How to Become an iPhone Application Developer in 7 Strategic Steps

The iOS mobile platform exploded onto the scene in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone, and has been increasing in popularity ever since. With the recent successful releases of its fifth operating system (iOS5), the iPhone 4S and the New iPad, the beast that is Apple's mobile device market shows zero signs of slowing. The success found by many iPhone application developers plus the increasing popularity and versatility of iOS devices have inspired many new and established programmers to pursue careers in iPad and iPhone application development.

iPhone Application Development

For the non-programmer, however, the road to creating iOS applications for the iPhone and iPad can be a long one. Even for the casual programmer the iPhone application development experience can prove challenging; iOS utilizes a suite of technologies that are not often seen elsewhere, and iPhone's operating system includes technologies with a high degree of complexity that can be unwieldy for beginners. Beginners can go here to learn more about the iPhone Application Developer career path.

For those visionaries who are up to the challenge, here are the seven strategic steps to becoming an iPhone Application Developer:

01: Get the Necessary Tools

To create mobile apps for the iOS you need a Mac computer. Next you need to obtain the necessary development environment, called XCode. The XCode software is available on Apple’s Developer Web Site or through the Mac App Store. With XCode installed you will now be able to write and compile iPhone applications directly on your Mac desktop or laptop.

XCode contains two very important tools for iOS developers. First is the iOS Simulator. The iOS simulator allows you to test most functions of the iPhone & Pad directly on your Mac. The simulator is limited, however, and it is recommended that you obtain an Apple smartphone or tablet for final testing. The second vital tool inside XCode is the Interface Builder. The interface builder provides all of the programming objects and controls needed to construct standard iOS application interfaces, such as buttons, calendars and data entry fields.

02: Learn C Programming

The C programming language is the ancestor of Objective C - which is the programming language used in iPhone application development. I strongly recommend that new programmers learn C first however, as it will allow you to grasp the basics of programming, and more importantly the basics of computer memory management, without the complex layer of Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) introduced in Objective C. I have always seen that it is easier to learn a procedural language first (such as C), and then move onto an Object Oriented Language.

03: Add the Objective C Layer

Objective C will be much easier to learn once you grasp the underlying C code. Objective C is a superset of C - meaning it takes everything that is the C programming language and adds more to it. Objective C adds Object Orientation to C. Object Orientation is a programming methodology which allows you to break programming problems into various objects that interact to solve a problem. While most major programming platforms today use some version of object orientation, it is still a steep hill to climb for a new programmer to become proficient. Once you’re comfortable writing Objective C programs it’s time to crack open the iOS!

04: Learn the iOS Environment

Now that you can code in Objective C, you can effectively learn the iOS programming environment. You’ll use the Interface Builder to create custom iPhone application user interfaces (UI), and write Objective C code to make them work. There are many Objective C classes (libraries of commands and functions) designed specifically for the iOS - for example classes that operate the on-board camera or address issues related to local data storage.

05: Write your First iPhone App

Choose a project you’ll enjoy completing and work it all the way through. Be careful not to choose an application that is overly complex or it will take a great deal of time. Don’t give up when it gets frustrating or seems difficult. Overcoming obstacles the first time you create an application is important, and the sense of pride you get from completing your first iPhone application will motivate you to create more complex and useful apps.

06: Sign-up as an Official iOS Developer

When you’re ready to release your iPhone app prototype, you'll need to register with the iOS Developer Program. The cost is $99/year, and it involves registering as an Apple developer, and selecting the program(s) you want based on the platforms (devices) you wish to develop for. Even if you're not close to completing the project, you'll need to be an iOS Developer to test and debug your code on an actual iPhone or iPad, as opposed to the simulator. Once you're registered as an official iOS Developer, you will also be able to submit your application to Apple's App Store, making it available to millions of potential customers.

07: Market Your Application

A good way to build an audience for your iPhone applications is submitting a free “Lite” version to the app store. Creating a Lite version will enable you to expose your iPhone app to the masses, as many mobile application consumers want to try before buying. If your app is special/entertaining/useful, users will get hooked on the Lite version and gladly pay your asking price. To further promote your iPhone app for free, write it up in blogs, forums, and social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Utilizing the multitude of mobile application review sites is another great way to garner free press for your iPhone app; just send these sites a request to review your app. If you have an advertising budget, I suggest buying a moderate amount of mobile ads in the top iPhone Ad Networks, such as Admob & Quattro. If these ads are profitable you can increase your spend and expand into more ad networks.

You’re now on your way to becoming an iPhone Application Developer. Keep in mind that the career of a programmer involves a lifetime of learning and that learning the iOS platform and its related technologies is just part of that journey. Good luck!

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