Comprehensive Guide to Mobile App Development: Getting Started, Requirements, Monetization Strategies, Salary Expectations, and More
A few centuries ago, a global Gold Rush captivated people, but nowadays, it's evident that the contemporary world is wholly immersed in the mobile craze. Can you identify anyone in your vicinity who isn't utilizing a smartphone? It's doubtful. The sales of smartphones are rapidly escalating, with companies investing substantial amounts in mobile technologies, their advancement, and market promotion. Mobile development stands out as a swiftly expanding programming domain, fueled by the overwhelming prevalence of mobile devices compared to personal computers, and this trajectory is predicted to persist. While Elon Musk dedicates efforts to Mars colonization and brain-chipping, our reliance on mobile phones persists ubiquitously – at work, in education, at home, and during leisure. Correspondingly, the demand for mobile app developers is rising rapidly, yet, unlike frontend and backend developers, the mobile developer market is not yet saturated, making it an opportune moment to delve into this promising field.
Understanding the Role of a Mobile App Developer
A mobile app developer is a professional responsible for creating functional software applications for mobile devices, predominantly smartphones and tablets. They play a crucial role in technological advancement by developing increasingly sophisticated and complex programs. A proficient mobile app developer not only possesses expertise in programming languages and technologies but also exhibits systemic thinking skills necessary for constructing intricate systems.
This role requires collaboration, as substantial projects are challenging to tackle independently. Effective communication and a deep understanding of the client's requirements are paramount for delivering the desired product. Mobile app developers can be categorized into two main groups based on the platforms they develop for: iOS developers and Android developers.
iOS developers focus on creating applications for Apple devices, and their market value is often considered higher. The introduction of Swift and Objective-C has streamlined the process of developing apps for Apple devices. Android app developers, on the other hand, utilize Java, considered a reliable language for developing mobile applications on the Android operating system. With the integration of voice and gesture interfaces, mobile development has become a leading and highly sought-after profession in the tech industry.
The main tasks of a mobile app developer include:
Creating a Technical Specification (TS) for the mobile app development.
Discussing project stages and processes with the client.
Designing the application architecture.
Direct programming and coding of the mobile app.
Collaboration with designers on the app's visual aspects.
Providing ongoing support for mobile applications.
Working with testers to debug and test applications.
Assisting in the creation of user manuals for the finished app.
Documenting the development process.
Deploying applications to AppStore, Google Play Market, Amazon Appstore, Opera Mobile Store, and other mobile app marketplaces.
The career path of a mobile app developer typically follows the following progression: intern, junior mobile app developer, followed by roles as middle and senior mobile developers. At these stages, one may also transition into a team lead position, overseeing a group of developers at a certain level. Subsequently, there's the possibility of advancing to project manager and development department manager roles. Of course, this represents an idealized trajectory for a mobile app developer; individual career paths may vary.
Mobile App Development – What is it?
Mobile app development refers to the process of writing program code with the goal of creating software that operates on specific mobile platforms, such as smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Currently, there are two main mobile operating systems, Android and iOS, with less popular options like Windows Phone and Symbian. These programs and applications can either be pre-installed on mobile phones, personal digital assistants, corporate digital assistants, smartphones, and other mobile devices before reaching the user, or they can be downloaded by users directly during use.
The interface of mobile applications plays a crucial role in the development process, serving as the connection between the hardware and software of the mobile device and focusing on user interaction. Throughout the development of a mobile application, developers must always consider factors such as the limited user attention span, screen size, minimizing keystrokes, and efficiently incorporating the necessary set of functions into the application.
Therefore, the process of developing mobile applications for developers often extends beyond coding to encompass a broader and more creative spectrum of activities.
What Services Are Included in Mobile App Development?
The services in mobile app development can be categorized based on the platform for which the application is being created. The main services include:
iOS App Development
Android App Development
VR, AR, MR App Development
Many companies offer comprehensive end-to-end project creation and management. In such cases, the package of mobile app development services may include:
Analysis of the project requirements, full project immersion (including competitive environment analysis), and exploration of existing IT solutions.
