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iOS Developer

BrainStation’s iOS Developer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in iOS Development. Read on for an overview of iOS development training options, career paths, how to become an iOS Developer, and more.

Become an iOS Developer

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What Is an iOS Developer?

An iOS Developer is a Web or Software Developer specifically focused on building, testing, and refining apps for mobile devices powered by Apple’s iOS operating system using one of the two programming languages used in creating iOS apps, Objective-C or Swift.

IOS Developers create apps for use with a wide variety of Apple devices, including the iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and iPad.

iOS Development vs. Android Development

If you’re interested in a career in mobile development but aren’t sure which operating system is right here for you, here are some of the main differences between being an iOS Developer and an Android Developer.

iOS:

  • Developers write code using Swift programming language or Objective-C
  • uses Apple’s Xcode development environment (not open source)
  • is considered faster to create apps for
  • offers a secure environment
  • has users that tend to spend more money
  • has a larger market share in Japan and the U.S.

Android:

  • Developers write code using Java as their primary programming language
  • is an open-source platform
  • offers arguably less security with its apps
  • has users that tend to download more apps
  • has a larger market share worldwide

What Does an iOS Developer do?

An iOS developer designs, builds, and maintains apps for Apple devices that use the iOS operating software. It’s the job of an iOS Developer to code base apps (likely using Swift or Objective-C), run tests on apps to ensure quality, fix bugs, and implement any updates to apps.

A typical IOs Developer job description will also include responsibilities like collaborating with business stakeholders to create and deliver new features on time, writing automated tests, participating in code reviews, and publishing apps to the App Store.

Given that this is a highly collaborative job position, your average mid-level IOs Developer could often work alongside a Software Engineer, UX Designer, Product Manager, Data Scientist, Project Manager, or even senior company leadership as they work on advanced or long term projects.

What Are iOS Developer Job Responsibilities?

An iOS Developer job description would likely include all of the following responsibilities:

  • Designing and building advanced apps for mobile devices that use Apple’s iOS platform
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams to design, define, and ship new app features.
  • Unit-testing code for robustness, including edge cases, usability, and general reliability, to ensure quality and performance of apps.
  • Identifying potential problems, fixing bugs, and resolving app bottlenecks.
  • Fixing application bugs before final release.
  • Publishing app on App Store.
  • Maintaining the code and atomization of the iOS application and designing and implementing app updates.
  • Continuously discover, evaluate, and implement new technologies to maximize app development efficiency.

iOS Developer Education

Many iOS Developers come to the field after pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science, software engineering, or mathematics, but that’s not true of all iOS Developers. Many didn’t even start their careers in the field at all; BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Survey showed that more than half of iOS Developer respondents began working in a field other than iOS development before making a career change.

A bachelor’s degree will no doubt help, but clearly, there are specific skills relating to iOS Development that simply can’t be acquired in a traditional college degree program. Even someone with programming or software development experience might not have the exact skillset necessary to become an iOS Developer and would likely need to work to upskill.

A part-time iOS Development would give you the technical skills necessary to build off whatever prior educational or professional experience you’ve had in a development environment. You could also try the self-taught route, keeping in mind that there are certain programming languages and tools — Objective C, Swift, and Xcode — that you absolutely must master before you can become an iOS Developer.

Characteristics of a Successful iOS Developer

All successful iOS Developers seem to share a few traits in common. Here are the characteristics of a successful iOS Developer:

A Good iOS Developer Has Outstanding Technical Skills

A successful iOS Developer will be fluent and skilled in a number of essential programming languages and tools. Specifically, an iOS Developer must be comfortable with the following:

  • Objective C. The longstanding principle programming language used to write software for iOS (and for any Apple or Mac operating system), Objective C is like an added layer atop C, making it highly compatible with C++. True to its name, Objective C is a simple computer language designed to enable sophisticated object-oriented programming.
  • Swift. While Objective C is an offshoot of C, Swift was purpose-made for programming for iOS and other Apple operating systems. According to Apple, Swift runs 2.6 times faster than Objective C. Swift is a young programming language that is growing quickly, developing a strong community that actively contributes to its formation. And at this stage of development, Swift isn’t restricted to the Apple ecosystem only. It’s started running in the Linux environment too.
  • Xcode is a suite of tools designed for building software for Apple’s various operating systems. It supports a wide variety of languages including C, C++, Objective C, Java, Python, Ruby, and Swift). Tightly integrated with the Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks, Xcode is a complete developer toolkit for creating apps for Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Xcode collects user interface design, coding, testing, debugging, and submitting to the App Store all into one unified workflow.

A Good iOS Developer Understands Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines

Every iOS Developer job description will call for knowledge of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, which provide in-depth information and user interface resources for all of Apple’s platforms.

Apple created the guide to help designers create more compelling, intuitive, and beautiful experiences and design better iOS apps with better user interactions.

