How to Make iPhone Apps

By Paul Higgins

Learn how to turn an app concept into a working application users can download from the iOS App Store.

Things You'll Need

  • To develop iPhone and iPod touch applications with SDK you must have an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X Leopard or later.

Turning a concept into a working app that users can download from the App Store requires you to learn a new programming language, to develop the app using a proprietary tool and to submit it to Apple for review.

Learn Objective-C and Cocoa Touch

Developing your first iPhone or iPad app requires you to learn the Objective-C programming language. An evolution of the decades-old C language, you can use Objective-C to develop both iOS and Mac OS X apps.


If this is your first time learning a programming language, consider learning C before moving on to Objective-C. Not only is C easier to learn, it also provides you with a strong foundation on which to build your knowledge of the Objective-C language.

In addition to Objective-C, developing an iOS app also requires you to learn Cocoa Touch, a software environment -- or framework -- that allows your Objective-C code to interact with an iPhone's hardware. While Objective-C works behind the scenes to perform such tasks as managing an app's internal database or keeping a tally of a character's life points in a game, Cocoa Touch handles all interactions with the device's hardware and interface, from using the built-in GPS chip to get a user's current location to responding to user interactions with the touch screen.


  • If learning a new programming language feels too daunting, consider using a free or commercial app maker. App makers, however, are typically better suited for creating basic apps that mostly display static content and may not be suitable for certain types of apps, such as gaming apps.

Install Xcode

Similar to Windows' Visual Studio application, Apple has its own integrated development environment, named Xcode. This free program lets you create new app projects and write your Objective-C and Cocoa Touch code while providing you with hints and checking your code for errors.

Download the latest version of Xcode from the Mac App Store.


Xcode is not available for either the Windows or Unix operating systems. Since Xcode requires only limited processing power and Mac OS X 10.9.4 or later, consider buying a cheap, second-hand Mac if you do not already have an Apple computer.

Enroll in the iOS Developer Program

While using Xcode is free, publishing an app or even installing it on your own iPhone for testing purposes requires you to enroll in Apple's iOS Developer Program and pay a yearly $99 subscription fee.

IOS Developer Program home page.


Enrolling in the iOS Developer Program also gives you access to the iOS Dev Center's training videos and articles.

Test Your App

Testing your app is an important part of the development process, giving you a chance to find and eliminate bugs and therefore provide users with the best possible experience. While Xcode comes with an emulator that lets you test apps directly on your Mac, it is advisable to test your app on real-life devices as well to check how your code interacts with the iPhone's hardware.

Installing a test app on an iPhone requires you to have an active iOS Developer Program subscription and provision the app using Xcode.


If possible, consider testing your app on an iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to check whether it displays correctly under all iPhone resolutions. In addition, test your app under both iOS 8 and iOS 7 to check for compatibility issues that might affect users who have not yet upgraded their device's operating system to the latest version.

Publish Your App

Using Xcode, submit your app to the iOS App Store and wait for Apple to review it. After an Apple employee has checked your app and determined it complies with the company's app quality and user interface guidelines, the company makes your app available for download from the App Store.