Concept preparation and development of a design solution (UX/UI/IA design), creating a Technical Specification (TS) for developers.
Development of mobile functionality.
Testing, debugging, and auditing.
Program implementation (deployment, technical maintenance, and support).
Integration of analytics, app publication on online app markets.
Both companies and individual professionals can be approached to develop a complete package or assist with specific tasks. For instance, if you already have a prepared Technical Specification and a developed concept, and you only need assistance with coding, that can be a separate, standalone service.
How Relevant is Mobile App Development?
The development of mobile applications remains highly relevant as smartphones and other mobile devices have become integral to our daily routines. Beyond communication, they serve functions such as shopping, ticket booking, navigation, and entertainment. Datareportal statistics reveal that 67% of adults worldwide use smartphones daily, totaling nearly 5.19 billion people. The ongoing trend towards multifunctional smartphones is expected to continue.
People are continually exploring diverse mobile apps, ranging from mosquito repellents to watermelon ripeness identifiers. The field of mobile app development is dynamic, with hundreds of new apps launching daily. Innovative developments, paired with effective marketing, can lead to substantial profits, exemplified by the explosive success of TikTok.
What does a mobile app developer need to know?
A mobile app developer, like any other programmer, should possess both technical skills and soft skills for successful collaboration in a team. In this case, the required soft skills include:
Structural and analytical thinking.
Attention to detail.
Creativity and a creative approach.
Desire and ability to self-learn.
While technical skills require more effort, using modern programming languages for Android or iOS app development, one can create their first application within a month. You can develop some simple games and even generate income from them through monetization. However, learning the mobile programmer profession goes beyond this.
If you look at Google Play or the App Store, you'll notice that the majority of apps, especially in games, consist of simple applications. Any average developer can create a basic app, but to stand out from the "average" and create something truly interesting, original, and high-quality, additional skills are essential. To achieve this, you'll need skills such as:
CSS and HTML.
Cocoa/Xcode development environment.
Programming languages: Objective-C/C++, Java.
Knowledge of HTTP, XML, object-oriented programming principles, and database management systems (DBMS).
Familiarity with Android and iOS SDKs, design patterns, common libraries, and the architecture of iOS and Android.
Scripting languages (Ruby, Python).
Understanding the principles of the client-server model in app interactions.
Knowledge of release requirements for App Store and Google Play.
In-demand skills in working with Core Data (Apple's proprietary local database built on the SQL model).
Ability to navigate through others' code.
Proficiency in technical English.
Where to Start Learning Mobile App Development?
To begin a career in mobile app development, build a solid foundation. Start with computer science or software engineering, grasping concepts like data structures, algorithms, and hash tables. While C++ may seem outdated, it forms the fundamental basis for languages like Java and PHP.
Understanding data security, encryption, network protocols, and Unix kernel can be advantageous. Quality software requires more than error-free functioning; it demands a user-friendly interface and thoughtful logic considering all possible outcomes.
English proficiency, at least at an intermediate level, is crucial. Mobile platforms evolve rapidly, with new documentation primarily available in English.
For beginners, abundant online resources cover various aspects of Android or iOS development. Google (developers.google.com) and Apple (developer.apple.com) provide main sites for platform-specific development, emphasizing the importance of English proficiency for learning and staying current in this dynamic field.
How to Develop Mobile Apps? What Tools Are Needed?
Firstly, for mobile app development, you need to learn programming languages. Different platforms are associated with different languages, so it's crucial to decide on your preferred platform and then choose the language. For Android app development, Java is commonly used, while Kotlin, a newer language, is gaining popularity. Approximately 5% of apps on Google Play are written in Kotlin, and this number is growing. For iOS, two main languages are used: Objective-C, the first language developed by Apple for iOS, and Swift, a more advanced and modern language. C++ is occasionally used for both platforms, especially when maximum performance is required.
You can also find languages like Python, C#, and Unity in mobile development, especially with the advent of new frameworks and libraries. These languages don't have built-in mobile tools by default, but their use is growing, for example with the release of the Kivy framework for Python.