The Human Interface Guidelines can be helpful at every stage of the software development process, as it offers a comprehensive view of key UI elements and associated APIs, as well as best practices to help you implement features into your app.

iOS Developers Are Team Players

Rarely will an iOS Developer work in isolation. You’ll likely work on a development team that will include other app developers, web developers, content producers, web designers, UX/UI designers, and product managers, and your work will affect departments including sales, marketing, data analysis, and customer service.

Navigating all of those relationships will require communication skills, patience, and empathy. To succeed in creating killer iOS apps, you’ll need to lean on the help and wisdom of those around you, even though they might not understand the specifics of your job.

They Understand Spatial Reasoning

One of the most crucial elements in developing an app is spatial reasoning. You must get inside the mind of the end-user of the app to understand how they will interact with it.

To do this, the iOS Developer must have the ability to imagine the spatial relationship between objects. By thinking logically as a user, you will be able to design an interface and add functionalities that improve accessibility and usability.

They Place the Proper Importance on Networking

Networking is one of those oft-overlooked iOS development skills that is nevertheless mandatory to possess. If your iOS app can’t interact with the web and the majority of its features don’t work, what good is it?

Nowadays, almost every mobile application needs to interact with the web in one way or another and this is why networking is important. That’s why even app development companies pay close attention to the networking aspect of an app.

They Have an Apple Mindset

Becoming a successful iOS Developer means having a deep understanding of the Apple landscape and all Apple products.

It’s not simply about building a great app, but also knowing how to make a great app that is perfectly compatible with all Apple devices (and intuitive to Apple users) that will empower you to build something that will send Mac fans flocking to the App Store.

Benefits of iOS App Development

For companies looking to invest in mobile development, there are many good reasons to focus on developing software with Apple specifically in mind. Here are the benefits of developing apps for iOS:

More revenue

Simply put, it pays to be on the App Store. According to Apple’s numbers in early 2021, the cumulative developer payout reached $200 billion over the last year, a record increase of $45 million over the previous year. Apple’s apps are generally thought to bring a higher ROI than Android apps.

Security on your side

iOS has a big advantage over Android when it comes to security. Apple has gained a solid reputation for protecting its users with measures including integrated data handling systems and data encryption.

Established base of customers

Although Android has the larger market share overall in the world – especially in developing countries – Apple and iOS are still the leader in the U.S. and other major markets in Asia and Europe. When developing apps for Apple’s products, it’s possible you might have a better idea of your target user base.

Low fragmentation

Data has shown that about 90 percent of iPhone users have downloaded the latest iOS update, whereas only about 10 percent of Android phone users have the latest iteration of their operating system.

Faster to develop

Given the much higher number of Android devices that need to be involved in the testing process, it’s much faster to develop iOS apps – 28 percent faster, according to one study. That means it’s also much cheaper to develop in the Apple ecosystem.

iOS Developer Salary

The average salary for an iOS Developer in the United States is $117,182 according to Indeed, plus an average of $5,000 in bonuses annually.

That salary will rise depending on years of experience, technical skills (knowledge of React, for instance, carries an almost 15 percent premium), and education. At the Senior iOS Developer level, ZipRecruiter places the average salary north of $130,000.

What Tools Do iOS Developers use?

In addition to having knowledge of the tools used in web and software development, iOS Developers need to have an expert-level understanding of the following tools used specifically for development in the Apple ecosystem:

Xcode

Xcode empowers iOS Developers to create apps within a single integrated software package. Xcode supports code written in a range of languages (including Objective-C, Java, Python, Ruby and AppleScript), and for computer programmers who don’t actually know all of those languages, Xcode will allow you to perform some tasks without writing source code.

iOS Software Development Kit (SDK)

Make your life as an Apple software developer much easier. SDK essentials include the Cocoa Touch frameworks, which include the PushKit, MapKit, and GameKit.

Simulator

Though this is installed with Xcode tools, this runs on your Mac and will allow you to quickly test your builds during the app development process.

What Skills Do iOS Developers Need?

All iOS Developers must have highly developed the following skills:

Objective-C

A superset of the C programming language, Objective-C has been a principal programming language for writing software designed for macOS and iOS since the 1980s. The age of Objective-C also makes it a little bit less intuitive or straightforward than some programming languages, but Objective-C is also robust.

Swift

Unlike Objective-C, which was spun off from C, Swift is a programming language created from the ground up for iOS and macOS. Apple boasts that Swift runs considerably faster than Objective-C and also provides improved safety. That might be why Swift has so quickly achieved such popularity with programmers – in fact, Swift is on the verge of surpassing Objective-C in how widely it’s used.

Core data

Core Data is a framework used to manage app model layer objects. Core Data can be used to access your app’s permanent data offline, to cache temporary data, and to add undo functionality to your app on a single device.

Other areas of learning

If you’re looking for an iOS Developer career, it’s important to branch out beyond the basics. Two areas it’s worth investing your time learning are databases and how they work (and the query languages used to manipulate data), as well as fundamental networking concepts.

iOS Developer Career paths

Most iOS Developer career paths begin in a different area of web development, software development, software engineering, or another related tech field. In addition to having strong coding skills and an understanding of a variety of programming languages, candidates to look for a new career in iOS development might also have a formal education background in computer science, software engineering, or math.

