The average person spends around 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phone each day. That’s a huge chunk of time. And how are those people spending these precious minutes? They’re browsing applications, communicating, playing games, buying and selling, reading, destroying their dopamine receptors – all sorts of great things! Mobile usage has gone through the roof and only continues to grow. And with this usage there’s a huge financial element too. Oberlo estimates that nearly three out of every four dollars spent on online purchases is done through mobile.
In parallel to the exponential growth in mobile-based commerce and smartphone adoption, we’ve seen an increase in demand for developers who can build and maintain applications to serve and sell to these consumers. These developers are called mobile developers. In this article, we are going to break down what a mobile developer does, their salary, skills and other aspects of the role. So keep reading if you’re interested in becoming a mobile developer or just want to learn more about the role.
A mobile developer is a professional software engineer who specialises in designing, building, and maintaining applications for mobile devices. They leverage their expertise in programming languages such as Java, Swift, or Flutter to code and create apps for your Android or iPhone (more on this later). Mobile developers must possess a deep understanding of mobile operating system guidelines (Android & iOS), hardware limitations, and user experience principles in order to create engaging, high-quality applications that cater to the evolving needs of today's on-the-go consumers.
What does a mobile developer do?
While mobile developers are primarily focused on building mobile applications (apps you can download from the app store), the scope of their work also includes applications for tablets and web applications (ensuring sites are mobile friendly). With that in mind, we can break down a mobile developer’s main tasks into four categories:
Designing apps: They plan the app's layout, visuals, and user interface (UI) to make it easy and enjoyable for people to use. This is usually an ongoing process as new features are added and layouts are re-designed or updated.
Writing code: They write the app's code using programming languages like Java for Android or Swift for iOS devices. This code is what makes the app function properly. For instance, a mobile developer could code a weather app that shows accurate temperature and forecasts based on the user's location.
Testing and debugging: Mobile developers test their apps to find and fix any issues or bugs that may occur, ensuring that the app runs smoothly on various devices.
Updating and improving: Apps (especially the popular ones) are continuously updating to include new features, improve performance, and fix issues. For instance, when Uber added its group ride feature – that would have been a huge task with many mobile devs involved.
Types of Mobile developer (Native VS. Cross platform)
Before we go any further it’s important to understand the different types of mobile developers. You wouldn’t generally be hired as a “Mobile developer.” A company would advertise for an Android developer or iOS mobile developer or for some who can do both (a cross-platform developer). Let’s break these specialisations down further.
1. Native mobile developers
Native developers are the most common mobile developers. They specialise in building apps for either Android devices or iOS devices (not both). There’s different documentation and programming languages for each native environment, that’s essentially why you can’t just submit an iOS app to the Android store. The app needs to be built from scratch with Android-compatible technologies – a different tech stack and toolbox.
Android developers: use languages like Java or Kotlin and build in the Android Studio.
iOS developers: develop apps for Apple devices (iPhone, iPad) using Swift or Objective-C and tools like Xcode.
2. Cross-platform mobile developers
Cross-platform developers are more experienced than a native app developer. They build applications with cross platform technologies like React Native, Xamarin, or Flutter. In the best case scenario, cross platform devs write the code once, and it can be used across the different operating systems (Android & iOS) with minor modifications. While that sounds simple, these developers have a deep understanding of both Android and iOS development practices and are able to use more complex coding languages.
3. Hybrid mobile developers
4. Mobile game developers
Mobile gaming is a hundred billion dollar industry. With over 700,000 games in the app store and more on their way, game developers are not short of work. Their still stack differs quite significantly from usually mobile dev. Game devs use game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine and write code in C# or C++.
5. Mobile web developers
Like we mentioned earlier, there are also “mobile” developers that work on web applications. Similar to the hybrid developers, they help build mobile-responsive websites which look and function well on mobile devices. If you are using the web on your phone, you want the websites to function well and not to be cropped or have sizing issues.
Mobile developer skills
You might be wondering, “what makes a good mobile developer?” The most important skills will be the hard skills. 1) Competency in programming languages 2) The number of technologies you are proficient in. Of course, communication skills are important, but the degree in which they are useful varies depending on your career path. If you are working within a company, collaboration and leadership skills will be very useful. If you are developing apps as a contractor, you’ll want to be more skilled in networking and sales.
Main mobile developer skills:
Programming: using cross-platform or native languages to build apps
Designing: understanding design patterns and best practices to create visually appealing apps
Skill stacking: the ability to work with multiple tools and across different operating systems (these developers have the most job opportunities and earn the most salary)
Tools a mobile developer uses
The tools you use as a mobile developer will depend on whether you are a native or cross-platform developer. Here are some of the tools by category.
Examples of Cross-Platform or Hybrid Development Tools
The barrier to entry as a mobile developer is actually quite low. Like web development, anyone can build a mobile app. The tricky part is building a great app or landing your first job in mobile development. You could go to university or sign up to a six month bootcamp and while these are fine ways to break in, it’s always safer and more cost-effective to just learn by yourself. If you are determined enough, you’ll land a job. Here are a few steps you can take to start your journey into mobile development – for a more detailed technical overview we suggest you follow a more comprehensive roadmap.
