Feel that you simply must hire an iOS development company, for making apps on this platform? Well, you can develop iPhone apps on your own too, by following the steps explained below.
If you want to make a mobile app, what do you do first? That’s right, you log on to the internet, and start looking for an app development company which would be best suited to handle your project. For most people, the actual development process is some sort of a black box – the app idea goes in at one end, and the final version of the app comes out at the other. That however, should not be the case – and you should have at least a rough idea about how apps are developed. You might even try to develop your own app (it’s not that tough!), with proper knowledge and all the necessary tools. In the following discussion, we have outlined the steps to create an iPhone app broadly followed by companies. You can follow them to make an app yourself too:
Set up a Mac computer – Visit the offices of any iPhone app company, and you will find that nearly all the computers over there are iMacs. The reason is simple enough: for making iOS apps, you need an Apple computer. If you plan to make your own app, get a Mac computer, running on Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8) or later OS version. If you have not used a Mac before, you will need a couple of days to grow comfortable working with it.
Download the latest version of Xcode – For the uninitiated, Xcode is the default integrated development environment (IDE) for iOS/Mac development experts. You will need to download Xcode 6.0.1, which comes with the iOS 8 SDK. Mobile app companies invariably use this version of Xcode too – since it is of essence at present that apps are compatible with the iOS 8 platform. Remember, on Mac systems running on versions earlier than Mountain Lion, Xcode cannot be downloaded.
Look for a decent vector graphics program – If you wish to make an iOS app as an experiment, a free program like DrawBerry would do just fine. However, for high-end, professional standard mobile app designing – a more functional vector graphics program is required. Take your pick from Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw (there are plenty of fans of Xara Designer too). To pique user-interest and bolster downloads, an app has to ‘look good’ too, and for that, these programs are of essence.
Learn the language – Okay, now comes the time most laymen dread – when you have to learn how to code for apps. You will need to learn up everything about Objective-C first, and then move on to Apple’s new programming language, Swift (which already has the ‘Gold Master’ status). In case you have delegated your project to an iPhone app development agency, you need not learn the languages per se – but do inquire about the coding methods that are being used.
A text editor is generally necessary – Most mobile app developers are of this opinion, even though it is theoretically possible to do the entire coding inside Xcode. Handling long and complex codes can become particularly confusing, unless you have a text editor that supports all relevant programming syntaxes. JEdit is an editor that can serve you well in this regard.
The ‘What’ and the ‘Why’ – Now that you have most of the tools ready, and have not yet signed up for an Apple Developer account (more on that later), take time out to think what your app would be all about. Irrespective of whether you are doing the development yourself or have got in touch with an iOS app agency – you need to be very clear about your app’s functionality, its target audience, its principal purpose(s), the monetization strategy, and the like. Mobile app development is not a domain where you can ‘think-as-you-go’ – prior planning is an absolute must!
Register yourself as an Apple Developer – If you are making an iPhone app, you intend to release it at the app store, right (or else, there won’t be any point!)? Well, for that, you will need to register for an Apple Developer account (the annual charge is $99). Once you are a registered iOS developer, you can download sample test apps for learning purposes. You can even tweak the codes around in Xcode. The more you practice, the better you will become as a developer.
Create a storyboard – Again, for all the newbies out there – storyboarding is the technique used for managing the visual representations and transitions of your app screens. Do a bit of research on the web, or ask any mobile app developer worth his/her salt, to find out how you can create a storyboard and assign it to your application. A common mistake that many new developers make is, storing the ‘Main’ storyboard file and the project at different locations. Please note that they have to be saved at the same location.
Start designing the UI – Next up in the workflow of iPhone app development is the creation of user-interface (UI). You will need the Interface Builder and the Frameworks tools – both of which are provided by Apple Inc. The first makes it easy to visually implement navigation bars, buttons, labels and other in-built screen objects to your app. The second, on the other hand, ensures proper customization – so that your app actually becomes functional on iOS devices. (Note: Frameworks are required for Mac apps as well).
