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Creating a Phone App in 10 steps


 Dr Andrew Maxwell

Dr Andrew Maxwell, Lecturer (Electronics and Communications Engineering) believes that the key area of growth in Engineering today is in communications.  The way forward is not about the system itself but how people interact with the systems.  In fact, we might not be that far from the fictional predictions of Robert Zemeckis in Back to the Future II of the year 2015.  He foresaw flat screen, wall-mounted TVs with picture-in-picture and hundreds of channels plus the suggestion of hands-free video game systems.  In the 80s when the film was made, these concepts seemed so far-fetched but not by today’s standards.  There is a move towards virtual buttons and screens and technology that you can wear (Google glasses) that interact with your surrounds and thoughts.

While we have not yet invented the infamous Hovercraft or flying skateboard, we have invented technologies that decrease travel and flying with the introduction of Skype, Video Conferencing, Emails, Texting, Social Media and of course, the Mobile Phone ‘App’.

For the uninitiated, Dr Maxwell explained that a phone app is a device that you can use on your phone that is more efficient than in reality. The app avoids a lot of paperwork.  The term ‘app’ simply means application and is a function a user can call upon to meet a particular need.  On a PC you have applications but these are large systems to do complicated tasks.  On a small screen, you can only do limited tasks.  Therefore, a Phone App is a small package that has been designed to do a small amount of tasks very well.

The value of the phone App is its flexibility.  You can take it anywhere with you and use it instantly.  An example is small, engaging and quick games like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, which Dr Maxwell has confessed to playing with from time to time. 

Dr Maxwell taught himself how to create Phone App’s through a combination of tinkering with the product and knowledge gained through external computer engineering courses.  Currently, the USQ Engineering program does not have any room to incorporate specialty phone app courses but there is interest in moving towards this.  In this shift, you might learn how to write applications to use for personal as well as professional use and sell these to the public on the app store with the USQ Brand.

So, how do you create a Phone App?  All you need to do is follow these 10 steps:

  1. Ask yourself why you are creating the Phone App
  2. Learn how to program C++ (refer to tutorials on the web)
  3. Download tutorials about creating a Phone App – (on YouTube for example)
  4. Start planning and designing your application
  5. Create an interface (and the code behind the scenes)
  6. Write the App (depending on the size, this could take you anywhere between 1 to 12 months)
  7. Test the App yourself and with a subject
  8. Remember to conduct market research – is the App useful for the intended purpose and benefit the user?
  9. If all of this sounds a bit too complicated but you have a good concept, discuss your idea with a Software Programmer to develop further
  10. Once you have your App, you need to send it out to the market.  You can sell it yourself or go through the App Store for that platform.

While the process of creating a phone app may not be that easy, it is still interesting to understand and is the way of the future. 

The future for Dr Maxwell and Engineering looks positive with the concept of remote access labs coming into play.  These labs will allow external students access to on campus networks and there is a move towards providing 3D reality in education.  This project is one of five projects at USQ benefiting from USQ’s federal funding of $5.1million Digital Future’s Collaborative Research Network (CRN).  For more details on these projects, visit the USQ website.