With a few years of experience, more senior mobile developers might qualify for related jobs with titles like Mobile Software Engineer, Senior Mobile App Developer, Senior iOS Engineer, Mobile Architect, or Lead iOS Developer.

And then there’s always the potential for someone with extensive mobile development experience to go back to a larger software development project where mobile might be only one facet of the project and apply their experience to steer a larger team. As companies increasingly take on a mobile-first strategy, Senior iOS Developers could have more input than ever into software projects.

What Are Some Job Descriptions Similar to iOS Developer?

Here are some job opportunities with similar roles to an iOS Developer:

  • Mobile App Developer/Android Developer: To put it simply, a Mobile Developer creates functional and esthetically appealing apps for both iOS and Android devices. Android Developers, meanwhile, create applications for Android, the most popular mobile operating system in the world.
  • Front-End Web Developer: A Front-End Web Developer uses a variety of programming languages including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build the front end of websites. In some cases, a Front End Developer might implement the creations of a Web Designer. This web development role does usually involves some level of design.
  • Back-End Web Developer: Back-End Web Developers are essential to the functioning of a website, even if you don’t see their work. Back-End Developers build and maintain the technology that powers the server, application, and database contained in a website’s back end. Other Back-End Developers are focused on mobile development using programming languages like HTML5, C++, and Java.
  • Full-Stack Developer: Full-Stack Developers combine the skillsets of Front-End and Back-End Developers. Full-Stack Developers are generally paid more due to the versatility of their skillsets.
  • Software Engineer: A Software Engineer uses mathematical analysis and computer science principles in order to design and develop computer software. Software Engineers develop all sorts of software, including operating systems, computer games, applications, and network control systems.
  • Web Designer: A Web Designer is a creative design role in which you decide how websites look, feel, and work for the user. Specific skills necessary for Web Designers would include design tools, HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript.

Who Does an iOS Developer Work With?

Depending on the size of a company, an iOS Developer would typically work within a web development team that would include Web Developers, Web Designers, UX/UI Designers, Product Managers, and Software Engineers.

But app development is important enough that iOS Developers do a lot of cross-disciplinary collaboration with marketing, sales, product, and customer service teams.

Demand for iOS Developers

There is currently high demand for iOS Developers, which is expected to continue as Apple continues to be a force in the technology landscape.

Mobile app development professionals rank among the top 10 most in-demand tech jobs and the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics forecasts mobile app development jobs growing 22 percent by 2029. Mobile apps are expected to generate more than $935 billion in revenue in 2023, so it’s hard to see how a smart company could do anything but continue to invest in mobile development.

And given the continued success of Apple, it’s reasonable to expect companies to value iOS Developers most among the larger group of technology professionals with mobile development skills. Apple has more than 1 billion iPhones in use, all of which run on iOS, and Apple continues to outpace Android in the world’s richest countries.

Reasons to Become an iOS Developer

If you’re curious about joining the world of mobile development, here are the top reasons to become an iOS Developer:

iOS Has More Intuitive Developer Tools

If you’re a fan of the simple, sleek, and user-friendly approach Apple takes to designing its products, you’ll appreciate its easy-to-use iOS development tools.

Most Developers prefer using Xcode to anything offered for Android, especially since they’ve been using it for so long.

Also, the iOS ecosystem is known for being limiting, but the strict rules and regulations governing which apps make it to the App Store actually constitute great guidelines as you develop, especially for beginners.

You Can Develop for Platforms and Devices You’re Passionate About

Chances are, if you’re considering a career in iOS development, you’re already a committed Apple user. And Apple users are a loyal bunch.

Focusing on the operating system that you actually use in your everyday life on all your home devices will allow you to create better products than if you were a general app developer trying to create an app that will work in an ecosystem that’s unfamiliar to you.

iOS Is More Lucrative Than Android

While Android has the bigger market share globally, market share isn’t everything; Android tends to be popular in developing markets where people don’t have as much disposable income to spend on things like apps.

iOS devices are typically owned by higher-income households who will be more willing to shell out money on apps.

You’ll Waste Less Time on Updates

Operating system adoption is much higher on Apple devices than Android, so you can focus your time on creating and perfecting iOS apps rather than making tedious compatibility tweaks to your app.

Because Android is used by a wide variety of devices, you might have to update your app for many, many OS versions, a repetitive task with no creative reward.

You Won’t Struggle to Find Work

Amid a tech scene where companies are struggling to find top development talent, iOS Developers stand out as particularly scarce.

Recruiting firm Randstad Technologies reported a 104 percent year-over-year increase in the demand for Mobile Application Developers, and Apple’s grip on the market doesn’t seem to be going away.

You Will Likely Secure a High Salary

Because of that demand, salaries for iOS Developers have risen and it is now one of the more lucrative jobs in tech. Mondo’s 2020 Salary Guide places iOS Developer salaries between $90,000 and $165,000.

As with other tech jobs, it pays to be in a major market. iOS Developers in New York and San Francisco make just above $125,000.