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Developing Apps for the iPhone: The Basics

written by: MikeWehner•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/23/2011

Many people think they have the drive and determination to really make a killing on Apple's iTunes App Store, but just don't know where to get started. We'll run down what you need to consider before you start developing your first app!

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    So, you want to develop Apps?

    Apple's iTunes App Store is a bit like the Wild West days of the California gold rush. Many people show up, hoping to make a fortune overnight, but few ever realize that dream. Still, the jaw-dropping success stories of a few solo developers continues to fuel the fire of hopeful amateurs. The overwhelming popularity of the iPhone (and iPod Touch along with it) is, of course, the number one reason for this atmosphere. With millions of potential customers carrying these devices with them every day, it's easy to see there is potential, albeit slim, to make a real fortune.

    If you happen to be one of those stalwart nomads trying to find their way through the deafening roar of advice and tips on how to get started, you've come to the right place. We'll run down the very basics of what you need, and the costs associated with iPhone applications developments.

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    The Essential Hardware

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    Computer: In order to develop apps for Apple's mobile devices, you need to start with an Apple computer. Not all Apple computers are capable of running the required software though, so make sure you have a Mac that is running Intel processors, as that is necessary. Obviously, the more powerful the computer is, the faster and smoother things will go for you, but as long as you have an Intel-based Mac (running Snow Leopard), you can check this one off your to-buy list. Minimum Cost: $699 (Mac Mini, pictured)

    iPhone/iPod Touch: Of course, in order to develop for a handheld device, it would seem obvious that you also need access to one of your own. As of today, your best bet is to find your way to an iPhone 4, or at the very least a 3GS. iOS4, Apple's new operating system for the iPhone and iPod Touch, comes with a ton of added functionality when compared to the original iPhone 3G, and comparable Touch models. If you decide to purchase (or already own) an older model iPhone or Touch, you may run into some issues when submitting your apps. Some apps developed for older hardware will crash on newer models, and that is your fastest way to a 'Rejected' email showing up in your inbox. Minimum Cost: $299 (Newest iPod Touch model)

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    The Essential Software

    sdkpic iPhone SDK: The iPhone SDK (Software Development Kit) is a suite of software you'll use to create and test your iPhone applications during development. The three most crucial programs included in this are: Xcode (the code creation program itself), Interface Builder (a GUI program that gives you a more visual look at what you are creating, and works hand-in-hand with Xcode) and the iPhone Simulator (which allows you to test your applications on your computer screen, through a simulated iPhone, before exporting to a physical device). The SDK is the first thing you'll be downloading after signing up for the Apple Development Program, and is included in the cost of the license itself. Cost: $99/year

    Image Editing Software: This is getting more into the actual app creation itself, but it bears mentioning anyway; you will need some kind of image editing software to get you through your first App. You'll need to create title screens, buttons, and anything else you want to look good to your customers. Additionally, you need to create two icons for each app before submitting it to the App Store, so this is definitely an essential. Minimum Cost: Free (Gimp) $99-$799 (Photoshop)

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    Other Considerations

    Banking: If your intention is to develop apps for sale in the App Store (as opposed to free apps, or ad-hoc distribution) you will need to complete the direct deposit forms after signing up for the Development Program. This would normally not be an issue, however, in order to receive payments from outside of the United States you will need to make sure your bank has the ability to receive payments from other countries. Most smaller credit unions or out-of-the-way bank branches may not have this ability. Generally, larger national banks will almost always have access to this, and will be able to give you an International Bank Account Number to make this process smooth.

    Advertising: If your creations have any chance of paying off in the end, you'll need to consider advertising in your initial budget. Once you have all the hardware and software to create an app, the costs simply don't end there. Websites that cater to app fans will typically also offer advertising. These spots can range from $50 to $1,000 or more, and even then there is typically a waiting list of people who want to shout their product out to the masses, so buy a spot early when possible.