How Much Does it Cost to Become an iPhone Developer?

Matthew Campbell, January 29th

The short answer to this is $99. This is how much it technically cost to get a license from Apple that will let you put your iPhone apps on your phone. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what the overall cost of learning iPhone programming was for me. Maybe this is just because this is the time of year where I need to talk to my accountant about taxes and what my learning budget is for next year (you do list the money you spent in your education and re-training as a tax deduction right?).

For me, the overall cost of becoming an iPhone developer was much greater than $99. It took me about three months, a trip to the a conference on the West Coast, a new laptop and some books. Not counting my time, I spent about $5000 overall to learn how to program on the iPhone. Not too bad considering. Of course, if I figured in the time spent on learning this the total goes up to $16,000.

Clearly, the most expensive part of all of this is my own time – even more than the cost of the laptop, training and conference. Of course, it seemed to pay off in terms of allowing me to quit my previous job. The take away message for me is that I need to pay more attention to decreasing the “time investment” as opposed to the “money investment” when it comes to learning new technologies – because, as well all know working in the technology field requires learning the next new thing often. And when you are self-employed, time costs more than money.

Don’t worry though – investing in learning iPhone programming is much more sound than investing in Wall Street.

I would think that for the average developer, the time investment in learning Objective-C would be incredibly high compared to the time investment of learning Java for Android development (OK, Dalvik Java isn’t exactly Sun Java, but it’s sufficient). Granted, there are many more million iPhones out there than Android phones, but give it a year or two and I’ll bet that Android will be on more phones than there are iPhones.

The bad thing about Android right now is that the Market doesn’t have charges yet. Once it does, though, I have a feeling some folks will be very rich very fast.

That’s another thing–the $16k you spent on learning that application is nothing compared to the money you could make in just a few days if your application is decent. Charge $1, make 70 cents per sale, 22,858 installs later (which isn’t a lot for an iPhone application), you’ve made up your costs, and that’s just with your first program.

You are certainly correct, though. Time is worth more than money, and right now, mobile development is more profitable than web or system development.