As sales of smartphones rises so does the demand for talented developers to exploit these new platforms. The two most popular mobile platforms in the oDesk marketplace are Apple's iPhone OS, and Google's Android OS. Below is a run down of how the demand for these skills has fared over the last 12 months, and where developers can get started developing on these platforms.
The Apple iTunes App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch has been open for just over 15 months, with Apple reporting over 2 billion App downloads. The gold rush to develop iPhone apps, fueled by Apple's marketing efforts and ambitious entrepreneurs, has led many buyers to the expert developers in the oDesk marketplace and fueled steady growth in demand for skilled iPhone developers. The iPhone's addictive multi-touch screen and sleek design offer an attractive platform for potentially viral Apps.
iPhone and iPod Touch development requires that you have an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X Leopard, X-code, the iPhone SDK, and some knowledge of Objective-C language. Owning an iPhone or iPod touch would be necessary for proper testing, but isn't required for writing and running programs in the included iPhone Simulator. Apple also offers a $99 iPhone Developer Program, but this is only necessary if you plan on releasing an app to the app store directly.
Google's Android mobile phone OS, without the fuel of Apple's App Store has not garnered the same popularity on oDesk, but still employs a significant number of Android developers, outpacing demand for developers of any other mobile OS on oDesk aside from the iPhone.
Android is an Open Source, Linux-based OS running on phones from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and LG, with rumored devices appearing soon on devices from Sony Ericsson, BenQ, and Dell. The number of Android devices on the horizon makes it poised to be a dominant mobile OS. The Android Market also offers a free service for developers to sell their apps.
The Android SDK will run on Mac, Windows, or Linux, and requires Java JDK 5 or 6. Eclipse 3.5 is the recommended IDE for development. Android's Developers site has everything you need to get started, except for a handset which can be any Android Device, or the official Android Dev Phone 1, a special unlocked HTC Dream.
While programming for the iPhone and Android OS are the most in demand mobile phone development skills on oDesk, they aren't the only mobile operating systems. Admob's August 2009 Mobile Metrics report shows that of phones using their ad network globally, iPhone OS claiming the majority, and Nokia's Symbian OS, and RIM's Blackberry OS both beating out Android. However, Android is rising from last year, and Symbian and Blackberry are both falling. This breakdown speaks volumes for the confidence in Android's future, and to the brilliantly standardized outlet that the Apple App Store and Android Market provide as both a service to end users and developers.