Software development is one of the fastest growing industries in the world right now. However, when most people think of software development, they probably are thinking of someone making software for computers. Mobile app development is a very similar process, but just focuses on creating positive experiences for users with smaller screens.
What is Mobile App Development?
Mobile app development is simply the creation of software (apps) for mobile devices. There are many methods for creating these apps and a number of programming languages used to create them.
Native Mobile Apps
Native mobile apps are created in a programming language that is “native” to the platform the app will work on. For example, a native app for iOS is either written in Objective-C or Swift, as these are the native languages for iOS apps. Native apps are hosted in your device’s app store and are installed directly on your device.
Native apps are generally more expensive to create, because each platform requires its own codebase to be written and maintained separately. There are a number of benefits to using native apps over cross-platform apps, though.
Native apps allow for total control of the app itself and give more access to the device’s built-in functionality. These apps also are associated with better user experiences, because the apps can be built specifically to work alongside the device’s operating system and match the device’s look and feel.
The disadvantages of native apps is that they are more expensive to maintain or update. Every time something needs to be fixed it has to be changed in each code base rather than in just one place. As a result, these apps typically take longer to develop and get ready to publish in a given platform’s app store. These drawbacks have led many companies to adopt cross-platform mobile apps.
Cross-Platform Mobile Apps
Cross-platform mobile apps have grown in popularity because of the convenience and cost-efficiency for companies looking to reach users on both iOS and Android devices. “Cross-platform” refers to a single app that is designed to run on both iOS and Android devices. This saves valuable hours in the development process and makes maintaining and updating apps more streamlined.
Some of the most popular frameworks for building cross-platform apps are Flutter, React Native, Cordova and Xamarin. Developers with experience in these frameworks are in high-demand as more companies look to unify their mobile code bases into a single framework.
Because cross-platform apps share code between iOS and Android devices, the time to market for these types of apps is much faster than building separate native apps for each platform.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
A progressive web app, or PWA, is something between a responsive website and a fully-functional mobile app. Rather than installing this app on their device, users will just use their mobile browser to reach your PWA.
As mobile devices’ web capabilities improve, progressive web apps become more appealing and more capable of providing great user experiences. One advantage of using these types of web apps is that you can easily make changes and they will apply to all operating systems and platforms.
One of the downfalls of progressive web apps is that they can’t be installed on a user’s home screen like a native app. This means that users will have to navigate to these types of apps on their own with their browser. Many companies, including Instagram and Financial Times, use PWAs in addition to their native apps to give users sleek and user-friendly experiences without installing their apps.
Hybrid Mobile Apps
Hybrid apps have access to a device’s internal APIs and device hardware and you only need one codebase for all mobile platforms. Hybrid apps deliver convenience for both developers and end-users because they are easy to edit and easy to use.
On the other hand, hybrid apps have their own shortcomings when compared to native apps. Hybrid apps run much slower than native apps because much of their functionality requires on a fast internet connection. You also don’t have as much control over the app’s functionality because you are reliant on a third-party shell or wrapper to make your app behave like a native app.
Mobile App Developer Job Description
Mobile developers are responsible for defining, designing, and implementing apps for both iOS and Android devices. Mobile developers will likely have to work with teams of engineers, UI/UX designers and product managers to determine what the app will look like and how it will work.
You may be building new apps for businesses that are just now moving into the mobile space, or maintaining and upgrading apps for businesses that have well established portfolios comprised of apps of all kinds.
Mobile App Developer Salary
Worldwide revenue from mobile apps is projected to reach $935 billion USD by 2023. The mobile app industry is proving to be incredibly lucrative for both companies and employees.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for mobile app developers is $96,016 in the United States. Obviously this varies depending on your experience and industry, but app developers are compensated quite well, even when compared to other software engineers or web developers.
What Programming Language Is Used for Mobile App Development?
Developers use many different programming languages to create mobile apps. The language they use depends on which language they are most comfortable with and which platform (iOS, Android, or both) they are building the app for.
There are two native programming languages used for iOS app development: Objective-C and Swift.
- Objective-C: Objective-C is the primary programming language used for writing software for macOS and iOS. It’s a superset of the C programming language and provides object-oriented capabilities and a dynamic runtime. Objective-C has been used for over thirty years, but as a result some of its syntax is clunky and outdated.
- Swift: Apple launched Swift in 2014 as the new programming language for iOS mobile apps. Swift is designed to be compatible with all of the existing iOS development tools that were used with Objective-C. Swift is easier to learn than Objective-C and allows developers to work faster and more efficiently.
There are also two programming languages used for writing Android apps: Java and Kotlin.
- Java: Java is the native language used by Android – applications that communicate with the operating system or directly use the hardware use Java. Java is used on almost all types of machines, including mobile devices, macOS, Windows and Linux. Java is an object-oriented programming language. Like Objective-C, some of Java’s syntax can be a little clunky.
- Kotlin: Kotlin is a newly created language that is inspired by Java. Compared to Java, Kotlin is much cleaner, simpler and easier to use. Google announced in May 2019 that Kotlin is now the preferred language for Android app developers. According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, Kotlin is the fourth most loved programming language for developers.
Best Mobile App Builders For Beginners
If you are just getting started as a mobile developer, or maybe you only have limited coding knowledge, you can use app builder platforms to create a fully functional app. While you likely won’t land a job as a mobile developer without coding knowledge and programming experience, these tools can be a fun way to learn about how creating apps works.
These are a few of the best app builder tools to easily create exciting new apps without starting from scratch:
- Appy Pie – No code application development platform
- Shoutem – An efficient app development platform
- BuildFire – A powerful app maker for iOS & Android
- Swiftic – iPhone & Android app maker
- AppInstitute – Easy to use drag and drop app builder
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