iPhone developer tools: a list every dev should know

iPhone developer tools: you have no idea about the wonders already existing !

iPhone developer tools on ReviewForDev

With all the tutorials about iPhone/iPad app creation existing on the web, it seems anyone who’s ready to learn about programming now has the possibility to create an app for iPhone or iPad. With this new business created for Mr Anybody by Apple many iPhone developer tools and side services also appeared, some of which are absolutely awesome, in particular for indie developers.For the most “indie” ones, it’s very hard to keep track of all existing tools because they don’t have friends or colleagues to talk to about this.

My target in this post is to list all the iPad and iPhone developer tools and third party services I use or that I’ve heard about positively.

I have a wonderful idea to create an app but I need to get a few thousand $ to start…. !

Many iPhone developer tools are free… but it doesn’t mean you don’t need a minimum to start in good conditions!

If you really need a few thousand dollars, you should use AppBackr. The idea is simple: you present your project to the AppBackr community and tell them you need for instance $5000. Then people will give you money. In exchange for the risk they take, they’ll be reimbursed out of the revenues of your app with a margin, once your app is released.

I’d like to find a friendly community of developers to talk about my developer issues

If you live in the US, you’ll find many Meetup opportunities. If you’re too lazy to meet people physically, or too far away (which is my case since I’m French and currently live in expatriation in Turkey), then there are several places you can try.

Since I develop family friendly apps, I got the great opportunity to meet Lorraine Akemann’s fantastic community called MomsWithApps. There’s also a forum called ParentsWithApps in which people are absolutely awesome. Topics tackled are : Reviewers, Marketing strategies, app development etc.

I also found a facebook group called iOS Developers: not so much traffic there but some nice guys ready to help you out or interact if needed.

I’d be happy to update this with any other ideas !

I’m blocked during coding by a #&@! error message: where can I find help?

Your first tool, of course is Google ! It’ll generally redirect you to the same places among which:

  • Stackoverflow: I think in my case I must find 80% of my answers there. It’s really a question/answer platform, not the right place to find friends or test your sense of humor.
  • iPhoneDevSDK: a very nice forum, it’s worth registering I think.

Where can I find icons for my toolbars?

First you need to remember that the “toolbar” is the bar that sometimes appear at the buttom of the screen, and on which you see several icons. Pressing on one of the icons will select a new View Controller to display a new view.

First you need to understand that creating/designing icons for a toolbar is not as easy as it seems (you need to know what is a transparent layer): of course if you own Photoshop or a similar tool and know how to use it, then you should success (check out this page).

However if you feel lazy, you should take a look at those websites on which you’ll find free sets that can be used in your apps: Glyphish or TWG.

How to beta test my app (=get feedback before my app is released)?

  1. Case 1: you already know who will be your beta testers. Then Testflight is a no-brainer for you. This service makes it possible for your testers to install the app “over the air” (which means that they just have to click on a button on their iDevice to install the app, without connecting to any computer), and to follow-up error codes, waypoints and usage. There’s also a place to manage the feedback of the users and interact with them. Good news is that it’s still totally free at the moment.
  2. Case 2: you don’t know where to find beta testers and need them in your exact target audience: In this case ReviewForDev is the service to use (discloser: our service !). It’s a paid service because the beta testers are paid for their feedback. These testers are handpicked among all our reviewers because they are the most reliable. From each of them you’ll receive 3 sections: 1) I like 2) Suggestions/improvements [1200 characters minimum] 3) Conclusion.
    Each and everyreview is validated by ReviewForDev‘s team in order to be sure they comply with the review guidelines and will bring 100% satisfaction to the developer. We recommend using this service for a pre-release version, not for early stage debugging. The related feedback is private, that’s why you won’t see examples publicly. However we can show you examples if you contact us.
  3. Case 3: you don’t know where to find beta testers, but their profiles don’t really matter : in this case you can try thebetafamily. It’s a free service with a nice interface so it’s worth trying. They are partly competitors of ReviewForDev so I won’t comment too much :-) . I think the quality of the feedback is really inconsistent among the reviewers, but it’s pretty normal since there’s no manual validation in their process.

How to choose clever keywords for my app?

Giving visibility to your app via the keywords you’ll choose is essential. Apple updated their ranking algorithm in regards to keywords a few weeks ago, supposedly in relation with their acquisition of Chomp a few months earlier. So you have to learn regularly about the latest changes in order to adapt.

You can also use some tools specifically designed for App Store SEO, such as Appcod.es. However I think this service is very expensive ($15/month). Another solution is to use google adwords (and it’s free): you’ll then be able to find new keyword ideas and check if they are popular/competitive, making the assumption that the analytics will be similar on the App Store and on the internet.

Is there a tool to quickly render all the sizes necessary for the icon of my app?

