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How to Become a Mobile Application Developer

How to Become a Mobile Application Developer
A mobile application developer develops applications or apps that run on a smartphone and other mobile devices. Employment in mobile application development is projected to grow by 32% in the decade 2010 to 2020, creating 292,000 new jobs. Hence, this CareerStint article rightfully discusses how to become a mobile application developer.
Deepa Karandikar
Gartner, Inc. projects that by 2017, the download of mobile apps will generate a revenue of $77 billion.

A mobile application or a mobile app is an application that runs on smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices. Apps are being downloaded in increasing numbers nowadays. As of July 2013, 50 billion apps were downloaded from Google Play Android app store according to Statista. On May 16, 2013, Apple also announced that its 50 billionth app was downloaded.

The most downloaded apps are those meant for games, information about weather, maps, social networking, emails, music, etc. Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Google Search, Google Maps, Gmail, The Weather channel, and iTunes Radio are among the most popular apps. Now apps are being developed for a variety of other services right from shopping to reading news to online banking.

These useful and interesting apps are created by mobile application developers. The increasing popularity of apps has created a lot of demand in this field. Mobile application development is a booming industry. According to Indeed, the average annual salary of a mobile application developer in the United States is $102,000 (as of 21 September, 2014).

How to Become a Mobile Application Developer
Educational Requirements
If you are in high school and planning to work in this field, you can get a Bachelor's Degree in either of the following disciplines:
  • Computer Science
  • Software Engineering
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Mobile Computing

It is not compulsory to have a computer science degree to get a job as a mobile application developer. You can develop your skill set in languages such as C++, C#, Objective-C, and Java, and also learn the mobile user interface design.

As this is an emerging field, there are no industry-standard certifications yet. But the additional knowledge of a certification may give you an edge over the competition in the job market. The following certifications are available in this field:
  • Oracle Certified Professional (OCP): Java ME Mobile Application Developer by Oracle
  • Oracle Certified associate (OCA): Java SE Programmer - by Oracle
  • CompTIA Mobile App Security+ by CompTIA and viaForensics
  • MDICD by Mobile Development Institute (MDI)

How to Write Your Own Mobile App
Knowing how to write your own app will be useful to you if you want to work as a freelancer and sell it. You need knowledge pertaining to 4 major areas for developing a good app:
  1. Knowledge of programming languages
  2. Knowledge about developing the front-end
  3. Knowledge about developing the back-end
  4. Insights in business for coming up with a great idea and delivering it

Let us explore these areas one by one.

1. Knowledge of programming languages
You should know:
  • Object-oriented languages like Java, C++, Objective-C, and C# (different platforms use different languages)
  • Web development languages like HTML, HTML5, and CSS
  • Mobile platform APIs specific to Android, Apple iOS, Windows Phone, etc.
  • Cross-platform mobile suites like Antenna and AMP.

2. Knowledge about developing the front-end
These days, mobile phones have a touchscreen and small keypad. So, to use and interact with an application, users will be using the Graphical User Interface (GUI). It should be attractive, rich, and easy to use. Hence, you should know to create a good GUI.

3. Knowledge about developing the back-end
For developing a robust back-end for your app, you must know:
  • database management
  • hardware interaction
  • memory management
  • security
  • network integration

4. Insights in business for coming up with a great idea and delivering it
You must understand the needs of the market for which you want to develop the app. You must be able to analyze the functionalities to include in it. You must leave no stone unturned in including features in it. You should also know to market your app very well.

The leading operating systems that are used for mobile application development are Google's Android, Apple's iOS, and Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating system. We shall discuss further how to become a developer for each of these operating systems.

How to Become an iOS Application Developer
iOS is an operating system used for mobile devices like iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad that are manufactured by Apple Inc.

Hardware and Software Requirements
You need OS X to develop iOS apps. For this, either an iMac, Mac mini, or a MacBook is required.

Knowledge Required
You are required to know the iOS. You will be using Objective-C while writing apps for iOS. Objective-C is similar to the C programming language, but it has additional capabilities for defining classes and methods. You can learn Objective-C from the tutorials provided on Apple's website. You should get familiar with Cocoa Touch, the UI framework for developing iOS apps, also written mainly in Objective-C. You can enroll in Apple's iOS developer program for $99 per year. You can start developing your app for iPad, iPhone, and iPod using the iOS SDK. Apple's website will completely guide you through the development, testing, and distribution of your app.

How to become an Android Application Developer
Android is an open-source operating system based on the Linux kernel for smartphones and tablet computers. It is presently developed by Google.

Hardware and Software Requirements
For developing Android applications, you can use a Windows PC, a Mac, or a Linux computer.

Knowledge Required
You have to be familiar with the Java programming language. You have to download the Android SDK, and be familiar with them. You can use the Eclipse and the ADT plugin development environment to develop your applications. To register on the Google Play Developer Console Account, you are charged a one-time registration fee of $25.

How to Become a Windows Application Developer
Windows Phone 8.1 is the most recent Microsoft Windows Phone Mobile operating system developed by Microsoft.

Hardware and Software Requirements
According to the Windows Phone Dev Center website, if you want to develop Windows Phone 8.1 applications, you require a computer with either of the following operating systems:
  1. Windows 8.1 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64)
  2. Windows 8 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64)
  3. Windows 7 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) with Internet Explorer 10 or higher

Knowledge Required
The programming languages used for developing applications are C#, Visual Basic.NET (.NET), C++ (CX), or HTML5/JavaScript. The tool used to develop these applications is Visual Studio 2013. You require the Windows Phone 8.1 Kit, Windows SDK 8.1, the Windows Driver Kit 8.1, and the Power Engine Plug-in Additions. You need a developer license, which is free so that you can install and test an app before submitting it to the store. The developer license is required for every machine on which you wish to run the app.

You can either choose to be employed with one company on a full-time basis, work on a contractual basis for one or more companies and do the work they outsource to you, or be a freelancer and develop your own apps and sell them through the app stores.

The ability to analyze problems, good programming logic, an understanding of user's needs, soft skills like good oral and written communication, and dedication and willingness to work hard will help you to succeed in this profession.