Episode #13

Learning How to Make a Smartphone App

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apple's App Store and Google Play have hundreds of thousands of smartphone apps. When it comes to the megabytes, however, apps are tiny things. The average smartphone app takes up about the same amount data as any 3-minute song you can buy on iTunes. 

So how hard is it to create one of these itsy-bitsy pieces of software?

This week on WNYC's New Tech City, Stan Alcorn and Tracey Samuelson — reporters with no programming experience — explore the resources and classes available for wanna-be smartphone app developers.

According to Apple, app developers have received more than $6.5 billion in royalties since the App Store launched in 2007. A report from the Yankee Group estimates that revenues from apps could grow to $97.6 billion by 2016.

But as our intrepid reporters find out, it's not easy money.

"A lot of programmers sort of get frustrated at this whole 'learning to code is easy' movement," says Zach Sims, founder of Codecademy. "It's definitely not easy."

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Produced by:

Daniel P. Tucker


Charlie Herman


Stan Alcorn and Tracey Samuelson

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Comments [3]

Comments [8]


If you are looking for an inexpensive way to create iOS,Android and HTML5 web apps you will probably find the cloud-based platform Snappii helpful and easy to use. Even if you are not a programmer this app building platform will allow making custom native apps in hours.

Nov. 28 2013 01:15 PM
Edmunds from europe

@Steve Keinath

Tottaly agree. You need that inner-self-motivation. I thought that I wanted to learn to play the guitar. Spent a lot of money and time on that, but i just wasn't "wired that way"

to me coding feels like solving sudoku puzzles. It's not work, it's fun play, that is what keeps me coming back for more every evening.

Dec. 13 2012 04:23 AM
Edmunds to deth me0w from Europe

If you'd take a class in business administration they'd make you think there's no way farmer or a coder could do business without knowledge in management, accounting, sales, marketing, law and new product development... and yet farmer sells his tomatoes, coder sells his code and after two months at codeacademy i made this game

Everything is relative

Dec. 13 2012 04:11 AM
deth me0w from The greatest country on earth

I just finished a course in Systems Analysis and Design. What a mindjob. And it's absolutely necessary for anything non-trivial. Coding is just one component of one phase of the systems development lifecycle. To anyone who thinks they can take an introductory class in Java and then start pumping out useable apps, I say: "Good luck with that."

Dec. 12 2012 03:32 PM
Steve Keinath

Have either of you looked at TouchDevelop by Microsoft or App Inventor by Google/MIT ?

No matter what tool you use, you will have to be able to use logic -- either with the specific language's syntax (code code) or drag-and-drop block coding.

If you do NOT like brainteasers or puzzle games, you might not like to code, EVER! It is easy to grasp if you are wired that way; it is HARD to grasp (for ever) if you are not wired that way.

Dec. 12 2012 01:41 PM

Learning to code may not be easy, but it's doable. You just need to put in the effort. If you need some help, you should check out, where there are plenty of resources designed to help you out in your journey learning to code.

Dec. 11 2012 06:05 PM
Tom from New Jersey

Hi... Yes, coding can be difficult, but I would urge you to check out It's all "drag and drop" with no real coding, it allows you to make apps for iPhone or Android devices and the basic version (which is great) is totally free.

I have been using it for a little over a year and I now I have my own profitable app business. I'm not making millions and I'm not making expansive games... rather, I'm making fun little apps for kids and parents. Please visit if you'd like to see and download some of the apps I have published over the last year or so.

Good luck!

Dec. 11 2012 08:09 AM
Natasha Singh from Brooklyn

As a mobile app developer and programmer for about 15 years, I can say that programming is hard! It requires a logical way of problem solving that is really hard to learn and extremely frustrating if you don't love doing it.

I don't think its realistic for people with no coding experience to expect to be able to build a quality app on their own. But that shouldn't stop you from launching an app using hired programmers or outsourced development shops. Building an app is a lot more than just coding it. You need to design it, monetize it, market it, and get people to use it. It's not worth your time to learn to code, you'd be better focusing on the overall business then trying to be a programmer.

There are lots of books and resources to help people launch app businesses, check out "Appsters: A Beginner's Guide to App Entrepreneurship" on Amazon, it's probably the best book I've read that really explains end-to-end app development in a way that a non-technical person can consume.

Dec. 11 2012 08:07 AM

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