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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?

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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.

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

  1. Julie Elangwey
    April 28, 2016 at 7:15 am

    My application got rejected so many times :( Why it is happening with me?

  2. Alethea
    April 14, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Great article and over of the process. Much appreciated. What is not mentioned are the trademark and patent processes. Which applies to iPhone apps and the costs associated for both are high. What is the communities experience with these processes and what applies for iTunes apps. Appreciate an info.

  3. Patrick warren
    December 13, 2015 at 4:30 am

    this is a great and positive article. very inspiring.thanks for your efforts to help starters.

  4. Tom
    May 2, 2015 at 10:44 am

    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.)

    • Mohammad Ali Hijazi
      July 5, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      did you end up developing your application?

  5. Faolan
    April 10, 2015 at 3:22 pm

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

    • Rob LaPointe
      April 28, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      @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

  6. mobilepundits
    March 30, 2015 at 7:00 am

    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.

  7. Nirav Sheth
    March 3, 2015 at 11:15 am

    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!

  8. Mobile Pundits
    December 18, 2014 at 7:18 am

    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.

  9. Kathy
    June 9, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Great and helpful article. You mentioned that the app must be approved by Apple. What types of apps do they reject? Is is hard to get approved?

  10. Dagaza
    May 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Why do people have to pay apple to make apps for apple, to make a profit for apple?

  11. Aibek
    April 24, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    If you want to save the article with screenshots and everything you may
    either bookmark it or print it to PDF file and keep it on your computer.
    One of the best 'to PDF' converter tools is doPDF.

    See,
    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/u...

  12. Gary
    April 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

    VERY interesting article. Lots of info for a super newbi like me. Is there a way I can save your article as written (with screenshots and all??).
    I would like to keep it for future reference. ALSO.... I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the author (Beth) replied to many of the comments posted. Thank you sooo much for all this good stuff!!

  13. Gary
    April 24, 2010 at 6:23 am

    VERY interesting article. Lots of info for a super newbi like me. Is there a way I can save your article as written (with screenshots and all??).
    I would like to keep it for future reference. ALSO.... I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the author (Beth) replied to many of the comments posted. Thank you sooo much for all this good stuff!!

  14. abdullah baqasah
    April 15, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Great article

    It is a good practice to create your own iPhone app :)

  15. Scott
    April 12, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    This was a very good article. The steps you laid out are very easy to read and understand, and I think they will help a lot of people understand the process.

    I just got my first app out and approved. There is no question it was well worth the $99, and It's already doing a huge deal to support my business. I am pleased with the support we get from apple, and the system they put in place to help my company become successful. This is all stuff independent developers couldn't even dream of 5 years ago.

    In my opinion, the $99 is just a good way to keep tabs on everything and denture developers who aren't completely serious. People usually forget that systems cost money... Hiring employees and allocating their time to reviewing 1000's of apps costs money... apps that don't sell also cost the host time and money...

    • Patrick
      April 11, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      hey scott.. Can you please send me some advice on how you started your apps.. Did u go directly to become a app developer just by signing up as a apple developer.

      What i mean is. I'm having hard time to figure out where to start. Should i just pay 99 dollar, and then im ready to go. Or do i need to read some books before signing up. Im confused because there is so much information out there im lost.. Please help? your advise will be very much appreciated.

      Thanks,
      Patrick

  16. Lance
    April 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Uhm, $99? Here's some interesting comparisons...
    Computers: 
    Apple:
    To develop programs for the Mac (laptops & desktops)
    FREE - Download the SDK (costs your email address and a password).  Done

    Microsoft: 
    To develop programs for Windows (XP, Vista, Win7):
    Visual Studio Standard Edition: $260
    Visual Studio Pro Edition: $650
    For the documentation on their development software and special licensing for some of their software (called MSDN for "Microsoft Developer Network") it's between $1,000 - $10,000.  You can get 'bundles' which have the development and subscriptions together and you can see sone if those options and pricing here  http://www.nextag.com/msdn-subscription/stores-html

    Phones / mobile devices:
    Apple:
    To develop & test (simulate) apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and/or iPad (one IDE does them all):
    FREE - Download the SDK (costs your email address and a password).  Unfortunately you can't even download the app to your own phone.  I agree, that sucks a little.

    To DISTRIBUTE your APP(s) (download to your - and up to 100 other - test iPhones and/or distribute your app via iTunes store costs $99.  That gives you a 'certificate' so Apple can track your apps and pay you (if applicable). 

    Google/Android: 
    One-time fee of $25 to develop.  One difference w/ Apple is there are 70 million devices that can run apple Apps.  Not so many for Android  

    Windows Mobile 7 - don't know - probably won't be out 'till 2012 anyway.

    Other platforms:
    Nintendo Wii Development kit: $1,700.  Don't know if that includes anything else

    Xbox 360: I couldn't find numbers for the dev kit but one person said it's cost-prohibitive for "small companies". This is on top of the cost for 'membership' which is $99 per year

    The $99 cost for iPhone development seems pretty fair to me.

    • Thegoodboy66
      June 12, 2010 at 5:45 pm

      I Agree tooo

  17. Bet Ritter-Guth
    April 11, 2010 at 9:59 am

    You are right; it is 99 a year; it was, for a short time, just a once and done fee.

  18. Grant
    April 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Great article! I thought that the developer program fee was yearly and not one-time though...

  19. carla brown
    April 7, 2010 at 2:57 am

    indeed its better to create a design by yourself then ask others to do it for you..

  20. Beth Ritter-Guth
    April 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Harry. I didn't intend to insinuate that the step was not a major part of the process; it is, indeed, the largest part, but it deserves its own post :-)

  21. Harry Forsdick
    April 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    The article is good in that it outlines the steps -- but it gives the impression that programming or learning Objective C is a small, annoying piece of the puzzle. To this programmer most of the steps before and after the programming steps are pretty trivial. The hard part is getting the programming right. Certainly the examples help a lot, but I think you underestimate the importance of the actual program which causes the app to actually do it's thing. Can't be as inconsequential as you suggest.

  22. Mark Stratton
    April 3, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Great article. Many thanks.. This article answered most of my questions about apps. As for a starving programmer, yea I'd like to find one too! There is some cool software @ my site, but it is geared towards website development.

    • Beth Ritter-Guth
      April 3, 2010 at 4:36 am

      I am not sure how much programmers charge, but you could partner up with a local college and pitch the idea to the Comp Sci department?

  23. Andrew Jordan
    April 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Great article thank you. Where do you find a starving programmer? I have the idea but not enough life left to learn C cocoa butter suntan on Java Island with C lions under the Cobolt blue Skype.

  24. Tanner Smith
    April 2, 2010 at 10:58 am

    It's $99 per year now. Which is a real pain...

    • Beth Ritter-Guth
      April 3, 2010 at 4:34 am

      I know :-( But, again, if I were a craftswoman and set up my goods at various craft fairs to sell my stuff, I would have to pay $25 per table per event which can easily add up to over 100 dollars :-)

  25. Aibek
    April 2, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Hey Beth,

    Thanks for the great article!

  26. Alex
    April 1, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    That $99 fee makes me dislike Apple even more.

    • Beth Ritter-Guth
      April 1, 2010 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Alex! Thanks for the reply. I know it seems ludicrous that Apple would charge, but if you think about it, it isn't any different than a flea market charging a person to rent a table to sell his or her own goods. It isn't an unreasonable amount, and if you are a good programmer and have a stellar app, you will make it back.

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