Hire a graphic designer – Or if a company is handling your project, find out whether it has a separate mobile app designing (UI/UX) team. A successful app is invariably a combination of smart coding and creative designing – but it would be a folly to assume that the same person/team can do both the tasks. With practice, you might become an excellent developer, but you will still need the help of an experienced graphic designer to lend that extra appeal to the app screens. Stay away from companies which do not have specialized designers.
Know the difference between Cocoa and Cocoa Touch – New developers have a tendency to think that working with Objective-C, Cocoa and Cocoa Touch is roughly the same. Nothing can be further from the truth. For starters, Obj-C is a programming language, while the others are app development frameworks. And if you are looking to make an iPhone app, it is Cocoa Touch (created with Foundation and UIKit) that you require. Cocoa is used for creating desktop applications.
Add splash screen and images – The task of adding images to an Xcode 6 project requires a certain level of expertise, as any developer would confirm. There is also a difference between pictures added for hi-res and retina displays. You need to either learn the techniques, or get a rough overview about them from the representatives of your chosen iOS app agency. At this stage, you will also need to create the splash screen (the screen that is displayed as the app loads). It has to be engaging, give a basic idea about the app’s functionality, have the name and icon of the app, and MUST NOT linger for more than 8-10 seconds.
Are you developing a game for iPhone? – Successful mobile games for kids and adults alike on the iOS platform have tremendous revenue potentials (Candy Crush Saga, anyone?). If you too wish to make a game, you will need to get familiar with the SpriteKit tool (more on that here), along with the OpenGL ES and the Game Kit frameworks. To locate controllers on iOS devices, you will also need the Game Controller tool.
Testing and debugging – Don’t worry, you won’t have to do everything manually here. Xcode comes with a built-in iOS Simulator – which facilitates mobile app testing on a variety of simulated devices. In addition, you need to install and test the app on your own iPhone (after building the app, of course), and distribute it for testing in an expert focus group. If you are making the app yourself, seek the help of your colleagues, family members and other acquaintances for this purpose. Gather feedback on your app (regarding whether it is crashing frequently, or is making devices slower than usual, etc.), and proceed to the debugging stage accordingly. Any good mobile app company would be similarly systematic about the testing phase as well.
Time to release the app – The hard work’s done, now you have to release your app at the store. After making the distribution build (make sure that the app is compatible with Retina display and the iOS 8 platform), you will have to connect to the iTunes Dashboard. Over there, fill up all the requisite information, and then, upload your iPhone application. This is probably the only step you need not worry about at all, if you avail the services of a reliable mobile app agency. The latter would take care of app submissions.
Once you have submitted your app, you will go into the ‘In Review’ status in a few days. You will be intimated soon enough by Apple, regarding whether the app has been approved or rejected. There is no need to get too disheartened if the latter happens – you can learn from your mistakes, and come up with a better app in future.
This is only an overview of how you should (or companies do, for that matter) go about iPhone application development projects. You will, of course, need to know all about classes, objects, view controllers, timers, and other programming nitty-gritty, before trying to make an app. Whether you have hired a mobile app company or not, you will have to do some promotions of the applications on your own too (via social media channels, emails, etc.). Most people prefer to pay a reasonable fee to a company for transforming their ideas into apps for the iOS platform – but creating a DIY app is certainly not impossible!
Not all mobile app development companies rank equally well on the quality and reliability fronts. We here present some parameters on the basis of which you can judge whether a company is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ one.
Connect your laptop to the internet, visit Google, and look for ‘mobile app development company’. Within a fraction of a second, you will be rewarded with the names of hundreds of app agencies. Go through the websites of a few – and you will find one common feature: each of them claims to be the best in the business. So, how can you decide whether a company is indeed good, or is over-inflating its capabilities. Here are a few telltale signs:
Availability of free app quotes – The service charges for getting an app developed by a company are not insignificant, but that does not mean you have to ‘buy’ app quotes as well. A good, customer-oriented app company would provide free, detailed app quotation statements – while a shady one would have either a charge on that, or have some hidden cost clauses (say, a fee on every future upgrade). Avoid the latter variety.
