Mobile devices are everyday companions of billions of people around the globe. Yes, billions – even those living in relatively poor environments or countries own a smartphone or two.
As for the world as a whole, there were 5.22 billion unique mobile phone users in January 2021. Also, this year the number of mobile devices is to jump to 14.91 million globally, and by another million in 2022. Along with that, mobile application revenues skyrocket to hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
And since the presence of smartphones and mobile applications in our lives is so overwhelming, and selling them is so lucrative a business, many could think that mobile development is also an extremely well-paid specialization. And that developers who design, create, update or enhance mobiles, including applications for iOS and Android platforms, should be appreciated by employers.
But is it really like this? Is a mobile developer truly a dream job?
Money, money, money...
Yes, mobile developers are indeed in huge demand, but how much money can they make? Well, this may come as a surprise, at least globally-wise.
The Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey 2020 indicated that mobile developers earn only 43,000 USD per year (median value). This is less than, for instance, designers (47,000 USD), educators (49,000 USD), full-stack developers (54,000 USD), desktop or enterprise applications developers (56,000 USD), not to mention data engineers (65,000 USD), and DevOps (68,000 USD). Interestingly, the only specialization receiving less than mobile developers turned out to be… academic researchers, with 41,000 USD per annum.
Why so little?
Surprisingly, the reason for mobile developers’ relatively not-so-attractive salary, seems to be the industry’s success. There are thousands of small teams and startups out there who want to create a super popular app, but building one is just the beginning – the real trick is to gain brand recognition among millions (!) of existing applications offered in Google’s Play and Apple’s App Store.
This is no wonder, then, that - according to Stack Overflow’s report – mobile developers are among IT specialists looking for a job the most often. As many as 19.1% of them do so, compared to 12.7% of DevOps, 15.7% of full-stack developers, and 16.2% of back-end ones.
The relatively unattractive financial conditions mobile developers tend to be offered may also have to do with their considerably low experience. As the abovementioned report has it, it accounts for only 8.4 years for them, less than in the case of such specializations, as full-stack developers (8.7), game or graphics developers (9.2), designers (9.8), DevOps specialists (10.5), desktop or enterprise applications developers (10.8), and many more.
It is worth mentioning, however, that these were the global compensation data, and every market has its own regularities. In the case of the US alone, mobile developers not only tend to earn much more in absolute figures (120,000 annually) but also in comparison with other specializations. For example, scientists, embedded applications or devices developers, and back-end developers, earn the same, and DevOps only 5,000 more.
And what does it look like in the Polish job market?
As for mobile developers in Poland, according to NoFluffJobs, the median value ranges between 13,440-18,000 PLN + VAT on B2B invoice, and 9,000-15,000 PLN gross within employment contracts. These figures place mobile developers halfway among other IT specializations. Of course, there are more attractive job offers available. Mid and senior mobile specialists (both for iOS and Android platforms) may find and land a job with a monthly salary exceeding 25,000 per month (B2B).
Mobile development – great perspectives...
Of course, we should not overlook the fact that the term "mobile" is not restricted to such areas as smartphones and tablets, and also covers things like smart TV operating systems, and proper use of smartwatches. It’s probably just the beginning of global mobile transformation, and other uses will start in the years to come. Plus, all that has already been launched needs constant actualizations.
So the perspectives for mobile developers, in general, seem to be great, especially regarding the Google Android operating system which is now a definite global leader, with a 71.93% market share (as of January 2021), and together with Apple iOS covers over 99% of the market. Working within those popular operating systems, developers may surely feel they influence the lives of the millions.
… and great uncertainties
However, the market of mobile operating systems and devices changes rapidly – there are regular updates but also sudden twists and turns. Let’s just mention that a decade ago, there were several major players in the market, like Nokia and BlackBerry OS, instead of just two nowadays, and the mobile landscape looked dramatically different. Within this timeframe, we’ve seen a boom in touchscreen smartphones that changed everything, and we should expect more transformations in the future. Working as a mobile developer you simply need to be prepared for that, and able to adapt.
Mobile development trends in 2021
The inner drive to innovate and learn new technologies is a must in the mobile world, then. Some of the recent game-changers in the industry include such trends and technologies, as blockchain, chatbots and artificial intelligence, as well as 5G Wireless Technology, promising greater connection speed, reliability, and availability, along with very low latency. Augmented and virtual reality, the Internet of Things, e-wallets, wearables, real-time features, and cloud-based mobile applications also make the lives of millions at least slightly different.
What should we learn to stand out from the crowd of other developers but also help create cutting-edge products? Some of the technologies trending now, as mentioned by NoFluffJobs, include React Native, Flutter, Kotlin, and R Programming. This list is different from what was in back in 2017 or 2018. For instance, only three years ago technologies expected from Polish mobile developers embraced primarily Git, Android, Swift, Java, Rest, and C++.
And what do you think, is mobile development an attractive specialization? What do you think the future holds for mobile developers and the mobile market in general? Can you spot any hot trends?