Q&A: What’s the Most Cost-Effective way to Get into App Development?

I’m finally back home after a whirlwind speaking tour promoting my new book series iOS App Development for Non-Programmers. The speaking tour took me to London, Istanbul, and Phoenix Arizona!

At these speaking engagements, I’m often asked the question “what is the least expensive way to get started in iOS App development?

The New Mac Mini – Twice the Computer 

If you don’t already own an Intel-based Mac, the least expensive Mac you can purchase is the Mac mini. Yesterday, Apple released a new version of the Mac mini that sells for $599, and it’s a great machine for App development.

The Mac mini isn’t a laptop computer, but it’s a very small (7.7 x 1.4 x 7.7 inches) and lightweight (2.7 pounds) device to which you can connect your existing PC or Mac keyboard and external display.

The new Mac mini comes with a 2.5 Ghz dual core processor (its predecessor had a single core processor) 4 GB of memory (twice as much as its predecessor) and a 500 GB hard drive. The processor speed (2.5 GHz), the number of cores, and the amount of memory (4 GB) dictate how fast your Mac mini runs. Higher processor speeds, additional cores and larger memory increase your speed. The size of the hard drive (500 GB) indicates how much information you can store on your Mac mini. It also comes with four USB 3.0 ports that are about 5 times faster (in the real world) than USB 2.0 ports. For even faster access to peripherals such as displays and external hard drives there is also a Thunderbolt port which connects to newer Thunderbolt-enabled devices.

A Hackintosh?

The term “Hackintosh” refers to a PC that has been hacked to run the Mac OS X operating system. In every class I teach, there are always one or two students running a Hackintosh. Although this does work, I recommend spending some money and getting a real Mac. It runs much faster with a lot less hassle and it’s not illegal!

If You Already Own a Mac

If you already own a Mac, you may be able to use it for iOS development. You need an Intel-based Mac to run Xcode (Macs have either a PowerPC or Intel processor). Any Mac built after August 2006 has an Intel processor. If you’re not sure which processor your Mac has, follow these steps:

1. Click the Apple icon in the main menu on your desktop and select About This Mac.

2. In the About This Mac dialog box, look next to Processor to see which processor your Mac has.

Becoming a Registered Apple Developer

Becoming a registered Apple Developer is free, but if you want to test your Apps on an actual device (you do) and submit them to the App Store, you need to pay an annual developer fee starting at $99—but you can wait to pay this fee until you have climbed the iOS App development learning curve.

The phrase “it takes money to make money” is very true in this case. There is a great potential for getting a return on your investment as you sell Apps in the App Store, or even write Apps for others. This initial investment is well worth it.

Kevin McNeish
Author of the iOS App Development for Non-Programmers book series
Twitter: @kjmcneish 



One thought on “Q&A: What’s the Most Cost-Effective way to Get into App Development?”

  1. Actually Oracle just released something called Oracle ADF mobile – which is an interface that you can use to develop apps for any mobile platform, including iOS. This way you don’t need to buy a Macintosh to develop apps for iOS.

    We are thinking about giving it a try ourselves.

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