Updated knowledge pool – There are iPhone app development companies that have started working with Swift programming language, and there are the ones which are still providing those old, static Objective-C coding solutions. With Android 5.0 Lollipop having released as well, a decent mobile app agency simply must invest time and money on training sessions – so that their developers have updated knowledge. The techniques that worked great even a year back might be outdated now.
Flexible budget options – A good mobile software company is focused on delivering client-satisfaction, while a bad one is after as much money as possible – it’s as simple as that. Find out from the representatives of the companies you have shortlisted (you can also check their websites for this) whether multiple budget slabs are available (along with the nature of app creation services associated with each slab). If there are no such options, move on. You are not bound to pay whatever a company demands.
Entire payments in advance – No reliable mobile app developer would ask for the entire service charge to be paid upfront. Instead, there would be a pre-specified, spaced out payment schedule – with the biggest installment being due AFTER the app has been completed and handed over. Unfortunately, there is no dearth of companies that demand full/almost full advance payments, and then keep their clients hanging midway through projects.
Cross-platform capabilities – Maybe they are not ‘bad’ per se, but hiring a specialized iOS or Android-only company would not be advisable. Nearly every popular app has customized versions for different platforms (including versions for Blackberry and Windows Mobile). In this age of red-hot mobile revolution, if a company does not offer cross-platform mobile app development – you can rest assured that its portfolio is limited. Go for companies that have large portfolios of iPhone, Android and Blackberry applications.
Your idea vs their idea – The degree to which a mobile app company lets you participate in the development process is another important indicator. A responsible agency will ask for preliminary app descriptions and ideas from you, and would use them as the launchpad for their brainstorming/concept development activities. A shady app developer, on the other hand, would try to plonk its own app ideas on you. There won’t be much (if any) chances of giving inputs.
Size of app development teams – This is not to say that small app development companies are necessarily inferior to the large, multinational ones. However, if you entrust a firm with, say, 5 developers with your project – there is every chance that inordinate and unforeseen (at least, that’s what they will say!) delays will crop up. Presence of a relatively large app development team would ensure that whenever any developer calls in sick, there would be others to take over the job, and the project deadline is not unduly extended.
Is the company projecting mobile app development as a ‘black box’? – If yes, you have, sadly, fallen in the clutches of a totally unreliable app development agency. The reason is simple: even if you are not a techie, a good developer would always share app wireframes and mockups with you, organize meetings and feedback sessions at regular intervals, and keep you in touch right through the stages of development. A good app company asks for recommendations and mid-project approvals, a bad one keeps things mysterious.
Agreeing to sign non-disclosure agreements – Violating intellectual property rights is a mischief that most shady app companies engage in. They are all for passing your app ideas as your own – and as such, will be reluctant to sign any form of non-disclosure and/or non-competing agreements. In the business world, verbal promises count for very little. If you feel that there are chances of disputes over intellectual property rights cropping up in future – save yourself the trouble, and look for another, more transparent agency.
Testimonials and app reviews – It is only natural for an iPhone/Android app development company to boast of the glowing reviews its products have received from clients. There’s a teeny-weeny problem regarding this though – many companies resort to publishing fake testimonials on their websites. The willingness (or the lack of it!) of a company to share the contact details of its previous clients with you is an indicator of its authenticity. Also, check the reviews its applications have received at the Apple and Android app stores. At least those cannot be fake!
Milestones or no milestones? – If a company is indeed as ‘busy’ as it claims to be, its in-house mobile app developers have to be masters at task management. That, in turn, means that the developers adopt a milestone-based approach while creating any new app (i.e., the entire project is divided into smaller, systematic phases). The agencies that do not bother with this approach tend to get things botched up pretty soon. Lack of task-synchronization is a precursor to confusions.
