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How to become an app developer

And then there were apps...

From the FT to Ikea, everyone who’s anyone has one, right? Unsurprisingly, with smartphone penetration in the UK rising from 10% in 2007 to 62% in 2012 (source: ComScore Mobilens) in the last ten years, job offers for app developers have risen exponentially. According to the JobisJob databases, job titles which contain the word “Android” have increased by around 100 times between 2009 and 2012, and job titles which contain the word “iOS” by some 400 times.

So how can you get on the app bandwagon? JobisJob IT specialist and independent app developer David Cerdan recommends the following: “You really need to have some kind of background in programming first. Although I guess there’s other paths you could take, the best way to begin is with a degree in Computer Science.”

“Once you’ve taken the first jump, you’ll find plenty of online resources, such as MOOCs, that can help you extend your skills to the mobile field. Coursera and Piazza are both good places to begin looking.”

Java v Objective-C:

The big debate of the programming world is which programming language to learn: Android’s Java or iOS’s Objective-C? Both have their strong points, it seems. Java, the standard fare university students are given to cut their teeth on, is easy to learn. Objective-C, on the other hand, has a more profitable customer base, and offer a higher-quality playing field. Both are similar, however – “sort of like French and Spanish”.

There are of course, other programming languages, but apart from a handful of niche specialists, it seems programmers aren’t buying. Despite Microsoft and Blackberry’s attempts to crack the market with platforms Windows Phone and BB10, “Android and iOS attract the vast majority of mobile users, so it’s obvious that programmers (and companies) prefer to focus their efforts on these platforms”.

A highly profitable profile is obviously for app developers who are fluent in both languages. Employers should be aware, however, Cerdan points out, that skill in one often comes to the detriment of the other: “it’s nearly impossible to do both things equally well”.


Apps are currently in fashion, but does that mean that at some point the bubble will burst? Not for a while, it seems. “We need to stop thinking of ‘mobile’ as referring to just a mobile phone”, emphasises Cerdan. “’Mobile’ is not an object, but the concept of portable connectivity. It’s Google Glass; it’s the iWatch; it’s the Nike+ Fuelband. We’re talking about an “Android-in-your-fridge” kind of world, where mobile culture is seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives”. The potential for new jobs created by this is, he says, “Tremendous. And someday soon we’re going to start needing a whole host of Big Data Consultants to crunch the numbers coming out of these kind of systems.” Hold your horses – that’s another article for another day.

07 June 2013

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