2021 Career Guide: App Development in Hong Kong

11 Mar 2021

According to data source 42Matters, of the 2,988,202 apps on the Google Play Store, 9,159 apps are homegrown in Hong Kong. Even though less than 1% of all apps on Google Play are from Hong Kong publishers, with more and more people leveraging mobile for all their online activities, app usage has shot up in this fast-moving digital economy.

An interesting fact is that Hong Kong publishers get more downloads than the average of all apps, which is 168.43K. Apps by Hong Kong publishers have an average of 823.76K downloads! Some of the most downloaded apps in Hong Kong include yuu Rewards Club, HA Go, Futubull - US/HK Stocks Quotes and Trading app, McDonald's Hong Kong and Uplive - Live Video Streaming App.

The upward trend of users embracing app usage in Hong Kong has raised the bar on consumer expectations when it comes to the design and user-centricity of apps. Today, apps in Hong Kong also serve a wide range of consumer needs.

These consumer trends have led to a rise in demand for skilled, savvy, talented app developers, who are the creators and executors of the world's top apps.

Impact Of The Rising Usage Of Mobile Apps

According to TechCrunch, worldwide consumer spending in mobile apps is projected to reach $171 billion by 2024. As app usage in Hong Kong also continues to rise, the demand for app developers will continue in the next few decades.

This is no fly-by-night career opportunity but one that will continue evolving and becoming more professional as a discipline. In fact, “Smartphone App Developer” tops the list of hot technology roles, both in the US and Hong Kong.

Snapshot of App Development Market In Hong Kong

In the early days of app development, Flutter, Google’s portable UI toolkit was used by many amateur app developers to build mobile applications. Working with an existing code that is free and open-source, Flutter is used by developers and organisations around the world.

However, as consumer needs and expectations grow more sophisticated, the app developer market, too, has evolved to keep pace. In a market like Hong Kong, demand has given rise to several specialised app development agencies. These agencies focus on all aspects of app development - conceptualising it from scratch to maintaining and upgrading apps.

Some of the top mobile app development companies in Hong Kong include Clarity, DigiSalad, Miracles, ShareMedia and HealthWallace. These agencies sometimes have up to 120 people working on their teams, and they charge anything upwards from HK$9,358 per project. It's also common to find one-man (or woman) armies that deliver cutting-edge work.

App Development Recruitment Trends

In a competitive market, mobile app development companies are constantly striving to offer something new, fresh and consumer-focused. They are also almost always on the lookout to hire cutting-edge app developers. Businesses that are looking to go bullish on digitising their interfaces and products are also building their own in-house app development teams. Hence, the job market is ripe for app developers to launch their careers.

An app developer can work in multiple modes. While many app developers choose to work full-time with one business, or agency, this is also a profession that aligns with the gig economy.

An app developer can build an independent career and work with multiple projects at a time. Some reasons for this is that it helps app developers gain a mix of experience, while also learning from different teams, products and sectors.

App developers also come with their own specialisations. For instance, an app developer could be an expert with android or iPhone interfaces. They could also excel at apps for desktop/ laptops, which is different from developing a website.

Recruiters typically look at an app developers portfolio. In terms of education, app developers typically tend to pursue programmes that teach skills like UX design, web development), digital marketing, growth hacking, product management.

Understanding aspects such as data mining, software architectures, interaction design, user interface design and mobile communications, also add value to an app developers profile.

Hiring app developers for startups is also a growing trend, as a majority of their products are anchored as mobile applications.

App Development Hong Kong

App Developers Versus Software Developers

There is rather common confusion about the job roles of app developers and software developers. A knowledge of software programming gives any app developer an edge; however, the outcomes of their work can be quite different. On a basic level, app developers focus on building mobile and computer apps. On the other hand, software developers write code, create, test programs or systems, and fix bugs on a range of different types of platforms and products.

A popular misconception is that app developers only create apps for smartphones. However, this is far from true. The scope for app development is constantly expanding in a digitally-connected world. App developers create applications for android, iPhone and computers/ other electronic devices such as automobile navigation systems.

Often software developers and app developers collaborate to build superior products.

App Developer Pay Scales In Hong Kong

According to PayScale Hong Kong, an app developer's annual salary is HK$256,297 in Hong Kong. They may receive a bonus of between HK$20,000 - HK$32,000, based on the company they work for.

Interestingly, app developers with skills in iOS tend to command a salary that is above average. An iOS app developer's salary is around HK$259,001 while mobile app development skills command around HK$233,846. Typically, an iOS developer commands a higher salary than an android developer.

What App Developers Do At Work

App developers are the architects of the entire product development cycle from concept to release, and beyond. Here's a quick rundown of the typical mobile application developer roles and responsibilities:

  • They develop and test mobile application software and coding, typically as part of a team that is developing a specific product for a business, or multiple projects with an agency, or as a freelancer. As the developer of a product, one is literally eating, sleeping and breathing the products, 24/7.

