How To Get Started in Mobile App Development: What Attributes Do You Need?

by Dave Erickson
18 mins read
  1. Development
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CEO Message

I don’t know if I am like you, but when I look at my phone I think to myself…”Do I really need all these Apps?” Like some young teenager getting their first smartphone, I am downloading and trying a billion app a month. Like a zombie looking for brains, I am looking for mobile apps that really help me use the little computer in my hand to do more, connect better and be entertained. I guess that is the dream of every Mobile App development team... a perfect mobile app.

Thank God I am not the only one like this, and Mobile App consumption has never been higher than it is today. With over 3.5 billion smartphone and tablet users globally, the demand for intuitive, innovative, and efficient mobile apps is increasing by the day. This heightened demand signals a thriving career opportunity in mobile app development, making it a lucrative field for aspiring developers. Maybe a developer such as you.

Mobile app development, while sharing principles with other software development forms, has unique challenges and nuances. Key among these is the decision on platform specificity—will you specialize in iOS, Android, or navigate the realms of cross-platform development? This choice significantly impacts the tools, languages, and approaches you'll engage with.

For those who are looking to get into Mobile App development, or for current web or back-end developers looking to expand their tech stack, learning mobile app development can be very good for your future development career.

If you are thinking about becoming a Mobile App developer, the following are some aspects of becoming one that you should think about.

Educational Pathways and Self-Learning

Formal education remains a significant stepping stone for many diving into the world of mobile app development. Pursuing degrees in computer science or software engineering not only imparts foundational knowledge of programming principles and algorithms but also offers specialized modules in mobile application development. These courses often delve into the intricacies of mobile operating systems, platform-specific design guidelines, and the challenges posed by varying device form factors.

Alongside traditional educational routes, the rise of e-learning platforms has democratized access to quality education. Platforms like Udemy, Coursera, and Pluralsight offer a plethora of courses tailored to mobile app development. These range from beginner-friendly introductions to deep dives into advanced topics. Whether it's mastering the basics of Kotlin for Android development or exploring the intricacies of Apple's SwiftUI for modern iOS apps, there's a course for every learning need.

Bootcamps have emerged as another robust educational pathway. With their intensive curriculums and project-based learning, bootcamps like General Assembly Flatiron School , and App Academy promise to transform novices into job-ready developers in a matter of months. Many of these programs also boast strong job placement rates, thanks to their industry connections and emphasis on real-world projects.

While structured learning has its merits, the realm of technology celebrates the tenacity of self-learners. The vast reservoir of online resources, from forums like Stack Overflow to official documentation and YouTube tutorials, has enabled countless individuals to chart their own learning journeys.

The stories of self-taught developers breaking into the industry, sometimes even sidestepping traditional educational routes, stand testament to the fact that passion, dedication, and a thirst for knowledge can open doors in the tech world. Whether it's building a passion project, contributing to open-source, or seeking guidance from online communities, the avenues for self-paced, self-directed learning are vast and varied.

Practical Experience

While theoretical knowledge provides a solid foundation, true mastery in mobile app development often comes from hands-on experience. Immersing oneself in actual coding, debugging, and launching applications crystallizes concepts and sharpens skills in a way that no classroom setting can. A personal portfolio, even filled with modest or beginner-level apps, serves as tangible evidence of your capabilities. It demonstrates to potential employers or clients your dedication, problem-solving aptitude, and progression as a developer.

Hackathons, frequently hosted by tech companies or universities, present a unique opportunity. These intense, often sleep-deprived events, challenge participants to create functional apps or software solutions within a short timeframe. The pressure-cooker environment of a hackathon not only offers real-world experience but also fosters innovation, teamwork, and adaptability. Plus, they're an excellent venue to meet like-minded individuals, learn from peers, and potentially catch the eye of industry scouts or recruiters.

Contributing to open-source projects is another avenue to gain invaluable experience. Platforms like GitHub house thousands of open-source projects covering various niches within app development. By contributing, you not only get to work on real-world projects but also learn the intricacies of collaboration, code review, and team coding standards. It showcases your ability to work within established codebases, understand others' code, and make meaningful contributions that benefit the larger community.

