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Build your own iPhone app

So you fancy having a go at building your own iPhone application? Well, we’ve put together a few helpful tips and considerations to guide you along the way.

“I've got a great idea! All I need to do is put it into an iPhone application and away we go!”

Does this sound familiar to you? This is how it can be when you don’t have the time, experience or ability to follow through with the ideas. If you do have these skills and the direction to build an iPhone application, perhaps you need the idea? It does not take 3 minutes to have an innovative idea; it takes time, knowledge, and collaboration to all come together.

Your idea must be technologically feasible, time manageable and financially viable. And make sure that you are following legal and moral practices (of which there are lots) and company ISO and quality procedures.

Right – so then we just write the iPhone application code?

No! In order to get your mitts on the juicy iPhone Application Programming Interface (API) you must first be a registered iPhone developer. Follow this link to learn how to become a Registered iPhone developer.

Now I’m registered, when can I start writing? iPhone applications are written in C# or Java right?

Guess again! A big problem facing digital agencies is that programming iPhone applications is not as straight forward as you first expect. Successful agencies have a good spread of technical knowledge mostly around (x)HTML CSS PHP XML Javascript Java .Net etc. However, iPhone applications are written in Objective-C and this can be a very steep learning curve.

Some digital agencies are actually hiring in devoted iPhone developers! Beware of the complexity of the coding involved before starting an iPhone development project.

Remember, you are not building a site, an application or a data rendering product. There are many considerations for developing on any mobile device and the most important of these is the restricted performance of mobile devices in comparison to the meaty desktops we are all so used to. One small memory leak could see your crispy clean iPhone application fall over in seconds.

For more information read memory management for iPhone developers. Apple also provide video tutorials on how to get started developing iPhone applications with lots of sample iPhone code and example code snippets and a full iPhone reference library.

I have learnt the new language, written the logic and now need some funky animation. Can I use flash?

Unfortunately not! Smooth animations and sexy transitions all have to be coded in the native iPhone language. While you may be used to peeling animation, transitions and the cute, fun and fluffy overlays on and off other applications, you are likely to find that it needs much more careful thought in the mobile environment.

Ok, I’m getting there - I have the idea, the logic, the animations – I’m now ready to add the design! Once that’s done, I just load it up to iTunes and hey-presto it all works?

In order to upload your application to the iTunes store you must first be registered as an iPhone developer and have an iTunes connect account. The process will then differ depending on whether you intend to make your app freely available or charge for it. The latter requires much more detail about contracts, tax and banking information. As a non-US business you are also required to register with the IRS in America to get an EIN (US Tax ID).

Once approved, you must next prepare your application for distribution and submit it via iTunes connect. Completing a submission requires the following: basic information about the application, categorization, logos, screenshots and finally the app bundle file itself.

After submission, Apple will take anywhere between 2 – 4 weeks to review the application. Remember that once approved, every application update will also have to go through the same review and approval process. Deploying bug fixes in your application is therefore not a quick turnaround.

Other considerations when developing an iPhone application

When developing an application for the iPhone you will have to look at various restrictions and considerations that you will not be used to looking for. Here is a small list to help get you started…

  • iPhone User Experience
  • Mobile Memory Restrictions
  • following the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines
  • Support of current and future iPhone application releases
  • Feedback from your users - reporting bugs, issues, new suggestions and ideas.
  • Documentation (iTunes, app, microsite etc)
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