ios developer (2024 Guide)

What Tools Do iOS Developers Use?

BrainStation’s iOS Developer career guide is intended to help you take the first steps toward a lucrative career in iOS development. Read on to learn more about the tools iOS Developers use on the job.

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What Tools Do iOS Developers Use?

The list of tools iOS Developers can use to perform, simplify, or enhance specific tasks is virtually limitless—Cocoapods to manage external libraries and scale projects; Dash for API documentation and code snippet management; Firebase for databasing, user authentication, and hosting; and Parse for back-end implementation, to name just a few. Apps are capable of carrying out dozens of different activities, from sending you push notifications to pinpointing your location using global positioning satellites, and virtually every one of these actions is supported by one or more purpose-made tools; it’s up to each Developer to select the one that they need.

What Are the Three Primary Tools that iOS Developers Use?

Fortunately, most apps only depend on a small subset of all these tools; which ones will depend on the nature of the app. Ultimately, there are only three things an iOS Developer absolutely has to know how to use when they’re first starting out; the rest can typically be learned on an as-needed basis. These are the primary iOS programming languages—Swift and Objective-C—and Xcode, an integrated environment purpose-built by Apple for people developing apps for all Apple devices.


Objective-C has long been the principal programming language used to write software for iOS (and macOS). A superset of the C programming language, Objective-C functions like an added layer atop C, making it highly compatible with C++. It’s also well-established, dating back to the early 1980s, which makes it quite robust, but also, at times, quite arcane, as demonstrated by its convoluted syntax. As the name implies, Objective-C deals with objects; in fact, an app can be thought of as a network of discrete objects.


Like Objective-C, Swift is a programming language used to program apps for iOS. But while the former is an offshoot of C, Swift was purpose-made for programming for iOS and other Apple operating systems. As a result, its syntax is much more concise, intuitive, and streamlined, and—according to Apple—Swift runs 2.6 times faster than Objective-C. While it may be newer, Developers have been quick to adopt Swift, and it’s poised to overtake Objective-C in terms of popularity (in fact, BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Survey indicates that already twice as many Developers are using Swift as use Objective-C.) Swift has other advantages over Objective-C as well, including improved safety, and generics and protocols that simplify the code-writing process.


Xcode is not a programming language but a suite of tools designed for building software for Apple’s various operating systems—an “integrated development environment” that supports code written in a wide range of languages (C, C++, Objective-C, Objective-C++, Java, AppleScript, Python, Ruby, ResEdit, and Swift), and comprises a variety of different models, including Apple’s native API Cocoa, C-based API Carbon, and Java. Essentially, Xcode allows iOS Developers to build and run apps within a single integrated software package, rather than a collection of individual tools or functions cobbled together by scripts. This is especially useful for iOS Developers who are not fluent in all the languages mentioned above; Xcode allows Developers to perform certain functions without writing source code at all.