CAREER DEVELOPMENT / MAR. 15, 2014
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How to Become an App Developer

In today’s technology oriented world, you can’t avoid apps. Even if you don’t own a smartphone, discussing apps at work or with friends is now commonplace, and even the news features more and more stories about new apps or success stories. More that half of us in the UK and USA own a smartphone, and the emergence in cheaper devices being developed for developing countries means that soon the market will be even bigger and have more opportunities for new developers to get their creations out to others.

Developing apps might seem like a daunting task to someone not too technologically savvy, but there are countless stories of individuals who have stepped out of their comfort zones to create an app that made them unbelievably rich. Ukranian Jan Koum was an infrastructure engineer at Yahoo for nine years, until he bought an iPhone in 2009 and realised there was a market for a free messaging app. This led to the creation of WhatsApp, which only last month was bought by Facebook for $19bn.

While the majority of developers aren’t this successful, you can make a very good living designing and selling apps for smartphone users; in 2011 the average annual salary for developers was nearly $90,000, with this only likely to grow as the market does too. In 2008 2.1 billion apps were downloaded. This grew to 8.2 billion in 2010 and skyrocketed to over 80 billion last year.

A lot of app developers have backgrounds in computer science or software development, although this isn’t necessary; with enough determination and perseverance these skills can be learnt in your spare time.

The first step is to download the relevant software. Apple provides the Software Developer Kit for iPhone for free online. The SDK includes everything you need to start making apps, featuring the development environment Xcode and an iPhone simulator for testing.

Your next task would be learning the language of app development. Most iPhone apps are built using the programming language Objective C. The language was created by Next Computing, a company owned by Steve Jobs until he sold it to Apple in the late 90s. This led to Objective C becoming the main developer environment for systems running Mac OS. Learning to code is going to be the hardest part of app development, but next comes the fun part.

Even if you’re the best programmer around- you can’t make it as a successful app developer without a winning idea. Big, comprehensive apps like Facebook and Twitter have longevity, but some of the most popular apps, and those which make a lot of money, come from ridiculously simple ideas. If you weren’t living in a cave last month you’ll have heard of Dong Nguyen’s Flappy Bird. The simple side-scrolling game topped most of the world’s app stores overnight, and reportedly made it’s creator around $50,000 a day at the height of the app’s popularity.

Once you’ve created your app, ensure that it goes through a rigorous testing period to make sure that all bugs are ironed out before it reaches your audience. The process of uploading a creation to an app store can take some time, but once it is you could begin to make a serious living designing and publishing your very own smartphone apps.

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