This post was originally published in the Android App Builder Blog in March 2012.
Every job has its quirks, perks, ups and downs, and working as a mobile app developer is no different. If you've been thinking about making it your career, then you're looking at a great opportunity. But before you jump in, you should know what it entails on a day-to-day basis. As someone who's been developing on mobile platforms since 2003, I've identified a few key features of this area of work that may help you figure out if it's the right path for you:
- Persistence is invaluable - Developing can be frustrating, but it's also really rewarding. When you first start out, you're not going to do everything perfectly right off the bat, and you have to be willing to keep trying. My first attempt at making an iOS app was rejected multiple times, but it was a learning process that showed me what they do and don't want, and I've been able to use that knowledge going forward. The same goes for dealing with new technologies. If you find a bug in an API, keep at it and you may very well find a workaround that not only helps you get the project done, but gets you recognition from other developers who can use that knowledge as well.
- It's always changing - If there's one thing I'd say about working in mobile app development, it's that you won't get bored. The technology literally changes daily, and we're always learning, which makes it challenging but interesting. The upside of working at an agency with other developers like I do is that it's easier to keep up with everything that's going on. Everyone has a different background, and we all bring different knowledge to the table, so you get a much more well-rounded education than you ever would working alone.
- Your mantra will be "test, test and test again" - Creating the app architecture and writing the code will be a major part of your job, but tedious testing and tweaking can take up a lot of time as well, so be prepared. Just as a web developer tests a site on different browsers, a mobile app developer must examine their app on different operating systems to ensure optimum performance and delivery on any device. Remember, not everyone has the most recent version of iOS, and there are hundreds of Android OS and device combinations, all of which have different resolutions, screen sizes, and other variations. That's not even counting BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, or other mobile platforms.
- It's still pretty new - Mobile technology may move quickly, but it's really still in its infancy, so job descriptions from company to company can vary wildly. As a developer, you may be involved in everything from mobile strategy to architecture, design, and releasing the app in the marketplace - in addition to coding, of course. As the landscape of technology changes, so could your responsibilities, so be aware that what you do today may be very different from what you're doing in a couple of years.
As with any line of work, you have to make sure that mobile development is the right career for you, and by considering points like the ones above, you can make an informed choice. Regardless of your decision, mobile app development is an industry that's set to expand in a big way, and for those who do choose to embark on this path, it can be an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an exploding industry.
Terry Kilby is a Senior Mobile Engineer at MGH, a full-service advertising, public relations, and marketing agency in Baltimore, MD.