If you've ever wanted to try your hand at developing iPhone and iPad apps, now is the best time to get started. Not only does any delay put you further behind in terms of competing in the marketplace and making your own mark, but after three years, there are plenty of great tools and services to help you get up to speed quickly.
The best thing about developing mobile apps is how an individual or a pair of developers can compete on semi-equal footing with large development shops. They may have more marketing budget, but what drives app sales more than anything is word of mouth and good reviews in the app store, so anyone with a great idea can be successful selling their app.
So how do you get started developing iPad and iPhone apps?
1. The first step is to play around with the development tools. Apple's official development platform is called Xcode and is a free download. You won't be able to put your apps up for sale without a developer's license, but you can play around with the environment and find out how long it might take to come up to speed. Xcode uses Objective-C for developing iPhone and iPad apps, and it can also be used to develop applications for the Mac OS.
Note: You will need a Mac to develop iOS applications, but it need not be the most powerful Mac in the world. A Mac Mini is more than sufficient for creating iPhone and iPad apps. (Shop for a Mac Mini)
Don't know Objective-C? Corona is an alternative to Xcode based on the LUA language, which has similarities to BASIC programming and is a friendlier alternative for new developers. You won't get as much control as developing in Xcode, but Corona does have one major advantage over Xcode: it supports both iOS and Android development.
2. If you don't already know a C-based language like C++ or Java, you may want to purchase a book on iPhone app development. There are many great books available that will walk you through developing simple applications that can kickstart your app development.
For those familiar with programming in C++, it might make more sense to simply come up with small app ideas and wade into the development platform by jumping into the deep end. In this regard, searching Google or becoming a member of a forum such as those hosted at iPhone Dev SDK can help you solve problems that are specific to Objective-C.
3. Refine your idea and adapt iPad and iPhone best practices. It is a good idea to download similar apps from the app store and draw out your screens. Also note where you think the app went wrong. Developing a graphical user interface (GUI) for the iPhone and iPad is different than developing for the PC or the web. You will need to take into account the limited screen space, the lack of a mouse and physical keyboard and the existence of a touchscreen.
You can get started on this by reviewing the iOS Human Interface Guidelines at developer.apple.com.
4. Now that you have a refined idea and know your way around the development platform, it's time to join Apple's developer program. You will need to do this in order to submit your apps to the Apple App Store. The program costs $99 per year and offers you two support calls during that period, so if you do get stuck on a programming issue, there is some recourse.
Note: You will need to choose between enrolling as an individual or as a company. Enrolling as a company requires a legal company and documentation like Articles of Incorporation or a Business License. A Doing Business As (DBA) does not fulfill this requirement. If you have a DBA and are an individual developer, you can enroll as an Individual and still use your DBA name in the app store.
5. Pushing Hello, World to your iPhone or iPad. Rather than jump straight into app development, it's a good idea to create a standard "Hello, World" app and push it to your iPhone or iPad. This requires getting a developer's certificate and setting up a provisioning profile on your device. It's best to do this now so that you won't have to stop and figure out how to do it when you get to the Quality Assurance stage of development.
To do this, log into the iOS Dev Center and click on the "iOS Provisioning Portal" on the right side of the screen under the "iOS Developer Program" section. This is the screen that lets you create certificates and register your devices. In the center of the screen is a highlighted section for getting your application on an iOS device. Clicking the "Launch Assistant" button will guide you through the process.