Beginners flock to learn iPhone development

Developer interest in Apple's smartphone appears to be alive and well, with new surge of developers signing up for classes in Singapore.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

Developer interest in the Apple iPhone appears to be thriving, with a swell in beginners in Singapore flocking to the platform.

Some observers have said the initial interest in iPhone app development has tapered off since its earlier "gold rush".

But developer interest appears to have been boosted by the new iPhone OS 4 and the launch of the iPad. Apple's upcoming U.S. developer conference in June sold out within eight days of its announcement earlier this month.

In Singapore, a course for beginners with no coding experience also sold out within a week, according to its organizers.

Adrian Chua, a partner at DivZero Consultancy, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that the company's Programming 101 courses which debuted this month were sold out quickly. DivZero has held two 6-hour classes so far, with an attendance of about eight per lesson.

Chua said the lessons have attracted a mix of newbies and some with technical experience. A number of attendees did not have Mac or programming knowledge, but were able to make an app after the course, he said.

Joash Chee, a developer and partner at DivZero, added that the course fees of S$449 (US$323) include the cost of putting up an app in the App Store.

Apple's App Store requires developers to sign up for a license costing US$99 per year. Chee estimates the overall cost of getting an initial app listed to be US$230, including purchasing tools for app development.

In order to absorb this cost, DivZero publishes its course graduates' apps through the company's Apple App Store account and returns them the revenues earned from their creations, he said.

Chua noted that most of the attendees said they were interested in the course to learn a new skill, with some hoping their creations could earn them some passive income.

Two companies in the U.S., Appwhirl and Appvoyage, earlier in March announced they were coming out with tools to help users with no programming experience make and submit apps to the App Store.

Ideas make winning apps
For one developer in Singapore, iPhone app development has graduated from providing a passive income to becoming a full-time occupation.

Lim Thye Chean recently became a full-time mobile app developer. Having started by placing free apps in the store in January last year, he released his first two paid apps in October, which started making US$100 in their first month out in the store.

This income has grown beyond the initial US$1,000 mark that he set for himself as a yardstick to decide whether he would go full-time, he said.

Between coding proficiency and design ideas, Lim said the latter was more crucial in the making of a winning app.

"A good app has nothing to do with how the app is implemented, but how it is executed, [whether it is] fast and suitable to the needs of the users.

"What makes an app successful has more to do with ideas, and whether developers make use of the platform properly," he said.

This means that with the tools available, a beginner is fully capable of generating a simple app, he said.

Nonetheless, more complicated apps such as games would naturally require programming and designing expertise, Lim said. In this case, "iPhone development is probably not suitable for beginners", he added.

Lim said his efforts are now focused on the iPad. He has made four apps for the tablet device, and intends to continue developing for it.

The iPad is also based on the iPhone OS.

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