As an aspiring student who is currently studying computer science, I’ve been wanting to get a head start on my career by teaching myself how to create applications for both Android and iOS. For Android, this is cheap. I can use whatever computer I want, regardless of the operating system and I wouldn’t even need an Android device since Google supplies their developers with an emulator (though I’d still recommend you get one). Beyond that, there’s just a $25 developer fee. After that, you’re pretty much all set. With your current computer, a brand new Moto G and the developer cost, you’re only looking at a one time payment of $205.
If you’re thinking about making apps for iOS but don’t have any actual Apple devices, things get a bit more complicated and more expensive. Here’s the minimum hardware that we recommend if you’re looking to wrap your head around iOS development on a budget.
Your first buy: the Mac Mini
The Mac Mini is Apple’s cheapest offering at $499. Apple just refreshed the Mac Mini after 2 years without improvements. To be frank, we wished they had left it alone. Sure it was $599 before the refresh, but it was also 70-80% more powerful.
For the newbie iOS developer, this has your name written all over it. With 4GB of RAM, you’ll have to keep your multitasking to a minimum. Once all of your iOS development takes off and you’re banking off of that soundboard app you made, you can always upgrade to a better Apple device later.
The minimum for this category is $499 but if you have a few more dollars to spare, we recommend the 2.6GHz Mac mini which cost $699.00. This Mac Mini has 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive compared to the $499 model that has a 500GB hard drive and clocks in at 1.4GHz Mac mini. If you’ve got good credit, Apple does have some special financing available. Apple will give you 12 months to pay for either Mac Mini we just discussed.
Total so far: $500 (rounding up)
Your next buy: the iPod touch
Thankfully, when you’re physically testing your iOS app, you only need one iDevice to simulate all the others. With that being said, it’s best to get the cheapest among the iDevices. The winner of this selection by total knock out is the iPod touch 16GB weighing in at $199. Of course, it is entirely possible to create an iOS app without any iDevice using Xcode’s simulator. However, as Apple themselves have pointed out, certain apps aren’t available on the simulator. The camera app is just one example. So if your app needs to use the camera, you’re out of luck. Furthermore, there will be bugs and performance problems that the simulator won’t be able to catch compared to having a physical device to test it on.
If you’re just trying to learn, go ahead and rely on the simulator but this list is geared towards those who are trying to put out an actual product. Therefor, the minimum for this section is $199.
Total so far: $700 (rounding up)
Your Last Buy: the iOS Developer Program
If you’re in school and your school is enrolled in the iOS University Developer Program, you can stop counting at $700. In fact, if your school has Apple computers, all you possibly have to worry about is getting an iPod touch. For those of us (like myself) who aren’t so blessed, we’ll have to shell out $99 a year to be apart of the iOS Developer Program. There’s absolutely no way around this one.
If you came here and you’re trying to become an iOS developer on a budget with the intentions of making proprietary apps for internal distribution within your company, organization, government entity or educational institution, I have bad news your pockets don’t want to hear. You’ll have to get the iOS Developer Enterprise Program. That’ll set you back $299 per year. There’s no alternative.
If you’re not looking to make apps for internal use at a company, the minimum for this section is $99 a year unless your school is utilizing the iOS Developer University Program. If you’re trying to make apps for your company, your minimum for this section is $299.
Overall Total (no internal support for organizations): $800 to start, $100 a year after the first year
Overall Total (internal support for organizations): $1000 to start, $300 a year after the first year
While developing for iOS is a lot more expensive than doing so for Android, top notch companies still rather develop for iOS before Android, if Android at all. Taking a look at the numbers, there’s way more Android developers. This is likely the result of the inexpensive hardware requirements and an inexpensive developer requirement that only requires one payment.
If you’re serious about making iOS apps, don’t let the amount of money needed to get started scare you. There’s always a way. If you can’t afford it all at once, look into Apple financing options. If you found this helpful at all in visualizing the cost of becoming an iOS developer, subscribe and comment below! It’s a great way to show your thanks.