How To Develop A Simple iPhone App & Submit It To iTunes

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The process to develop an iPhone app is not as hard or as simple as one might think.  I am not a programmer, but wanted to see if I could teach myself how to develop an iPhone app.  The news features all sorts of articles about kids as young as 9 that can make them.  If they can do it, surely the rest of us can, too?

Like cooking, there is a bit of a process involved in “cooking” up an app.  This article isn’t about your style of cooking, per se (i.e programming), but just the general steps necessary to get it from your head and into iTunes.

Creating an app isn’t entirely free, so it is important to know up front that, at some point in this process, you will be shelling out $99 (USD).  Also, it is important to know up front that you will need to use a Mac at some point, and will need to use specific Mac-happy code to create your app.


Now that we have all seen the fine print, here are the exciting steps to app happiness!

Step 1: Craft A Brainy Idea

Have a unique idea for an app?  There are, as you probably know, a trillion (OK, may not a TRILLION) apps out there.  So what makes an app stand out?  Why would anyone want to use your app?  Why would they pay money for it if you are going to charge?

Be sure to check that there aren’t other apps that do the same thing that you are proposing. Or if you want to create something better than an app that already exists, think about how your idea will be better.  Draw it out on paper or on the computer.

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Step 2: Get A Mac

The iPhone is an Apple product and uses a variation of the Mac OS.  Currently, the iPhone development tools are only available for Mac users (even though there is evidence of designing in jail break mode on a PC), but in order to get it up in the App Store, you will eventually need a Mac to get it there.  You can buy a Mac mini relatively cheaply if you don’t have a Mac at your disposal.

Step 3: Register As An Apple Developer

To work with the Mac tools, you will need to become an official Apple Developer. Registration is free so you simply have to give them your information and agree to their terms.  You only need to register once, and you are able to use the same username and password used for your iTunes account.  Once you are an Apple Developer, you can develop iPhone apps for any of the Mac products.

Step 4:  Download The Software Development Kit For iPhone (SDK)

Once you are an official developer, you can download the SDK for iPhone.  The version you need depends on the OS you are currently running.  This download is HUGE because it comes with all sorts of documentation, sample codes, and all sorts of things you will be glad to have later on.  It could take a few hours, so you might want to start the download, put in a good movie, and wait.

ManiacDev is a really great site with TONS of information geared to both uber-newbies like me and tech gurus.  Just start with the first video, watch and take notes as you go.  Really and truly, these are the best tutorials I have found!

Step 5: Download XCode

If you don’t already have it, download XCode.  According to Apple, “Xcode is a complete, full-featured IDE built around a smooth workflow that integrates the editing of source code, with the build and compile steps, through to a graphical debugging experience – all without leaving the view of your source code.”  This is another huge download, so you might want to rent a second movie.

Step 6: Develop Your iPhone App With The Templates In The SDK

Once you have your app drawn out on paper or in Photoshop, you can start designing it with the templates provided in the SDK.  This is where that HUGE amount of download time will be a huge benefit.  You will have lots of templates to choose from, and there are a lot of great YouTube clip tutorials on how to use the templates effectively.

Step 7: Learn Objective-C For Cocoa

If you love programming languages, you will love Objective-C.  If you don’t know how to program, this is the part that can get pretty sticky, so you might want to find a programmer friend or hire someone.  It really does help to get a book, too, for reference.

Step 8: Program Your App In Objective-C

Once you at least understand the basics of Objective-C (or at least know how to find answers to programming questions), you are ready to program your app.  It helps to take screenshots as you go along so you can remember what you tried.  Some apps can take just a few hours to program while other Apps can take months. Only you know how much detail you want out there for its maiden voyage in the App Store!

Step 9: Test The App In The iPhone Simulator

The SDK comes with a lovely iPhone Simulator.  You will need to load up your app and do your own testing.  You should try to work out as many bugs as possible and think about all the ways someone might use your app.

Step 10: Host A Bake Sale

Remember when I told you in the fine print that you would have to raise some cash?  This is that moment.  Sadly, loading an app into iTunes costs a one time member fee of $99 (USD).  There is no way out of this fee, but you might earn it back in triplicate if your app is worthy!  Truly though, you DO get a lot for your $99. For one, you get access to some of the coolest people on this side of Pluto!

Step 11: Have Others Test Your App

Once you pay your fee, you will be able to have others in the app community test your app and help you work out final bugs.  This is a great community, and testing new stuff is lots of fun.  If you are a newbie like me, you will be in awe of the kings and queens of geeky stardom.  Depending on the nature and complexity of your app, this process can take some time.

Step 12: Submit Your App For Approval

After testing your app in the community and working out all the bumps, you can submit the app to iTunes for approval.  You will be able to upload it right from the community.  The process of approval can take some time, so be patient!

Step 13: Watch The Dough & Traffic Roll In!

If you created a paid app, just wait for the money to roll in to shore.  If you created a free app, watch the traffic!

Do you have any tips to share with app developers?  Leave them in the comments section below.

Images Credits: Erik K. Veland, stopnlook, davidgsteadman, Leo Reynolds, helpei, Cedric Chee, dianagavrilita

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Comments (31)
  • Tom

    Thanks for the article. Got me started, now the rest is up to me… (and the millions of people that need to download my app. Eventually.)

  • Faolan

    Does anyone know how much it costs to distribute your app on android?

    • Rob LaPointe

      @Faolan It is almost cross platform mobile application development, so they can use the wireframe and UI but the functionalities with android SDK, developer need to initiate from the first so it depends and it starts from $1200

  • mobilepundits

    Developing an iPhone apps and submitting it to itune stores is a challenging task for beginners because it requires to follow some guidelines. We hope your tips help to develop iPhone apps successfully.

  • Nirav Sheth

    Pretty helpful article! Full in content and appropriate graphics genuinely shown. Steps are just straightforward and in very order. The part including to check if the site is bug-free is really valuable. Appreciate your help to start-up levels!

  • Mobile Pundits

    If you want to create a amazing iphone app than you need to hire expert iphone developers who can create the mobile app that will most excellent suit your needs and will be able to communicate your messaging as a company. While there is an overwhelming pool of mobile app developers that is highly competitive and competent, you still want to get the developer who will be the best fit for your needs.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.