Native mobile development - It is generally recommended that you begin by learning native mobile development. Without a proper understanding of native environments, you’ll struggle to create cross-platform apps. The question then becomes which operating system do you choose (iOS or Android)? There are pros and cons to each. Android, for example, has a low cost of entry (you can use any device) while iOS development requires macOS (so you’ll need a mac). While there are more Android users, they tend to spend less on apps compared with iPhone users.
Clone popular apps - Once you’ve decided on which native environment is best for you, it’s time to start learning the programming languages and tools. The Android developer documentation is very good and Apple offers some free courses – both great places to start. Learn by doing. There are great YouTube tutorials that walk you through creating some of the most popular apps like YouTube or Facebook.
Build a portfolio - Portfolios are a very important piece to landing your first job – especially if you are self-taught. You want to be thinking about building a portfolio of work from the very first day. Whether you are cloning apps or building your own, make sure you set up a Github profile and create a space where people can view your work.
Learn best practices - Once you have a solid grasp of the programming languages and have built a few mockups, you’ll want to start learning best practices for 1) Architecture 2) User Interface (UI). You want to be able to (or at least understand) create an app that functions smoothly and also looks good from a design perspective. The Google docs are very good (called Material Design) and will cover aspects for both Android and iOS development.
Personal projects - Start building your own apps. This could be anything from a weather app to a fitness tracker. The important thing is showcasing best practices and a well functioning app. It’s a huge bonus if you can create an app that solves a real world problem. Here are some mobile project ideas if you need some inspiration.
Apply for every single job - After about six months of continuous learning and a few projects under your belt, it might be time to start applying for mobile app development jobs. Apply for every single job. In-person, remote, part-time – whatever. Getting those first interviews and subsequently, your first job, is the hardest step. But once you’re in, it’s a much smoother journey to your second and third job. Even if it’s a low salary or part-time, experience is experience — and that’ll mean everything to your next employer.
What is the future outlook for mobile developer jobs?
Mobile app developers are in demand. From 2018 to 2028, the job mobile dev job market is expected to grow 21%. And given the IT skills gap, you'll have access to more job opportunities. According to Zippa, there are over 9,000 mobile developers in the United States and over 240,000 job openings. Like most IT jobs, there’s a skill shortage. This means, as a skilled mobile dev, you have more room to pick and choose between companies while commanding competitive pay.
Mobile developer salary
According to data from StackOverflow, the median worldwide salary for a mobile developer is $56,220 USD. This data includes salaries outside of Europe and the United States and therefore skews on the lower end. In the US, a mobile developer earns an average salary of $92,000 (Glassdoor) and in Germany, around €60,000. Here’s a snapshot of average mobile salaries from Europe and the US.
The more experienced a developer the more salary they will earn. The average entry-level salary is around $75,000 — which is good, but this figure will certainly vary depending on the company you work for. Junior developers on Glassdoor have reported salaries of between $120k - $160k. As a senior mobile developer (5+ years) you can expect to earn a much higher salary. According to TechPays, the highest earning senior developers are earning close to €200,000 per year (freelance).
Avg. Salary (USD)
Mobile developer jobs
In Europe, there are hundreds, if not thousands of mobile development jobs. If you’re a mobile developer looking for a new mobile position, we have some great options for you in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Check out our job board for the latest mobile development positions. Or if you are looking to hire mobile developers at your company, we can help you attract the right talent from our developer community.
What industries hire mobile developers?
Mobile developers are in high demand across a wide range of industries, including finance, healthcare, technology, and retail. Any industry that deals with large amounts of data can benefit from the insights and analysis provided by mobile developers.
What are the traits of a successful mobile developer?
Successful mobile developers are detail-oriented, curious, and analytical. They enjoy working with data and have a strong drive to find insights and solutions that help drive business decisions. They also have excellent communication skills and the ability to explain complex data in simple terms to non-technical stakeholders.
What career opportunities are available for mobile developers?
Mobile developers can advance their careers by gaining experience in their field, pursuing advanced degrees or certifications, or specialising in a particular area such as data visualisation or predictive modelling. They can also move into related fields such as data science, business intelligence, or product management.
What qualifications do I need to be a mobile developer?
A bachelor's degree in a field such as statistics, mathematics, computer science, or economics is typically required for entry-level mobile developer positions. Some employers may also prefer candidates with a master's degree in a related field. In addition to formal education, experience with data analysis tools and programming languages such as SQL, Python, and R is also often required.
Is mobile developer a high-paying job?
Mobile developer salaries can vary depending on factors such as industry, experience level, and geographic location. However, mobile developer positions are generally considered to be well-paying, with median salaries in the United States ranging from $60,000 to $90,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Is mobile developer a good career?
Data analysis is a growing field with strong demand for skilled professionals. With opportunities to work across a wide range of industries and specialise in areas such as data visualisation or predictive modelling, data analysis can offer a fulfilling and lucrative career path for individuals with strong analytical skills and a passion for working with data.
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