Mobile App Development: A Guide to the Industry + Getting Started

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Mobile app development is gaining popularity as skilled pros help the world run more smoothly. Learn about the industry and how you can get involved.

[Featured Image] A man and woman map out a mobile app design on a whiteboard.

It’s hard to imagine, but just 15 years ago, there was no such thing as an App Store [1]. Mobile app development has seen extraordinary growth as a subsection of the vast tech industry. Whether a user is interested in finding love, testing a recipe, translating a phrase, or balancing their checkbook, there’s an app for that. Read on to learn more about the mobile app development industry and how you can get involved.

Demand for mobile app development

In 2021, there were 230 billion mobile app downloads globally [2]. Consumer demand is only rising for more information, services, products, and experiences to be readily available at arm's length. Consumers aren't the only ones who rely on mobile app development. Mobile apps also help companies create secure and scalable solutions for things like data collection, customer service, and automation.

Demand for mobile app developers

The demands mentioned above translate into an average yearly pay of $109,020 for mobile app developers [3]. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), growth in this field is much higher than the 8 percent average for all occupations, with an estimated 25 percent job growth between 2021 and 2031. This job can also be done remotely, meaning it’s possible to live almost anywhere in the world and enjoy the benefits of this growing industry.

Read more: How to Become a Web Developer

5 traits of a successful mobile app

Think about your favorite mobile applications. What makes them your favorite? Although profit can be a driving force for some mobile app development projects, many successful apps come from creativity and purpose. Ideas that provide entertainment, connection, or innovative solutions to common problems are the best foundations for a mobile app. Five traits of a successful app are:

1. An ability to meet the needs of a targeted audience

2. Doing something that hasn’t been done before or doing it in a unique and novel way

3. Available on both iOS and Android platforms

4. Easy to navigate and use

5. Aesthetics are prioritized in addition to functionality

The best mobile apps meet the needs of a targeted audience. They rise above the millions of other applications in the marketplace by being both useful and pleasurable to use.

Examples of successful mobile apps in today's market

The following sections outline several of the most successful applications on the market today.


YouTube is a social platform. It allows users to share videos about everything from lifestyle to travel, to comedy, to yoga. Today, YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google. The number of YouTube viewers is expected to hit 210 million in 2022, a sizable step up from the 189 million watching in 2021 [4].

Angry Birds

Released as an iOS app in 2009, Angry Birds is now a franchise that stretches well beyond its beginnings. The game has turned its company, Rovio Entertainment Corporation, into a thriving success with more than 4 billion downloads [5]. From the addictive, puzzle-style app also came a movie, a line of plush toys, cartoons, television shows, films, and even its own cookbook. 

Google Maps

The days of unfolding and folding a collection of glove box maps are gone. Today, anyone with a smartphone can have a map in their pocket. Google Maps launched its mobile app in 2007 for Blackberry and Palm devices. In 2008, it was available for Android phones, and finally, in 2012, as an iOS app [6].

Of course, this app is much more than an overview of street grids and highways. Today, Google Maps provides real-time traffic information and acts as a platform for user reviews and business listings around the world.

Fortnite: Battle Royale

Fortnite’s survival game has become one of the most popular mobile gaming apps worldwide. It brought in $5.8 billion in revenue in 2021 [7]. Fortnite has also built a thriving community of streamers, held virtual concerts, and released several celebrity skins (in-game outfits).


One problem that global citizens face is the ability to move currency—to get paid for work or pay for services—in modern ways. The app Revolut has worked to solve that problem, and as a result, its founder is worth more than $7 billion [8].

The idea to provide a global financial app for people to manage their funds through a single platform anywhere on the planet was a disruptive concept for the financial industry. These breakthrough ideas are made a reality with the help of skilled mobile app developers.


If you didn’t use the Zoom app before the coronavirus pandemic, you most likely did at some point in 2020 or later. The company counted more than 300 million daily meeting participants in April 2020. The app itself was downloaded 485 million times in 2020 [9].

The explosive growth proved that hard work and creativity could fill a need exactly when people demand it the most. With 485 percent growth in customers from October 2019 to October 2020, the mobile app brought in over $1 billion in just one quarter of 2021 [10].  

How to develop your own mobile app

Mobile app developers are specialized programmers who know how to work with programming languages like Python and JavaScript. Sixty-nine percent of mobile application developers have a bachelor's degree, and 24 percent have a master's degree [11]. You can also teach yourself to code with online courses, boot camps, and Guided Projects. For example, you can earn a Professional Certificate in iOS development from Meta.


professional certificate

Meta iOS Developer

Launch your career as an iOS developer. Build job-ready skills for an in-demand career and earn a credential from Meta. No degree or prior experience required to get started.


(535 ratings)

3,968 already enrolled


Average time: 8 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

iOS App Development, Application development, Mobile Development, Linux, Web Development, Bash (Unix Shell), Github, Version Control, Swift Programming, Web Design, Front-End Web Development, User Experience (UX), Accessibility, use navigation in your apps, Json, APIs, Core Data, • Create simple JavaScript code, • Create and manipulate objects and arrays, • Write unit testing using Jest, Web Application, React (Web Framework), React (Javascript Library), React, Software Architecture, UI development, Data Management, Pseudocode, Algorithms, Communication, Data Structure, Computer Science

Aside from qualifications, it's important to create a portfolio of work. A portfolio showcases your best work and demonstrates your command of programming languages to employers.  If you'd prefer to work independently, you may consider working as a freelance mobile app developer.

Get started in mobile app development with Coursera

There’s much to learn to master mobile app development, and technology changes all the time. You can find hundreds of courses, certificates, and guided mobile application projects on Coursera. If you're completely new to development, consider an introductory course like Web Applications for Everybody from the University of Michigan.



Web Applications for Everybody

Build dynamic database-backed web sites.. Use PHP, MySQL, jQuery, and Handlebars to build web and database applications.


(5,426 ratings)

99,991 already enrolled


Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Jquery, web application development, Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP), JavaScript, MySQL, HTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Phpmyadmin, Relational Database, SQL, Create, Read, Update And Delete

Article sources


Business Insider, Ben. “It's Been over 12 Years since the IPhone Debuted - Look How Primitive the First One Seems Today."  Accessed December 22, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Big savings for your big goals! Save $200 on Coursera Plus.

  • For a limited time, save like never before on a new Coursera Plus annual subscription (original price: $399 | after discount: $199 for one year).
  • Get unlimited access to 7,000+ courses from world-class universities and companies—for less than $20/month!
  • Gain the skills you need to succeed, anytime you need them—whether you’re starting your first job, switching to a new career, or advancing in your current role.