Apple's mobile applications opportunity

A student wrote to me: “I am a third year student in computer science. I like your article about mobile apps and want to start writing app for iPhone since I already have an iPhone. How do I start? How do I sell my app? Who do I contact? And How do I get paid?”

Answer: If you want to write app for iPhone, you need to have a Mac Computer (Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook etc.). You cannot develop Apple apps on a Windows or Linux PC. (This is how Mr. Steve Jobs make money). You will need to download the Apple “SDK” and “Xcode” and install them in your Mac computer. From there, you can start create your own app. The development system also includes an “emulator” so you can test your apps to see how it works. You can get many information including “free tutorials” on how to develop app from Apple website:

After created your app, you must test it carefully to make sure it works. By this time, you need to pay Apple $99 dollars to enroll in the iOS developer program. (This is how Mr. Steve Jobs make more money). This will allow you to install your app on your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. It also gives you the access to more tools including new and past versions of the SDK. For testing in this devices, you need an iPhone Development certificate. You can run the “Keychain Access” app on your Mac (in developer tools) and generate a “Certificate Signing Request” then upload it to Apple’s iPhone Developer Program Portal and get the certificate. (For detail, you can follow instructions from Apple’s website).

Next step is registering your iPhone or iPad as a testing device. Then you register your application. Finally, having both application identification and device identification you can generate a “Provisioning Profile” on the Apple website. This gets downloaded, installed into Xcode and you can run your App on your iPhone.

If everything work well then you can distribute your app to Apple’s app store. You can give it for free (No money) or set a price for it. To submit your app to the App Store you need prepare a list of descriptive words so it can be found in the App Store. Three icons (29 x 29, 57 x 57 and 512 x 512). A Launch image that appears while your App is loading. A few (1-4) screenshots of your App’s screens and a contract with Apple. (the contract will specify prices, payment methods between you and Apple). Having complete all these, you can submit to the “ItunesConnect” website, set prices (or is it free) etc. In few days, it should appear in the Apple’s store.

Please note that Apple will test and run your app before they will put it in their stores and sell it for you. They can reject it too. (25% of app gets rejected) so please read Apple’s best practices document and policy carefully. Steve Jobs have a very strong quality standard for all apps in his store. Apple will reject any app that contain: Pornographic or controversial topics, it crashes during Apple’s test, it contains malicious code or virus, and it uses a “private APIs”.

App Stores are very popular for customers to buy mobile apps and for developers to sell their apps. Today, there are over million apps, from games to business and a lot of free apps. Most commercial apps are very reasonable (Less than $1 to $5 per download).

So good luck with your apps and get creative!


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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