If you’re reading this, you already have everything you need to make your first app

Android, iOS  |  May 23, 2013  |  No responses yet  

A fellow developer asked me the following questions via email:

I don’t have a smartphone, so I haven’t really had the opportunity to break into app development. What are your thoughts on starting as an app developer? Do you feel like it was easy to get started? How did you come up with the ideas?

These are actually very good questions which I’m sure lots of aspiring developers are asking, so I decided to publish my answers.

If you’re reading this, you already have everything you need to make your first app

Electrician Calculator is in progress! Emulator screenshot.You don’t need a smartphone to start making apps. When I started learning Android development all I had was a trusty Nokia 1208 (which I thought was awesome because it had a flashlight), a 5 year old PC and an Internet connection. The built-in emulator is slow, but good enough to start learning and coding your app. Once I had a decent enough app, I would send the apk to friends with smartphones who would send me their feedback, and I would repeat this process several times until I got no more bug reports.

Now that I’m learning how to make iOS apps, it’s almost the same situation with the only exception being that you do need a Mac, however it doesn’t have to be a $2000 Mac… my Mac Mini costs $600 and does the job just fine. I don’t own a iDevice, and I haven’t missed having one at all (plus, the iPhone emulator is a lot faster than the Android one). I’m currently working on the iOS port of the Electrician Calculator, and will probably send it to the App Store without ever needing an iDevice.

So, if you have a computer and an Internet connection, you have everything you need to create your first app. Don’t let not having a device become an excuse for not starting.

It’s not easy to get started

It could be that I’m getting old and I don’t catch on to new things as easily as before, but learning both Android and iOS development was hard. Both of these were totally different from anything else I had done before, and I can remember hours of scouring the Internet trying to understand what the heck was going on.

learningcurveBut, I can also tell you that it’s only the initial learning curve that’s hard (which, by the way, I believe is the case for anything you want to learn). Once you “get it”, you get it. I’m by no stretch of the imagination an expert iOS developer, but I believe I’ve overcome the initial learning curve: development has become fun again, and I’m at a great pace to finish my first iOS app. Once you get the general picture, all the details can be Googled, and I have yet to not find an explanation or fix for something I’m trying to do but don’t know how to.

It also helps to know people that can help you out along the way, in some cases more than Googling, because many times when you’re starting you don’t even know what to Google.

You don’t need an awesome (or new) idea

I got my ideas from things I needed myself. I made the flashcards app because I wanted to learn French. It wasn’t the first flashcard app, nor was it the best flashcard app. I made what I wanted to use and started selling it. All the other iterations and variations just came naturally after this first version.

I made the calculator was because in the past I worked as an electrician, and I knew that the calculators these people bought were overpriced and overly complicated, and I knew I could make something better. No need to reinvent the wheel, just make the wheel a little nicer. It’s basically the same case for the Costa Rican Idioms app… there was already an existing app that did more or less the same, but that I thought was missing a lot of features so I created a better one.

If there is some app you like but believe it’s missing features, a good idea could be to make a better one, or just one that suits you better. Chances are it will suit others more as well.

Go on…

Go on now, feel free to leave this blog whenever you’re ready and start making your app.