This month we dive into the world of mobile development with our two resident experts here at Moneybox HQ. We quizzed Jaeren (Android Lead) and Valerio (iOS Lead) on their experience in this ever-growing field.
How did you get into mobile development – would you recommend it as a career path?
Valerio: It was really by chance, at a time when mobile development wasn’t popular yet. I joined a company that were experimenting with mobile technology and happened to be hiring graduates. Soon after, mobile devices became more common and I was luckily already on the track to becoming a developer. I would definitely recommend it, but my advice is to pursue it as a career only if you have a real passion for mobile apps and the mobile ecosystem.
Jaeren: I’ve pretty much been obsessed with technology since my siblings got an N64 one Christmas. I studied computer science at university and from then knew I wanted to get into app development, either on the front or backend side. It’s new, exciting and you get to build something that thousands of people use everyday.
I’d really recommend anyone giving programming a go. It’s a great outlet to be creative, and a crazy thought that you could create something innovative from your bedroom.
How do you feel about the ever-changing landscape of mobile technology (new devices, functionality, coding languages etc.)?
Valerio: It is the exciting side of our job, everything is on the move. Not only devices and languages change, but also UI/UX trends, how users interact with the devices, the direction of the mobile app market etc. A good mobile developer should take note of all these changes. It’s as important as the coding side.
Jaeren: My favourite thing about the Android community is there is a new library or language coming out every month, it’s very active. Things like Android architecture components and Kotlin make our lives as developers much easier and allows us to spend more time on improving the experience for the user. It will be interesting to see if cross-platform tools like React Native and Flutter become more mainstream in the next few years.
It can sometimes be daunting though. It’s a real skill to be able to work out what would benefit you as a developer and what is just the new craze that is only slightly different to what you already know.
What’s the most complex coding problem you’ve faced and how did you solve it?
Valerio: Building a complex and smooth interface is often a challenge: a nice app ought to conform to the standard UI guidelines, but should also bring some innovation and customisation – Moneybox is definitely moving in this direction. We strive to have an architecture which facilitate that and this helps us to avoid facing complex problems in the first place.
Jaeren: My dissertation at university gave me a lot of sleepless nights. I made an app that would plan all aspects of a road trip around America. I was collating data from lots of different apps, but they didn’t have open APIs so I had to use proxies and screen scraping to gather the information.
At Moneybox I would say our toughest task is designing features and interfaces that make complex topics easy to understand. I think we do this with great UI and simple tools.
What the most exciting project you’ve worked at Moneybox so far?
Valerio: Launching the pension product has been very exciting: coding wise, it wasn’t trivial to add a new financial product in the app and to support the ever-growing waiting list, as well as managing the money transfer operations. It’s been great fun and interesting to understand the problem we are trying to solve, the needs of our users and to introduce an innovative solution available for everybody.
Jaeren: Launching our Lifetime ISA (LISA) product. We were one of the first to launch it and I think we were approaching it in a very different way, focusing on giving our users the tools they needed to understand exactly what it was, and how to maximise the benefit of it. My friends, family and I were all waiting to open a LISA so it was very exciting to be able to release that and see how they used it.
What’s the better platform, iOS or Android (controversial!)?
Valerio: They both have their pros and cons. I have no personal preference: I develop iOS apps, but my personal phone is an Android device!
Jaeren: I’m actually the opposite to Valerio, I’m an Android developer who owns an iPhone! I always used to buy iPhones as I thought the build quality of most Android devices wasn’t great, but now that has changed. It depends what you’re looking for. If you value flexibility and control over your phone, then Android is definitely the one!