Internships can be the bridge between academic learning and industry experience. By working within a company or development team, you immerse yourself in the daily life of a mobile app developer. This real-world exposure provides insights into workflow processes, client interactions, and the multifaceted nature of large-scale app development. Many successful developers credit their internships for providing them with the practical knowledge and industry connections that helped them navigate the early stages of their careers.

In essence, while theoretical grounding is essential, it's the blend of diverse practical experiences that shapes a well-rounded, competent, and industry-ready mobile app developer. Whether it's through personal projects, hackathons, open-source contributions, or internships, amassing hands-on experience is paramount in this ever-evolving field.

Technical Skills Needed

Diving headfirst into the realm of Android development? You'll find that the pillars of this platform are Java and Kotlin. Both languages have established themselves as the backbone of countless successful Android apps, offering flexibility and efficiency in the development process. Kotlin, in particular, is gaining traction for its concise code and improved safety features.

On the other side of the fence, iOS development stands tall, with Swift and Objective-C as its primary languages. Swift, Apple's own creation, boasts a more intuitive syntax, making it a favorite among new-age developers. Objective-C, the elder statesman of the two, still finds relevance in many legacy apps, necessitating its understanding.

For those not wanting to tie themselves down to a single platform and aiming for broader reach, the world of cross-platform development beckons. JavaScript-based frameworks like React Native have revolutionized this space, allowing developers to craft apps for both iOS and Android simultaneously. This approach saves both time and resources, ensuring uniformity in app experience across devices.

However, while languages form the base, the structure of successful app development is multi-faceted. A solid foundation in UI/UX design is non-negotiable. In a market saturated with apps, your creation needs to offer not only functionality but also a pleasing and intuitive user experience. Design principles, understanding of user psychology, and keeping abreast of design trends become paramount in this regard.

Diving deeper into the technical layers, backend development cannot be ignored. An app without robust backend support is akin to a car without an engine. Mastery in server-side languages, database management, and API integrations is essential to ensure that the app's internal workings are as smooth as its external facade. Furthermore, as developers collaborate globally, understanding and proficiently using version control tools, especially Git, is essential. This ensures code consistency, facilitates team collaborations, and protects against potential code losses or discrepancies.

Looking at real-world examples, take Instagram's journey as a case in point. Starting its life as an iOS-exclusive application, the photo-sharing giant soon realized the immense potential of the Android market. Its subsequent foray into cross-platform development, scaling and adapting features for Android users, serves as a testament to the multifaceted nature of mobile app development.

Essential Soft Skills for Mobile App Developers

While the world of app development often seems centered on technical mastery, the soft skills accompanying this prowess cannot be overstated. At its core, problem-solving remains the quintessential attribute for developers. This goes beyond merely tackling bugs—it's about envisioning solutions that make an app more robust, user-friendly, and efficient. Each successful patch applied or interface improvement stands as a silent testament to a developer's analytical capabilities.

Creativity, another invaluable trait, infuses an app with uniqueness. With millions of apps populating platforms like the App Store and Google Play, the challenge is to stand out. An innovative approach to app functionality or a fresh take on user experience can be the difference between an app getting lost in the digital shuffle and one that garners a dedicated user base. Remember the meteoric rise of apps like Snapchat with its unique approach to social interaction? Creativity was the linchpin.

Effective communication, often undervalued, serves as the bedrock for successful app development projects. It's not just about conveying ideas but ensuring every stakeholder, from the UI designer to the client, is on the same page. This alignment is crucial in translating visions into tangible app features without needless revisions or misunderstandings. For instance, Slack's inception was driven by a team's desire for better communication tools, emphasizing the importance of this soft skill even in product outcomes.

Adaptability is the name of the game in the rapidly evolving tech landscape. Today's groundbreaking feature could become standard fare tomorrow, and the developer's ability to pivot, learn, and implement new methodologies can spell the difference between stagnation and growth. Lastly, with the multifaceted nature of app development projects, time management is paramount.

