6 ways smartphones are changing IT careers

By 2016, a billion consumers will use mobile devices worldwide, according to Forrester Research. Rising smartphone use is changing the way we interact with each other, in virtual space as well as the real world—but what does smartphone mania mean for IT careers? Here are six employment trends relating to smartphone success, with some opinions from professionals working behind the scenes in high tech.

1) Demand for specific engineering skills

Obviously, more smartphones mean greater demand for software developers and hardware engineers, but it isn’t that simple. Professionals are needed with the skills to support the particular demands of smartphone engineering and development.

Bottom line, smartphones have to be small. Due to size and portability limitations, smartphone hardware differs significantly from laptop or desktop hardware. Also, smartphone multimedia design requires user experiences tailored to appear on screens about half the size of an index card.

2) Smaller and cheaper applications

With the importance of mobile delivery, companies are more interested in snack-sized applications at comparably lower prices. Mobile applications developers use metrics targeting the increased accessibility and shorter attention spans for these devices, encouraging specific, targeted information products with quicker turnaround times.

A traditional Web or system hosted application might be packed with features or information and come at a price of several thousand dollars, but apps in the mobile sphere don’t need such a high density of data elements. Enterprises and individuals who purchase smartphone applications want them small, fast and affordable.

3) Mobile delivery of intraoffice content and training materials

According to Kelly Meeker, community manager at corporate content provider OpenSesame, enterprise training is starting to take on a different form in the mobile age.

“Organizations have begun to demand training content that is not only accessible on a mobile device, but appropriate to that device,” Meeker says. “Training content should fit the attention span of the mobile device user…and should be designed to be consumed meaningfully on a small screen.”

Designers of corporate training content once developed their materials for desktop, laptop or binder-paper media. Surging smartphone use is ushering in requirements for new methods of content production and distribution. And along with the use of mobile devices for work comes an emphasis on IT security and data protection, according to ZDNet.

4) Upward trends in HTML5 and JavaScript development

As most app developers know, Apple products lack support for Adobe Flash development technologies. In the absence of the design and development capabilities offered by Flash, new standards are rising to fill the void.

Aside from HTML5 and JavaScript, IT jobs in iPhone development are asking for CSS Animation and scalable vector graphics skills from their applicants. Game developers are also using Cocoa and Cocoa Touch, Apple’s native object oriented APIs.

5) Shifting focus in hardware engineering

The mobile device industry continually pushes hardware engineers to increase processing power while decreasing power consumption. While this is a common goal in hardware engineering, it is even more important in the primarily battery-driven smartphone market.

Jeff Lyons, co-founder of smartphone repair chain myPhoneMD, indicates that hardware and software engineers will be moving toward mobile device development in greater numbers. For those looking to make a splash in the hardware innovation game, Lyons notes the importance of working on new or enhanced battery technologies.

People in existing fields of hardware and software at every level,” says Lyons, “are seeing by sales data alone that moving toward mobile makes sense as a part of their career strategy.”

6) Changes to virtual marketing methods

Marketing on the full-size Web not only relied largely on Flash ads but often included pop-up windows or banner and sidebar elements. The mobile Web environment is proving itself inhospitable to these traditional methods; it seems that truly effective marketing techniques have yet to come to the multi-touch surface.

Some companies are hiring mobile applications developers to translate their existing marketing materials for smartphone users. Others are opting for a more technical strategy, using location-based media or relying on the camera and microphone capabilities of smartphone devices to create enhanced experiences for prospective customers.

IT job growth — depending on the career

As smartphones continue to gobble up market share, it’s likely that demand for some IT specialists could decline, while needs for other specializations might skyrocket. For example, ZDNet notes that someone will need to beef up the networks and back-end systems to support the traffic from all those smartphones.

There’s good news, in general, for IT professionals. According to recent projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software development and software systems engineering will be among the fastest-growing of all the computer and mathematical careers between 2010 and 2020. Out of the computer and mathematical occupations, applications software developers should see the most new jobs. The BLS predicts the fastest growth rate — 32.4 percent — for systems software developers.

Computer and mathematical occupations as a whole should add more than 778,000 new jobs between 2010 and 2020, reports the BLS, but the opportunities depend on the specific sector of the market. Even though the particular demands of the development and engineering marketplace might change, jobs are expected for savvy professionals with the right technical training.