What are the Specifics of Mobile App Development?
The main characteristic of mobile app development lies in the form factor of the devices themselves—smartphones, tablets—with small or unconventional screens (square, rectangular). Additionally, devices like smartwatches have tiny screens, often circular. Therefore, an essential aspect of creating a mobile application is User Experience (UX), focusing on user interaction.
Another crucial aspect in mobile app development is the vast diversity of devices on which the application may run. An app might target only smartphones, or smartphones/tablets/watches, or various augmented reality devices, and could involve interaction across multiple screens simultaneously. Ensuring the app works seamlessly across a range of devices requires anticipating different interaction methods and display formats.
Constant interaction with the internet is another notable feature. Mobile apps historically were lightweight, lacking extensive computational logic. While modern mobile devices boast significant computing power, performance remains a key factor in mobile app development. Therefore, a substantial portion of computational logic in an app involves interactions with the internet and cloud services.
Steps in Mobile App Development
Assuming you've mastered one of the necessary programming languages for mobile app development and are ready to embark on your first independent project, here's a plan for the development stages of a mobile application. The approach to defining the development stages should primarily be based on the principles of Human-Centered Design (HCD), focusing on user problems and emphasizing the interface. The following stages can be outlined:
Idea Generation and Conceptualization:
Identify the core idea and concept of the application.
Conduct market analysis and research existing products.
Perform interviews with stakeholders, investors, and user research.
Clearly define business requirements, target audience, and brand considerations.
Basic Functionality Definition - Minimum Viable Product (MVP):
Define the basic functionality required for the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Develop a user experience map outlining fundamental features and user interactions.
Establish a basic model for user acquisition and plan marketing strategies.
3. UI/UX Design:
Start working with specific functionality and understand user steps.
Develop information architecture, the main structure of the navigation system.
Create user scenarios, connect system analytics, and design interaction prototypes.
Emphasize that this stage focuses on prototypes or basic layouts.
4. Usability Testing of Prototypes:
Validate prototypes through usability tests to ensure users understand the value and functionality.
Adjust designs based on feedback from testing.
5. Detailed Technical Specification (Tech Brief):
Create a comprehensive technical brief by designers, project managers, and other relevant experts.
Actively develop the mobile application and any auxiliary services.
Continuously test and improve the application during development.
Adhere to the planned release schedule, considering feedback from stakeholders.
7. Marketing and Promotion:
Deploy a comprehensive marketing strategy, including banners, search engine ads, social media, email marketing, SEO, and more.
Identify loyal audiences and channels that yield the best response.
Prepare marketing materials for the application launch.
8. Re-evaluation and Testing:
Reevaluate functionality, design, and technical specifications.
Address any bugs or issues discovered during testing.
Move the application to a pre-release state.
Launch the initial version (demo) of the application.
Submit the application to relevant app stores.
10. Ongoing Maintenance and Improvement:
Provide continuous technical support.
Enhance and expand application functionality based on user feedback.
Adapt the development plan as needed.
It's important to note that mobile app development is a dynamic and labor-intensive process, and the development plan may be subject to change based on the project's evolving requirements.
What a Technical Specification Should Look Like
The technical specification for mobile app development extends beyond just the development plan for Android and iOS. It should encompass various auxiliary software components that ensure the proper functioning of the mobile app. These elements need to be considered both in the technical requirements for the app and in the actual software product:
A robust mobile app often requires a server-side component for efficient information exchange between mobile apps.
The server-side code interacts with the database, playing a crucial role in the functionality of the entire software complex.
Incorporate a user dashboard, which is a web interface helping manage the database, register users, and view application usage statistics.
Web Interface and Admin Panel:
Include a web interface or an admin panel that can be actively used alongside the mobile app.
This component assists in the overall management and administration of the application.
Implement a personal account system that enhances user experience by allowing individualized interactions within the app.
Actively integrate a website to complement the mobile app's functionality.
Ensure seamless coordination and data sharing between the mobile app and the website.