Whether it's allocating hours for coding, testing, client interactions, or research, efficiently managing time ensures deadlines are met, quality is maintained, and stress is minimized. The best developers often excel not just because of their coding prowess but their ability to manage the intricacies of a project's lifecycle seamlessly.

Industry Networking

The mobile app development community is vibrant and welcoming, characterized by its open-source ethos and a genuine willingness among professionals to share knowledge and resources. This communal spirit is evident across various platforms. Online forums such as Reddit or GitHub not only serve as repositories for code and projects but also foster discussions about the latest methodologies, best practices, and emerging tools in the industry. Here, developers, both novice and experienced, engage in fruitful discussions, offer solutions, and stay updated on the latest trends and innovations.

Conferences, workshops, and seminars are yet another avenue where networking thrives. Events like Apple’s WWDC or Google I/O are not just stages for unveiling new products or technologies. They are knowledge hubs where developers from around the globe converge, attending in-depth sessions, hands-on labs, and participating in interactive panels. These events are breeding grounds for collaborations, idea exchanges, and establishing industry connections that can lead to partnerships, job opportunities, or project collaborations.

Mentorship, in particular, holds a special place in the networking realm. By seeking guidance from seasoned developers, newcomers can gain insights that often take years to amass. Such relationships can offer tailored advice, provide clarity on career trajectories, or even aid in refining one's coding practices. Engaging with experienced developers, whether it's through online communities, local coding groups, or institutional alumni networks, can fast-track one's learning curve. These interactions often illuminate nuances and real-world challenges that traditional educational resources, like books or courses, might inadvertently gloss over.

Moreover, local meetups and tech incubators play a pivotal role in grassroots networking. By attending or even organizing such events, developers can foster a local community spirit, initiate startup ideas, or even find potential collaborators for projects. Platforms like often have dedicated groups for specific languages or development methodologies, making it easier to find like-minded professionals in one's vicinity.

The tech industry's dynamism means today's innovations might be obsolete tomorrow. Regularly updating your skills and knowledge is paramount. Subscribing to blogs, following industry influencers, or engaging with communities keeps you in the loop. Continuous learning is the name of the game—whether that's diving into a new programming language, exploring a tool, or attending seminars to get a grasp on emerging trends.

Attributes of a Successful Mobile App Developer

A curious mind is a fundamental attribute in the realm of technology. Those who consistently succeed are characterized by an insatiable appetite to delve deeper, to understand the intricacies and mechanics behind the latest tools, frameworks, or platforms. They possess the knack to dissect new innovations, eagerly seeking out the "how" and "why" behind every new trend. This curiosity is often coupled with an unwavering commitment to lifelong learning, recognizing that stagnation is not an option in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

However, the path to becoming a seasoned mobile app developer is laden with hurdles. These challenges manifest in various forms, be it complex coding conundrums, adapting to constantly shifting user preferences, or facing market rejections after months of diligent work on an app. But what differentiates successful developers is their resilience—their ability to view failures as mere detours, not roadblocks. They exhibit grit, understanding that each setback is an opportunity for growth and refinement.

In the collaborative environment that is the tech industry, being an isolated genius seldom brings about groundbreaking results. A successful developer recognizes the immense value of teamwork, often fostering a spirit of inclusivity and mutual respect. They understand that every team member, from UI/UX designers to backend specialists, brings a unique perspective to the table. This belief in collective intelligence and synergistic collaboration is often the bedrock of innovation, resulting in apps that are both technically sound and user-centric.

At the core of any accomplished mobile app developer is an unwavering passion for technology. This isn't merely about knowing multiple programming languages or mastering an array of tools. It's about the burning desire to harness technology to create solutions, to bring ideas to life, and to craft apps that make a tangible difference in users' lives. This fervor, combined with a relentless pursuit of excellence, is the hallmark of those who not only excel in the domain of mobile app development but also leave an indelible mark on the industry.

In Summary

As the digital landscape continuously shifts, mobile app development remains a beacon of opportunity. Marrying technical skills with the right attributes ensures not just survival but also flourishing in this competitive space.

Companies like ScreamingBox , at the digital development forefront, offer plenty of opportunities for those equipped with the right mix of skills and passion.

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