrolling video jukeboxes, animated 2D/3D graphics and interactive maps, etc. So, it’s best to get acquainted with it.

Honorable mentions: Kotlin is a relatively new cross-platform programming language that is fast to compile, lightweight, and prevents applications from increasing size.  In contrast to Java, it requires less code, and as such, it’s worth exploring.

C /C++: The Android NDK (native development kit) allows developers to implement elements of their apps in native code leveraging C and C++. So, acquiring additional competencies in C and C++ might not be a bad idea.

Other technologies you can consider learning to become an excellent full stack mobile developer are: XCode, Apache Cordova, Ionic, Xamarin, and React Native. Nonetheless, we took the liberty to draft for you a more comprehensive list here.

Knowledge Sources and Websites to Learn App Development

It’s imperative to remember that software development is principally about problem-solving, and professional app developers are essentially paid to solve business problems.

This means clients are typically interested in what you can create more than what you’ve learned. However, it’s still important to learn and practice! A plethora of sites do exist to help individuals kickstart their app development journey, from the free ones to the paid sites. Some notable ones are: Khan Academy, Udemy, ACloudGuru, Coursera, and CodeWars. For a more comprehensive lineup of options, check out this list we curated.

A Clear Roadmap to Becoming a Developer

1. Choose One Major Platform and Stick to It

Despite the vast number of platforms for mobile app development, an aspiring mobile app developer should choose one and focus on it. This is important to avoid getting overwhelmed, becoming a jack of all trades and a master of none. Remember, disparate platforms have different structures, heterogeneous standards, and unique requisites. Focus on all of them can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and failure.

2. Get Certified!

If you can get a form of mobile app development certification, then do so. This will lend to your confidence and credibility while opening you up to new learning opportunities, complementing your self-taught skills. Don’t be afraid to try different code camps where you can access different world-class instructors for more advanced knowledge. You can check out this list of sites for certification courses. 

3. Practice by Building Actual Apps

Don’t be afraid to try real-life projects for practice. Go through the entire software project management cycle and simulate working for an actual client as you practice. This will refine your skills while giving you a semblance of client expectations and help streamline your workflow. Curate highly detailed blueprints of your mobile app, and test it extensively with various inputs to check boundaries and check bugs. Go the whole nine yards while practicing.

Try your hand at building a cross-platform app such as this one. Image Credit: medium

4. Be Teachable and Never Stop Learning

In all honesty, app developers typically burn out over time as they get stuck doing repetitive tasks in the same specialization or on the same product, year after year. This means that they usually run the risk of becoming irrelevant as new technologies keep springing up. It’s imperative to be teachable and seek to upgrade your programming capabilities with more new tools and cutting-edge approaches.

Voice Search Optimization is a new groundbreaking trend you can follow up on. Image Credit: Shutterstock

5. Build Apps Fast and Release Often

When you’re now competent enough to build a great app, try to move fast with agility. Technology has no time for perfectionists, so seek to extend your existing apps with new features, or build new ones. Try to stay ahead of the curve.  Don’t forget, an app that exists will undoubtedly get more downloads than one that does not!

Conclusion

Since the market puts a considerable focus on free or low-cost apps, app developers should aspire to create a product that appeals to multiple people. As has been noted, try to seek tutorials to update your knowledge even after becoming conversant with app development. The internet is a hub of knowledge that can be exploited to great effect. Furthermore, try to practice more often, as this will help you with iterative problem-solving in the long run as you thrive in the mobile sector.

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