Yes there is ! You need to have a copy of Photoshop, then use App icon template.

How can I design a cheap landing page for my app ?

You can use App.net. For 1 app, it’s free and it’s also very easy/quick to use. Here’s an example for my app Tapikeo HD

How can I make a video trailer to present my app?

The best tool I know and systematically use is screenflow: you’ll be able to prepare beautiful screencast (using the iPhone/iPad simulator).. During the film you can record your voice commenting the video, and show user interactions (tap, movements across the screen).

How to send a press release about my iOS App?

Here also there’s an immediate answer: use PRMac : it’s cheap (only $20) they have a massive diffusion and they’ll send your Press Release (PR) to the right people in the app industry (it’s a must, but don’t expect any major impact on your sales :( )

If you want an idea to write yours, here’s a press Release for my first app iVocAudio

You can also try PrWeb : their diffusion list is bigger but it’s way more expensive ($159 for their standard plan).

How to follow-up my sales and rankings day after day?

  • The basic immediate solution is to go to iTunes connect with your Apple Developer Ids but I think most devs will agree that the interface is not looking good and the level of detail is not very interesting. Apple also updated their iTunes connect mobile App but I think it’s not very handy for a day by day approach.
  • The service I use is Appfigures. It’s a paid, reliable service that makes it possible to follow-up on all of your sales. You also receive a daily report with your top five country downloads for each of your apps and related rankings. You can also track/anticipate your monthly payments with a conversion in any currency (for instance I use euros). Note that you’ll have to give your iTunes connect ids, but there’s no risk. In my case, since I have several apps I pay around $6 per month.
    Some other developer colleagues use App Annie which also has a good reputation you can compare both services.

As a side comment: Among these iPhone Developer tools, some services are free others are paid. In any case, I think you should test them at least once to make your own opinion.

How to know instantly who uses my app and if I have new users ?

For this I only found one service up to now: Tapjoy. You need to install their SDK in your app, then once your account is activated, the reactivity is … amazing ! Try installing the app in any new iDevice and less than a few seconds later you’ll see it appear. This can be useful to track the effect of a “massive” download campaign for a free app for instance (new post on Facebook, push notification from a Review Site to their app user etc.).You’ll also be able to know at any time how many sessions are live.

A few months ago TestFlight launched a new service called TestFlight Live and I was absolutely excited because I loved their first product… but I found the result was not satisfactory at all : their server seemed very slow, the data wasn’t updated during several hours sometimes etc. It seems they launched it too early, which was very disappointing. So at that stage I don’t recommend.

How to know the way users are using my app, what they like or don’t like?

This field is called “app analytics”.The idea is to know exactly when users clicks on a button, reaches a waypoint… and depending on your privacy policy (be very careful with that !), you can even know what they are writing. This is the equivalent of google analytics but for your app.

I currently use Flurry and I think it’s an excellent product. I also used in the post Localytics which proved to be good but slower then Flurry (it was 1 year ago, it might have changed since then). You’ll find many other products but I only tested those two.

In any case, you have to install their SDK into your app: it means a bigger size, and it has also many legal consequences, especially if you develop app for kids (which should comply with COPPA rules).

How to get more than the 50 Apple promo codes?

If you are and indie developer, then you are running after your promo codes and that’s normal: assuming that for each new app release/major update you’ll send promo codes to at least 50 review websites/bloggers/influencers… it means you shouldn’t have much left to organize promo codes giveaways, since Apple only gives 50 codes per new app/update :)

The solution for that is ReviewForDev : it’s not mentioned publicly but you can purchase gift codes for the main app stores (US, Canada, Australia, France, UK, Germany and Sweden). Each time you can get between 1 and 145 new codes to be used specifically in the App Stores chosen.

How to know if my promo codes have been redeemed ?

So you’ve just sent 50 promo codes by e-mail but you are pretty sure some of the addressees won’t use them. Bad news is that you are most certainly right. Good news is that there’s a wonderful free service from our friend Daniel called Redeem-now. You enter your promo codes with a small description, and if your codes are not used, you’ll receive an e-mail alert to warn you. Of course you can also check the status of each of them individually.

Where to find people from my exact target audience to get very precise feedback and improve my app ?

This is maybe the most important thing (after marketing :) ) when developing apps: listen to customer feedback and improve your app regularly. Of course, you should correct all the bugs reported immediately, but when it comes to adding new features or deciding exactly about the list of improvements to implement, the picture might not be clear.

ReviewForDev can also be your best friend for that. In ReviewForDev’s community of reviewers, there are many different profiles: gamers, educators, teachers, SLPs, parents of kids with special needs, parents of kids with specific age etc. You just need to indicate who should test your app and if all profiles can be found, then you’ll receive in return a review for your app with propositions of improvements/suggestions. Check this example for instance.