Dependence on third-party companies – Does the app company you have selected accept projects and then delegate them to other smaller agencies? If yes, stay well away from it. A good smartphone app development agency would take full responsibility of each of its projects. If you are paying money to a company for making an app, you should make sure that the agency is indeed ‘earning’ the money – instead of simply acting as a middleman.
Emphasis on app testing – App companies that have slack day-to-day operational policies often find themselves in a race against time to complete projects. In such cases, the phase that gets neglected the most is mobile app testing. Find out from the company officials how they plan to test your application, once it has been developed. If they do not appear to be quite sure, that’s a sureshot sign that they intend to neglect the testing procedures as well. The result? You will end up with a buggy app!
Who takes care of the creatives? – If it’s the developers themselves, it won’t be worth it to get into a contract with that company. Programming expertise and proficiency in mobile app designing are two entirely different things – and you cannot expect the same person/team perform both tasks equally well (in particular, a developer can never be a great graphic designer). Good companies invariably have separate teams for app development and UI/UX designing.
If a company claims itself to be ‘multinational’, inquire as to where its overseas offices are located. Leading mobile app companies make it a point to ensure availability to clients on a 24×7 basis. In short, be wary of anything that a company might be bluffing about. A good company never has to resort to false pretences – its apps and service support speak for themselves!
When you upgrade your smartphone to a new OS version, it is always advisable to gather thorough knowledge about the latter first. With Android 5.0 Lollipop set to become available soon, let’s take a tour of the interesting additional features it has on offer for users.
When Google officially announced the release of Android 5.0 Lollipop (referred to as ‘Android L’ for months) in October, it was generally assumed that the new platform would debut on the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices. However, if recent rumors and speculations are anything to go by, LG G3 and Moto X are going to get the upgrade option first – even before the Nexus phones start shipping. If you are an Android fan and wish to upgrade to Lollipop as soon as it is available, here are a few tips that will help you make the best use of the new mobile platform:
Keeping the home screen uncluttered – Android Lollipop offers a handy alternative to simply adding more and more mobile apps to the home screen of your device. Navigate to Play Store → Settings, and uncheck the box that indicates automatic addition of apps to your home screen. You can download as many applications as you want, but there’s no point in making the home screen a jamboree.
Is your device rooted? – If yes, proceed with caution. Researches conducted by mobile software analysts and app developers confirm that average Android phone owners jump at the first chance to root their devices. In case you had done the same too, head to any Cyanogenmod forum (even XDA would be helpful) to make sure that upgrading to Android 5.0 Lollipop would not cause any device/data damages. Most people are not tech geeks, and it’s better to be on the safer side before doing a system upgrade.
Check out the notifications options – Much has been written about the ‘Material Design’ and revamped notification system in the new Android platform – but this is something that many are not yet aware of. On an upgraded device, you can actually control the type, number and nature of notifications that you would like to receive. You will find three alternative options – All, Priority and None (the names indicate the notifications you get). Each of the options can be set for specific time-spans, and you can toggle between the different options. Now get ‘interrupted’ only when you wish to!
Keep an eye on the phone battery – The biggest terror of any smartphone-user is the fast-draining battery (no exceptions between iOS and Android devices here) of their handsets. Thankfully, when you upgrade to Android Lollipop – you will at least be able to get an early pointer as to when you need to reach out for the charger. Under ‘Quick Settings’, you will find the remaining battery juice (expressed as percentage) displayed, at any time. A simple 2-finger swipe is all that’s required to check how much battery juice your Android device has left.
Yahoo! Mail and Gmail can be accessed simultaneously – No longer do you have to log out of Gmail, every time you need to access your Yahoo account (or vice versa). The two can be set up together on a Lollipop-upgraded device. To enable this, you will have to tap on the ‘Add Account’ feature (under ‘Settings’). The new Android platform supports a wide range of POP3/IMAP services – and you can even access Exchange on your handset.
