3 Steps to Break Into Mobile Development

Mobile Devices

Michael Turner is a 23-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., who wants to get into mobile app development, though right now his skills are limited to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Not long ago, he wrote to Dice asking for some tips on how to get started. To give him some guidance, we reached out to two mobile dev veterans: David Yang, Placement Coordinator and lead instructor at the Fullstack Academy of Code in New York, and Eric Schweitzer, a California-based Mac and iOS developer. Here’s what they said.

What’s Your Platform?

The first order of business is for Michael to choose the platform he’s going to work on. “iOS or Android?” asks Yang. The way he sees it, we’re currently in a rehash of the operating system wars of the 80s and 90s, and that’s great for developers. “It may [make this] the easiest choice based entirely on his goals and what he’s used to,” he suggests.

If Michael has an iPhone and a Mac, it makes sense for him to start with iOS. If he has an Android, he should start there. But if he’s unsure of which direction to take, Yang suggests he check out androidpttrns and pttrns. These sites curate examples of both iOS and Android interfaces, and can help Michael better understand each platform’s design language.

Languages

So what do you do after you pick your platform? You pick your language.

iOS’s native tongue is Objective-C. Android’s is Java. These basic languages are good starting points for someone who’s already familiar with how things work. But what about Michael, who’ll be new to them both? Though he’ll have to dig in, he can take advantage of a wealth of information and instruction that’s available both online and offline. For example, says Schweitzer, “iOS programming wouldn’t be hard to pick up if he’s amenable to digging into C++, C# or Objective-C.” Now that Apple’s unveiled its Swift programming language, he should be ready to learn that, also.

Michael has another option, as well: Since most devices nowadays come with great browsers, he can build apps using them. Yang recommends he check out platforms like Ionic, Sencha and Kendo. These, he says, help build Web apps that look “practically native” and will allow Michael to leverage his evolving HTML/CSS/JS skills.

“If he only knows HTML, cross-platform environments like Kony, Appcelerator or PhoneGap would make sense,” adds Schweitzer. “If he gets comfortable in C#, Xamarin would be a great way to get into mobile, too.

What to Build?

Many of Michael’s choices will be dictated by the kind of applications he aims to build. From a purely practical standpoint, he may want to look at where the jobs are and investigate business- friendly, problem-solving enterprise apps. As Yang notes, there’s been heavy investment lately in platforms like Appcelerator, which help create enterprise solutions.

Finally, both Schweitzer and Yang note that while the iOS app market is larger, Android is quickly catching up. Plus, word is that there’s been an uptick in hiring Android developers who can port iOS apps. If Michael really wants to break into the business, he may want to learn the ins and outs of both platforms, they say.

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