Mobile Application Developer

Mobile phones (cell phones) have become as important as our wallets and purses in everyday living, and development in this area is moving at a very fast pace. Mobile devices have become a tremendous source of entertainment, communication and information, and also jobs for millions.

Mobile application developers produce application software for low-power handheld devices, such as personal digital assistants, enterprise digital assistants or mobile phones. These applications can be pre-installed on phones during manufacturing, downloaded by customers from various mobile software distribution platforms, or delivered as web applications to provide an “application-like” experience within a web browser. Application software developers also have to consider a lengthy array of screen sizes, hardware specifications and configurations because of intense competition in mobile software and changes within each of the platforms.

Criteria for selecting a development platform usually include the target mobile platforms, existing infrastructure, and development skills. When targeting more than one platform with cross-platform development it is also important to consider the impact of the tool on the user experience. Performance is another important criterion, as research on mobile applications indicates a strong correlation between application performance and user satisfaction.

Mobile applications are first tested within the development environment using emulators, and later subjected to field testing. Emulators (hardware or software which duplicates the functions of one computer system on another) provide an inexpensive way to test applications on mobile phones to which developers may not have physical access.

Applications (apps) rarely grab consumers’ attention without having truly innovative and useful features. Examples of useful skills in an app designer would be the ability to add 3-D gaming, social media sharing, GPS check-ins or product coupon elements. The key to writing apps that people will want to use is to be disciplined over functionality in order to make the app as easy to use as possible, and not to be persuaded to cram in more than a limited screen can handle.

The mobile application developer will be required to design, develop, test, document, deploy, support and sustain the mobile apps. Meticulous attention to elegant design, performance, user experience, and clean and documented code is required, together with a sense of modern web and user experience design, graphics, layout, transitions and feedback on the mobile platforms. They must be able to work closely with engineering on app design.

Steps in becoming an application developer:

• after obtaining a degree in computer science, learn the basics and work on projects to furnish your skills
• analyse your abilities and decide whether you are a creative or analytical person
• build your knowledge base by creating your own software applications
• start to build something simple on your own
• develop a plan of what you want to develop in an application
• create a team of knowledgeable, experienced and reliable developers
• make a log file and keep it updated about your progress related to the development
• contact other developers who build apps in other categories and discuss it with them
• build relationships with other developers so that you can gain new ideas and skills
• code up and release your first app, show it to your friends for their feedback
• attend a mobile conference or seminar to launch your application.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics (if you intend studying IT degree at university)
Recommended subjects: Information Technology.

  • If you intend studying a degree or a diploma in IT at university then you need a matric with a Bachelor's pass or a Diploma pass.
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university.
  • There are alternative routes into IT which do not require a Bachelor’s or a Diploma pass and which do not require Mathematics.

What to Study

Degree: BSc Computer Science or Information Systems or Information Technology as major, or a BCom with information systems at most universities. Choose a platform such as Flash, Java, CSS, Python, etc, and work on it.

Diploma: Relevant diplomas are offered by most universities of technology and some private colleges at universities of technology.

Postgraduate: Honours in computer science can be followed by MSc and PhD at most universities.

It is essential to upgrade knowledge continuously because systems and security threats are constantly changing.


  • mobile phone and tablet companies
  • businesses
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • companies involved in application design

Further Information

Computer Society of SA 
ICT House
546 16th Road
Constantia Park [Unit No.3]
Tel: (011) 315-1319

ISETT (Information Systems Electronics & Telecommunication Technologies)
9 Wale Street
Cape Town, 8001
Tel: (011) 207-2600

Programmes by Study Institutions

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