This is a list of the minimum requirements for developing an iOS app and deploying it in the App Store. You will need:
Minimum total outlay: £884.49. That's less than Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional with MSDN, which costs £1,249, before you even buy a computer to run it on.
Here are some more details about each of the items you need.
Any of the current range of Macs will be fine as long as you upgrade the lower-spec ones from 2GB to 4GB. Without the extra memory, running your app on the iOS simulator could be slow at times. The cheapest options are:
Although it may be tempting to use a virtual machine hosted under Windows, the Mac OS licence does not permit this. The only legal place to run a Mac OS VM is under Mac OS itself. The only legal place to run Mac OS is on Apple hardware.
This is Apple's Integrated Development Environment. It's used for developing applications for Mac OS X and iOS. It includes all the features you'd expect to find in an IDE: code editor, debugger, screen designer, data modeller, source control integration, on-line documentation library.
Switching from Visual Studio is relatively straightforward as long as you follow a good tutorial. If you don't follow a tutorial you will probably struggle because although they both do similar things, the way in which they do them is different.
Xcode includes iPhone and iPad simulators. This means that if you wish, you can do most of your development without using any iOS hardware.
Xcode is a free download from the Mac App Store.
You can sign up as a developer at developer.apple.com without paying anything. This allows you to download SDKs and run and debug apps under the iOS simulator on your Mac.
Paid membership allows you to run and debug apps on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. It is also a pre-requisite if you want to distribute your apps in the App Store. Price is £59 for individuals and companies, or $299 for companies wishing to deploy in-house apps. This is the price for the entire company—there are no per-seat charges.
If you are developing for iOS, you will have to learn Objective-C. This is the language used by the iOS API, so there is no avoiding it! If you are proficient at C++, Objective-C will be straightforward to learn if you follow a good tutorial. It will be more of an effort if you are used to writing in C or C#.
The best approach is to find a book or course which teaches Objective-C and iOS together. I used iOS Programming - The Big Nerd Ranch Guide, 2nd Edition by Conway & Hillegass. This is now slightly out of date in several important areas, so I would recommend the 3rd edition, which covers Xcode 4.3 and Automatic Reference Counting (price is about £30 from Amazon). ARC is an important addition to Objective-C (it makes life a lot easier) and Xcode 4.3 introduced a number of changes so it is vital to work from a up to date tutorial.
It's wise to test your app on the hardware you plan to deploy it on, so you should have at least one iOS device for this purpose. It will need to be authorised for development use but this is easily done using Apple's developer website (you need to be a paid-up member of the Developer Program).
Debugging is surprisingly fast and responsive so you might find that you run your app natively more frequently than you first expected. If your app makes extensive use of multi-touch gestures, running natively is the only option - although the simulator can mimic basic gestures, it cannot do the more complicated ones.
This might seem unimportant but its essential if you are deploying your app in the App Store. All apps must have a high quality icon measuring 512x512 pixels (other smaller sizes are also required). That's large, so it's important that it's well drawn. If you don't have an icon of this size, you can't submit your app!
Photoshop is a popular choice but it's expensive and difficult to master. A good vector graphics application is iDraw (available in the Mac App Store for £17.49).the advantage of using vector graphics is that it's easy to scale your icon to all the different sizes iOS requires.
Details are correct as of April 2012.
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