Don’t be in a tearing hurry to upgrade – Once the upgrade option comes on your device (stay alert if you are a LG, Moto X, or Nexus user!), it’s not going to disappear or anything. If you are outdoors when the ‘good news’ comes, do not try to install the upgrade on the go. Android 5.0 Lollipop is, after all, a new platform – and chances of technical complicacies cropping up during the installation process cannot be entirely ruled out. Android app development experts unanimously advise that it would be smarter to start the upgrade when you are at home, and are not doing any other task simultaneously. Give Lollipop your full attention!
You can add multiple users – While, of course, retaining your ‘admin/master user’ privileges. After you have installed Android Lollipop, tap the blue circular icon near the top of the screen, to add additional users on your device. Each user can pick personalized themes and desktop display options. You have the right to delete any user account at any time too (it’s your phone, after all). With its new mobile platform, Google is looking to get entire families involved in smartphone usage.
Unlocking via Bluetooth is a cool option – Tired of having to enter your PIN every time you wish to connect your Android device to another handset via Bluetooth? With Lollipop, this is one worry you can bid adieu to. Select the ‘Add As Trusted Device’ tab under ‘Smart Lock’ (in ‘Settings’), and add your unique security code – and your device can be auto-unlocked via Bluetooth. Be wary of adding too many devices under ‘trusted devices’ though.
A better battery performance (fingers crossed!) – If the hype in mobile app development communities is anything to go by, Android 5.0 Lollipop is all set to enhance battery performance by more than 30% (compared to the Android Kitkat platform). Project Volta adds a smarter edge to all the task-management and memory-handling services of your phone, helping you optimize battery usage levels. What’s more – there is a built-in battery-saver mode as well. You can activate it whenever the battery level becomes low.
Google Now becomes more personalized – Right from setting reminders and tweaking the settings, to managing the content you wish to be displayed – on an Android 5.0 Lollipop-powered handset, you can customize Google Now in just the way you want. In the default search bar, you will find a settings icon. Tap on it, and arrange the settings of your mobile digital voice assistant. Siri on iOS 8 has become smarter – but in Google Now on Android Lollipop, it has a real worthy competitor.
Spare the Power button – Once you have done the upgrade, you will not have to reach for the ‘Power’ button to wake up your phone every time. Instead, you can simply double-tap on the screen, and the device would become active. From any Android app developer/tester, find out whether your handset has the necessary hardware for this feature. If not, you will have to get those hardware installations done first.
Finally, 64-bit support arrives on Android – ART (Android Runtime) has replaced Dalvik in Android Lollipop, and together with the 64-bit OS architecture – it has made the Google mobile platform more robust than ever before. Mobile app developers have, in particular, highlighted that all pure Java applications as well as native apps will be supported on Android 5.0. The Strategic Bit Gap between Android and iOS will cease to exist after you have upgraded your phone.
Enjoy HQ surround sound – 5.1 Surround Sound is yet another noteworthy feature in the latest version of Android. If you are all for watching movies and listening to music on the go, tap the ‘Enable Surround Sound’ tab under ‘Settings’. The audio quality is excellent – and enabling surround sound does not cause any extra battery drainage either.
Manage wi-fi settings with greater ease – Android Lollipop facilitates smarter options to work your way around hefty wi-fi and data charges. You can get early notifications for all types of large data downloads (as well as restrict unnecessary background data), by metering the default wi-fi settings of your phone. If syncing to a mobile network/cellular connection is possible – you need not activate wi-fi at all. Under Google Settings app → Drive-enabled app, there is an option to turn on only the wi-fi (without any additional connections) too.
The option of marking any application as a ‘Priority App’ on the Android Lollipop platform has also come in for praise from mobile app development professionals worldwide. Whenever you get bulk notifications, you can simply pinch to view them (even on lockscreen). There might be some initial bugs in the new platform (just like the problems iOS 8 ran into) – but Google would surely issue fixes and solutions soon enough (if required). The adoption rate of Android 5.0 Lollipop is likely to be way higher than that of Kitkat. Follow the above tips – and you will be set to enjoy all the advantages of the new platform.