Developing a mobile app involves creating various components beyond the app itself, impacting the development timeline and overall project cost. Once the mobile app's structure and additional software components are defined, focus shifts to designing the app, emphasizing wireframing, prototyping, and UX design. The technical specification isn't merely a textual document; it's presented graphically for better comprehension and implementation.
Methods of Mobile App Development: Native vs. Cross-Platform
There are two main methods for developing mobile apps: Native development and Cross-Platform, also known as Hybrid development (using frameworks like React Native, Flutter, Xamarin).
Native development involves creating an app for a specific mobile platform using the language native to that platform. For Android, this is typically Java or Kotlin, while for iOS, it's Swift. Native apps offer high performance and direct access to device features. However, development costs and time can be substantial, as separate versions are needed for each platform.
How to Monetize Mobile Apps
There is a myriad of ways to monetize mobile apps, each requiring a clear understanding of your target audience. Tailoring your monetization strategy to what your users find valuable is crucial. Below are some common methods:
Banners, Push Notifications, or Native Content: Partner with ad networks (Google Adwords, Mobile 10) to display ads. Earn revenue based on views and clicks.
Short videos that users can watch to remove ads or gain in-app rewards. Advertisers typically pay based on completed views (per 1000 views).
Full-screen messages that capture users' attention. Use them sparingly to avoid overwhelming users. Consider promoting your services rather than third-party ads.
Users buy items, features, or subscriptions within the app. Common in games but applicable to various app types. Ensure purchases enhance user experience.
Charge users a recurring fee for premium features or an ad-free experience. This model is highly effective, with subscription-based apps often more profitable than those relying on in-app purchases.
Partner with well-known companies for app launches or features. It's a win-win, providing income for you and increasing brand visibility for them.
Promote third-party products or services within your app and earn a commission for each sale or lead generated through your app.
Offer a free version of your app with basic features and charge for access to premium features. This encourages users to upgrade for additional benefits.
Users pay a one-time fee to download your app. This straightforward approach can work well for apps with high perceived value.
Licensing and Selling Data:
If your app collects valuable data, consider licensing it to other businesses. Ensure compliance with privacy laws and maintain user trust.
Choose a monetization strategy aligned with your app's purpose and your users' preferences. Remember, a successful strategy should prioritize user satisfaction while generating revenue.
Mobile App Developer Salaries: What to Expect
The salary of a mobile app developer typically ranges from $1500 to $2000 in Ukraine. However, this figure can vary significantly based on the developer's knowledge, skills, and the complexity of the project. Geographic location is also a crucial factor, with hourly rates for mobile developers differing significantly between the Americas, Europe, and India.
According to Payscale, the average annual salary for a mobile app developer worldwide is $59,100, translating to $5140 per month. Glassdoor's recent research indicates that the average annual salary for a junior mobile developer is approximately $60,547 in the United States. In Ukraine, junior mobile developer positions can offer monthly salaries ranging from $800 to $1000.
Analyzing this group can be challenging due to the diverse skills of entry-level mobile developers. It's essential to note that not all companies are willing to pay thousands of dollars to an inexperienced mobile developer or someone who has just completed a course. Starting salaries may begin as low as $600 per month.
In some unscrupulous development studios, there are cases of "reselling" labor, where highly skilled developers are hired at a junior level salary while the client is billed at the rate of a mid-level developer. This is often challenging to detect.
Middle-level mobile developers in Ukraine earn an average of $1500 to $2500, while senior developers can command salaries starting from $3000 to $4000 and above. The position of a team lead can further increase the remuneration of a mobile developer by several hundred dollars.
Having considered all the aspects outlined in this article, you can make an informed decision on how to embark on your journey into mobile app development, choose a monetization strategy for your project, and even estimate the expected salary levels in this dynamic industry. It's crucial to remember that success in mobile development often depends on your willingness to learn, creativity, and the ability to adapt to the constantly evolving technological landscape. Armed with this knowledge, you are well-equipped to navigate the world of mobile development. Good luck on your journey!