The increased functionality and technology that comes packed within smartphones’ compact shells and other portable devices such as tablets is making them more and more of a must-have item amongst consumers. Apps help to amplify a device’s functionality, whether it is for productivity or pleasure. As the tech world becomes crazier for apps, many developers are jumping into the field in an attempt to not only gain recognition, but also financial profit. While most app developers probably have plenty of experience under their belts, some are brand new to the game and very young as well.
When you think of the word “young” in terms of app developers, you may envision a twenty-something who develops on the side while also attending college. For the purpose of this article, however, think much younger, such as those in their teenage years. In fact, there are developers making their mark at a mere 12 years of age. It’s not all for fun, either, as some of these youngsters are making enough money off their app sales to buy their favorite tech products or even save for college.
Take a look at the United States’ Thomas Suarez, for example. Only 12 years old, Suarez has already developed and placed two apps for sale on Apple’s iTunes store. Bustin Jieber, which sells for 99 cents, is Suarez’ personal favorite and it also happens to be his bestseller. The app is a play on recording artist Justin Bieber’s name and is presented in the Whack-a-Mole format. He also developed Earth Fortune, an app which presents the Earth in varying colors according to your so-called personal fortune. Suarez’ experience at such a young age gave him the luxury of presenting an inspirational speech at the TEDxManhattanBeach conference last month. He also created an app club at school dedicated to teaching his counterparts the tricks of the trade when it comes to app design. “A lot of kids these days like to play games, but now they want to make them. And it's difficult because not many kids know where to go to find out how to make a program…and not many parents have written apps,” Suarez said.
Robert Nay, a 14 year old from Utah, showed just how successful a very young developer could be when he released his free Bubble Ball app. The physics-based app surpassed the 9.1 million download mark since its release, which allowed it to surpass the immensely popular Angry Birds app on the free charts at one point. Nay decided to create the app after his schoolmates acknowledged his talent with computers and urged him to take the plunge. He followed up by going to the local library to study programs to help with the app building process, and the rest was history. Nay’s dedication has paid off, as the in-app purchase feature of Bubble Ball that grants purchasers 23 extra levels sells for 99 cents.
Australia’s Brandon Cowan is another example of a young and successful app developer. The 17 year old partnered with Hilton Rosenfeld, a family friend, to create the iParkedHere app. For $2.99, users can call on iParkedHere to not only receive alerts when their parking time is about to expire, but to also remember where they parked. The app managed to achieve the distinction of being iTunes’ top grossing app in the Lifestyle category for one day and also went as high as 31st among all of the Australian store’s apps. Cowan did not release any actual figures as to how much he earned from the app’s popularity, but top apps usually reach in the neighborhood of hundreds of downloads on a daily basis.
If you are looking for specifics concerning the possibility of a young developer’s profits, look no further than Nick Garcia of Phoenix, Arizona. The 16 year old, who has authored such iTunes apps as Caffeine Meter and Ultimate Vuvuzela 2010, reportedly earned thousands from Apple for his development efforts. His YouTube videos have also helped to boost his buying power, and he claims to have made over $100,000 for all of his work.
The hard work, dedication, and ingenuity being displayed by young developers has been noticed by their elders, such as Marc Edwards, founder of Bjango, an app development company that creates selections for the iTunes Store. He said: “It's great to see these guys succeed,” he said. “They're getting a huge jump start in life, learning skills others may never have. What's best is that it's been done independently, motivated by a desire to explore and learn.” Edwards noted the difficulty of getting noticed in such a swamped app market, which makes the accomplishments of the young developers that much more impressive. As for the prospects of a future as an app developer, Edwards added: “There's a massive industry that has grown around the [Apple] and Android app stores. If you can build and release a hit, you shouldn't have any trouble paying the rent.”