Where can I buy reviews on the App Store for my app?

First you should start by reading your Developer License Agreement: then you’ll understand that purchasing reviews on the App Store is strictly forbidden by Apple who could revoke your developer’s license !

This being said, the problem remains for each and every developer who would like to display 100 five stars reviews for their apps on the App Store. Most of the times, you’ll ask your friends and families about that. This will work at the beginning but it will certainly become painful to ask and re-ask at each new update to all of them. Besides, it’ll be hard to get something better and more detailed than “Great app” or “I love this app” etc.

A solution could be to use the “massive reviews” websites like this french AppVIP website. I tested it for my app iVocAudio : your memory chum 2 years ago: it was fun because I climbed the stairs in the French AppStore up to #2 overall and got a little more than 1000 reviews but:

  • price for this kind of campaigns is very expensive (over $2000),
  • most of the times climbing up is the easy part, staying up is the real challenge (in my case I stayed in TOP25 during 3 days)
  • the reviews you get are generally not useful for you neither for the customers (most of them ar 4 words long)

So if you are an indie developer then you really need to feel like burning money to go for that kind of services.

There are better ways however: when you contact middle size review sites and that they agree to review your app, once the review is published I recommend asking them if they can also copy the conclusion of their review on the AppStore.

In the same principle, if you purchase feedback for your app on ReviewForDev (published on the website) then you should know that most of the reviewers are longtime reviewers and know how important App Store reviews are for the developers. So in many instances, they’ll also post their conclusion on the App Store. Please note that you cannot contact them directly and that they are totally free to post or not to post.

That’s it for now. If you want to recommend other tools I didn’t list just let me know and I’ll consider updating this post. If you want me to keep this list alive and updated, the best way to thank me is to Google +1 or Like this post, or even better link to it from your own blog: each of these actions will make it rank better in Google :)

35 thoughts on “iPhone developer tools: a list every dev should know

  1. I’ve just added the use of App iCon Template to render all the sizes of your app icon.

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  3. Hi Jean,

    Hope you enjoy living here, in Turkey!

    Here’s a small contribution to your great article:
    - Iconify is a simple and free utility to convert an image to all app icon sizes for people who don’t use Photoshop,
    - I use Applyzer which is a great service similar to Appfigures. They have top 1000 apps lists for both iPhone and iPad (paid per app).

    Have a great day!

    Yuce

  4. Thanks for your input Yuce!
    - I didn’t know iconify so I’ll test it quickly,
    - I used to subscribe to Applizer because of the possibility to quickly get the rankings in all countries. I think it was especially useful when the app was ranking “low” (over #400).
    Knowing that your app is ranked in the TOP 1000 of 90 countries sounds exciting… but actually is not so interesting after some time !
    For the other features I found that Appfigures was perfect for my needs.

  5. you should try ReviewForDev and you’ll get more than my personal feedback for your app lol (oooops, sorry I couldn’t resist !)

  6. What feature makes appannie better than appfigures according to you?

  7. I am actually a Newbie in the world of iOS Development and I have already bookmarked your site. I am sure that many like me would be revisiting this article again and again until they publish their FIRST APP ;-) .

    A big thanks for such wonderful Article!!!! :D

  8. Thank you Avinash. Glad my experience can help you. I’ll update the article whenever I try a new service that I found useful. Good luck with your apps!

  9. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I in finding It really helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to give one thing again and help others like you aided me.

  10. Pingback: iPhone Developer Tools: A List Every Dev Should Know

  11. Woah this blog is excellent i really like reading your articles. Stay up the good paintings! You know, many people are hunting round for this info, you can help them greatly.

  12. Thanks a lot for this great article !
    I am just starting in the world of IOS development and it is SO helpful to read all your tips !

  13. Thanks for this comment and good luck for your apps! I hope you’ll also like my future blog posts :)

  14. I’ve just added a new section called “Where can I find icons for my toolbars?”.

  15. FYI: to avoid spamming I’ve just removed the “website” field from the comment form and any comment including a link off topic won’t be published.

  16. Thanks so much, very nice, the icon one was super helpful for me in my decision making process in my new app.

  17. Terrific post! Very crisp and, errr, comprehensive. It’s a Mad Mad App world out there and getting started can be intimidating to say the least. Great stuff !

  18. NICE POST MEN…. I’M GOING TO BUILD MY FIRST APP YOU HELP ME A LOT! REGARDS FROM MEXICO

  19. You should take a look at UserVoice for soliciting feedback from the general public. I’ve been using their in-app interface as well as their web interface and it makes soliciting feedback and supporting users pretty painless.

    I’m not affiliated with them but I highly recommend them.

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