What to Expect When Beginning iPhone App Development

7 minute read

I write this article for those of you who are getting excited with the app development craze and want to jump on the bandwagon as an individual developer. For those of you who have been programming for sometime or programmed with a company for some time, this article carries little advice for you all.

So app development seems to be a straightforward plan, but can get quite convoluted if you have had no experience with any of the development processes. But this development can be simplified to a basic 3 major parts; Brainstorm, Development, and Release.


So when developing an iPhone app, you need to have 4 objectives plotted; you need to find out what the product does, whom this would appeal to, how it would be developed, and the development plausibility. This can apply to all game development/application developments.

  • The product’s objective is most important, as it is basically what the product does. If it is a video game, it is meant to entertain. If it is a Utility, it is meant to make one’s life just a bit easier and more manageable. Once the objective of the product is developed, you could proceed to figure out the logistics of the plausibility.
  • If you created a Pink Unicorn Rainbow (I’m stereotyping here but it makes a point) app that is really a Medicinal guide to Chinese Pharmaceuticals, people will scoff at the app (except those Chinese people who dig Unicorn Rainbows). If you created a game so similar to Angry Birds that the only difference is the spelling (Angree Byrdz), you’ll lose a lot of credibility really quickly. So you have to make a game that appeals to the masses, but is very unique. This can be quite hard, and is one of the reasons App Brainstorming can be quite fickle.
  • How a game/app will be developed is a very difficult process. See below in “Development” for a further explanation
  • Development plausibility refers to the complexity of a game/app that is to be developed. If a game requires too much work to develop, or requires the utilization of a self-made graphics engine to make the game work; it wouldn’t be efficient nor plausible.
This all demands the developer (you, perhaps) to stick to certain terms that would make the brainstorming process original,  focused, not too far-fetched, and plausible. This may make your objective very narrow, but consider it a passage into a universe of ideas. Take a sonnet for example. It has very strict scheme of writing that almost seems arbitrary; 10 beats per line, rhyme scheme, 12 lines total… But other than those parameters, you can accomplish so much in a sonnet. Now with that in mind, begin your brainstorming process.
The following tools may appear obvious but could be useful when brainstorming:
  • Notebook (to store ideas)
  • Graph Paper (to graph the interface)
  • Blank iPhone Templates (see below to copy)
  • White Boards (allows you to deal with the idea more tangibly)
iPhone Template to Begin Designing
Okay, so you’ve got the brainstorming bit down? Good. The next part is when things get really trippy and obscure.
Yeah, I wasn’t joking. Development is the longest part and is what trips people up the most. It requires complete discipline in sticking to the brainstorm. It also requires intense coding, graphical design, hissy fits (not necessary) and getting frustrated at a bug that doesn’t make sense until you’ve realized you hit the space bar twice.  With that being said, let’s look at how fun it is!
When developing, you need to look at 3 major aspects; the coding, the graphics, and the SDK. There are some SDK’s that have the graphics capabilities in them (such as Unity) so those two may overlap. So, let’s look at Coding first.
This obscure process involves the knowledge of different types of code. If you are using the iPhone SDK by itself and using OpenGL for the graphics, you’ll need to be familiar with Objective-C. If you plan to use an all-in-one SDK, such as Shiva3D or Blender, you’ll need to know C++ and Python respectively. If you are planning to use Unity (which I recommend. It’s a great software), then you must be familiar with Python (so you could learn Boo), Javascript, and C#.
Since there is a lot of learning to be done, if you haven’t learned any of these languages yet, you should check out Apress. They have a very large variety of books that range from learning Puppet to learning Unity3D. The book at Apress are very extensive and extremely useful and instructive when learning a new programming language.
Graphics can be the most entertaining part of iPhone Development (or any software development) as it can be one of the least stressful. But in some cases, it could be quite the opposite. That is why you should be quite familiar with the graphics platform you are using to make your game/app. Here is a list of commercial and free graphics engines that you should look into: (thanks to iPodNerd for the list)
http://gamesalad.com/ (I know, I know… Gamesalad is bogus but potentially useful)
The SDK you are going to use depends a lot on your idea. If your idea is just going to be using OpenGL, chances are you must be a very patient person and don’t have to buy any other software. But if you are going to make a physics game, I recommend Corona SDK. If you are planning for a test or prototype game, you should use Gamesalad (in my opinion, Gamesalad is bogus and cheating but what the hay). You should contemplate your game’s objective before you choose an SDK to work with.
Release can be an interesting process. Release also requires your game to be thoroughly checked for bugs, glitches, memory management, memory allocation, and, once again, plausibility. So make sure your game has been checked and works just fine on your testing devices. Then, you can begin the process of release.
With the expanse of apps out on the iPhone app store, how would your app get noticed? Well, you could pay thousands of dollars to various ad agencies and get your app noticed or you can take advantage of your resources that happen to be FREE!
  • YouTube – Post videos of your app on YouTube. But these videos cannot be just shabbily put together of the mundane parts of the app. They have to show the exciting parts with bright graphics and very clean interface. One cannot simply (you think I’m going to say “walk into Mordor” don’t you? :)) make any video. They must put together a great graphical experience for the viewer.
  • App Reviewers – There are many app reviewers on YouTube that are willing to review your app for you. Since you have 50 FREE codes which you can give to people to download your app for free, you can give them to 50 different reviewers who will gladly look over your app. Now this may make your app look bad if the reviewer is a sour grape or if the app is actually bad, but you can always downplay the weaknesses by making your own reviews anonymously. I know this sounds bad but it will help your app get noticed.
  • An Aesthetically Clean Website – If you make a website for your app or app company, that will make your company seem a bit more reputable. Mind you that these websites cannot be made using Free Webs and will cost you money, you will put forth a great view of your app. But make sure that the website is clean and informative of your app so you don’t give the wrong impression of disorganized and cheap.
  • Finally, the Summary – When you release an app, you write a summary about it. Make sure your summary is extensive as can be (milk out every detail of the game) and the screenshots of the game are the best screenshots possible.
Now you have glimpsed what it is like to develop an app successfully. The process may seem obscure and overwhelming but fear not! Steve Demeter of Demiforce made Trism and has made $250,000 in the first 2 months that he released his app. Smule was a company started at Stanford and now practically dominates the musical instrument industry in the app store. There are many people who have become successful by utilizing the iOS app store. So, fear not, and happy coding!

Leave a Comment