  • App developers write code for Android or iOS applications, using languages such as Objective C, XML, HTML and JavaScript.

  • Once the development of the app concludes, app developers, test the application several times over to mitigate the occurrence of bugs, glitches, and crashes. Troubleshooting is a core skill. This is one of the most important steps. This is because once an app is released in the market, even if a user downloads the app, they can just as quickly delete it due to poor user experiences.

  • An app developer also as a practice, documents all processes for future use. The shelf life of apps is long, and several team members end up working on it over the decades.

  • An app developer must also consistently try to improve upon an existing app so that it continues to serve the evolving needs of its users. Data based on real-time consumer experiences is fodder for an app developer's soul, and empathy and listening must be a part of their problem-solver DNA.

  • App developers also collaborate and interact with members of various teams - from data engineers, data scientists, marketing and sales personnel, to graphic designers, product managers. Hence, superior communication skills are an asset for any app developer, especially if he also interfaces with an external client.

  • They must also be able to respond quickly in the event of a crisis such as an app crash, as such incidents impact millions of users, and can compromise sensitive data.

Skill and Languages Requirement for App Developers

Top Skills And Languages Required by App Developers

How to become a mobile app developer - this is a common question appearing in search engines, especially as app development careers pique the interest of the Gen Z and millennials.

App developers must possess a number of technical, domain-focused, inter-personal skills and critical skills, that help them excel in a competitive market. They must be extremely savvy about the multiple platforms that applications are created for - from smartphones to other smart devices. Those designing mobile apps must understand how to design for various operating systems.

In terms of technical knowledge, app developers must have a strong foundation in IT programming. Some of the core areas include:

  • HTML
  • Java
  • Adobe
  • C++
  • Objective-C
  • Wireless networks
  • PHP
  • MS/SQL
  • Cloud storage
  • Flash

With technology evolving so quickly, app developers are constantly upgrading their skills through various development and configuration certifications.

In terms of other critical skills, it helps app developers to be able to engage with the design of the product, in terms of its look and feel. A good understanding of design thinking gives any app developer an edge.

The best app developers also possess a creative bent of mind, problem-solving skills, analytical and logical thinking, numerical and math skills. App releases are often done under tight deadlines, and app developers may need to work long hours, and under pressure. Attention to detail is also an asset.

Is App Development A Secure Career Path?

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population is connected with a mobile device, which amounts to over five billion unique mobile subscribers! In 2012, the mobile app economy was worth $53 billion, and according to TechCrunch it will be worth $6.3 trillion in 2021. The android and iOS app markets are growing and approximately 180,000 new apps on Google's Play Store are released every month!

So, which type of apps are in demand? Today, people are now using their mobile phones to do everything from booking a ride, scheduling appointments and mapping their fitness regimes, to learning new skills, playing video games and seeking virtual medical advice. Hence, the success of the future of the mobile app industry lies in the industry's ability to create superior products that meet a wide range of human needs. In such a scenario, the relevance of app developers will only grow, and the demand for good app developers still outstrips supply across most digital economies, including Hong Kong.

With the right skills, passion and experience, app developers can work in app-enabled businesses or businesses that are looking to go digitise their products and interfaces by launching their own apps. App developers can also work in an agency that builds multiple apps and is a cradle for innovation in app development. They can also embrace the gig economy, and go freelance. However, early on, it is advisable to gain experience in a full-time role.

It is also important for app developers to work on apps that you believe in, or that are built on a strong foundation of usability, needs and aspirations. As much as it is true that thousands of apps are launched every month, it is equally true that thousands of them stop being relevant and become redundant.

App Development Hong Kong

Can App Developers Successfully Create Their Own Apps?

App developers with an entrepreneurial mindset can definitely launch their own apps and build a successful business model around them. It takes passion, an understanding of consumer needs, innovative thinking process, and an entrepreneurial mindset to make this transition.

Take the case of Internet entrepreneur Nick D'Alosio who started this career as a computer programmer. Nick developed an iOS application called Trimmit in 2011, which was used as a tool to crunch text content into 1000, 500, or 140-character summaries. Apple spotlighted it in their App store, and this, in turn, caught the eye of venture capitalists who went on to fund Nick's app.

With the new investment, Nick completely revamped the app and re-launched it as Summly. Today, Nick is one of the youngest self-made millionaires ever, and the youngest app developer turned entrepreneur to raise seed funding to the tune of $1.23. The entrepreneurial bug is still very much alive, and today, his venture Sphere Knowledge is in the process of raising funds for a new start-up.

As we can see, app developers can weave together their careers in multiple ways and pursue different paths. All they need is the skills, vision and passion for building ground-breaking products that can serve millions of people in a scalable, impact-driven way.

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11 Mar 2021

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