Becoming an Elite iOS Developer: A Personal Guide

My friend, these are unprecedented times for iOS developers. With over 4 million apps on the App Store and over 1 billion active Apple devices, the gold rush continues.

However, the reality is brutally competitive:

  • 25% of users abandon an app after just one use
  • 60% expect an app to be intuitive enough to not need instructions
  • 90% uninstall apps that crash frequently or have bugs

For your app to thrive in 2023 and beyond, elite-level skills are mandatory. The good news is anyone can reach that level with proper guidance on the latest tools and best practices.

That‘s exactly why I created this guide. It will help you:

  • Master capabilities like SwiftUI, augmented reality, and Core Data persistence
  • Design elegant interfaces aligned with Apple‘s evolving aesthetic
  • Save months by avoiding common pain points and pitfalls
  • Promote your app effectively and monetize it sustainably

I‘ll share expert insights drawn from 15+ years of iOS app consulting and development experience. This includes directing multiple #1 apps with over 100 million collective downloads.

By the end, you‘ll have a roadmap to becoming a truly elite developer ready to ship robust, smooth, delightful iOS experiences.

Shall we begin?

iOS Development: State of the Industry

First, some context…

The iOS ecosystem continues seeing hockey stick growth:

  • 1.8 billion Apple devices now active globally
  • iOS commands 55% of the US mobile market
  • 90% of all smartphone activations are iOS devices

Apple has made major OS updates annually:

Year iOS Version Major Changes
2022 iOS 16 Custom lock screens, Apple Pay Later, Shared Photo Library, intelligent dictation
2021 iOS 15 Focus mode, Live Text, shared experiences in FaceTime, App Privacy report
2020 iOS 14 Home screen widgets, App Library

This innovation shows no signs of slowing down. We expect groundbreaking new capabilities in areas like augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and privacy.

For developers, this rapid platform evolution poses challenges and opportunities…

On one hand, you must continually learn new frameworks and APIs to support cutting-edge iOS features. This can be exhausting but is table stakes nowadays.

On the flip side, expanding device capabilities allow apps to deliver more advanced and immersive user experiences than ever before.

But with competition and user expectations intensifying in parallel, becoming a good iOS developer is no longer enough.

You must approach elite status through rigorous learning, attention to detail, and user empathy.

The rest of this guide will arm you with the tools needed to reach that level.

Learning the Fundamentals

For those just starting iOS development, focus first on core competencies like:

  • Swift language syntax
  • Xcode editing environment
  • UIKit user interface framework
  • Model-View-Controller design pattern

I recommend Apple‘s freely available curriculum to build initial familiarity:

Intro to App Development with Swift

This eBook from Apple guides you through fundamentals in an approachable way. Work through it studiously before proceeding further.

Additionally, study the session videos from Apple‘s recent WWDC conference:

WWDC 2022 Videos

These provide the most up-to-date take on iOS 16, Swift 5.7, Xcode 14, and related technologies from Apple engineering leaders.

After digesting these resources, you‘ll have a solid base to build upon.

Intermediate Skills

With fundamentals instilled, shift focus to building real-world applications and cementing knowledge.

I recommend trying the project-based approach from Hacking with Swift:

Hacking With Swift

Rather than passively reading reference docs, you‘ll learn by creating real-world apps, tackling practical problems, and reinforcing your debugging skills.

Some standout intermediate resources include:

  • Stanford‘s Developing iOS (CS193p) video curriculum
  • LinkedIn Learning‘s iOS Pathways
  • Ray Wenderlich‘s iOS Apprentice tutorial series

I‘ve helped dozens of developers break through intermediate plateaus with these resources. They will serve you equally well.

At this stage, you should also…

  • Explore Apple‘s vast Sample Code Library
  • Examine open-source iOS apps of increasing complexity on GitHub
  • Implement a personal project, seek feedback, iterate

Learning elbow-to-elbow from more advanced developers accelerates skills tremendously also. I‘ll address networking later on.

Reaching Advanced Status

With 1-2 apps built end-to-end, you should feel comfortable utilizing core iOS frameworks like UIKit, AVFoundation, CoreLocation, etc.

This section focuses on elevating skills even further into advanced territory.

Topics include Swift language enhancements, specialized frameworks like RealityKit and SwiftUI, design patterns, architecture principles, and performance optimization.

Plan to devote 6-12 months to these areas for tangible improvement.

In terms of resources:

For a video-based curriculum covering advanced Swift language capabilities, I recommend PointFree:

Advanced Swift

PointFree also has superb explorations into functional programming techniques which will expand your skillset.

To learn industry best practices for structuring apps, study Apple‘s recommended patterns:

iOS Design Patterns

Well-designed code minimizes bugs, accelerates feature building, and delights teammates. This guide teaches you how.

And to learn from exceptionally well-engineered open source iOS apps, I suggest Notiflux:

Notiflux Repo

Notiflux replicates Facebook‘s complex notification UI system in a modular, extensible way. Review the source code for gems you won‘t find in most tutorials.

Combined, these advanced resources will clearly level up your capabilities.

Staying Current

With Apple making major iOS improvements yearly, staying current is challenging.

But closely tracking industry trends and best practices separates good developers from great ones.

Some ways I recommend keeping up-to-date:

It takes constant effort. But absorbing cutting-edge knowledge pays dividends by keeping your skills relevant.

Prioritize learning SwiftUI for building adaptive interfaces on all Apple platforms. Investigate exciting technologies like augmented reality and machine learning.

And refresh knowledge of Apple‘s latest frameworks, like Swift Concurrency and SharePlay introduced in recent iOS versions.

Those building mission-critical apps should join Apple‘s Developer Enterprise program too. It unlocks beta iOS releases for evaluation 6+ months before public rollout.

Staying current requires work. But it‘s the best way to avoid your skills decaying or becoming outdated.

Beyond Coding

Transitioning from coder to all-around developer requires skills beyond programming proficiency.

You must also master app design, release planning, App Store optimization, user acquisition, monetization strategies, and more.

Think of these capabilities as the "business" half of app development.

Understanding distribution dynamics and worst practices to avoid is crucial because:

  • Thousands of apps launch daily, immediately buried under piles of competition
  • Simple coding errors make apps prime candidates for App Store rejection
  • Successful indie developers often spend more on marketing than development

Make time to learn the entire app lifecycle inside and out.

Some of my favorite resources:

Indie Hackers

A community of profitable indie developers sharing real-world advice. Invaluable for inspiration and guidance in app monetization.

Mobile Dev Memo

Carefully researched teardowns on App Store SEO, user acquisition approaches, market trends and more.

App Launch Guide

A newsletter covering the entire spectrum of planning successful, sustainable app launches and marketing efforts.

Review these resources to complement your coding skills with business savvy.

Understanding go-to-market best practices leads to more downloads, active usage, rave reviews, and of course — revenue.

Your Custom Roadmap

Friend, we‘ve covered an ocean of resources for entry level to advanced developers.

Now, chart your custom learning curriculum and milestones based on your existing foundation.

If You‘re Beginning…

Focus first on core competencies before attempting real-world apps:

  1. Master Swift syntax, variables, control flow
  2. Understand reference vs value types
  3. Utilize collections like arrays and dictionaries
  4. Map out the Model-View-Controller pattern

Be patient. Struggle through dense official Apple docs. Stick to simple tutorial apps before advancing.

In 6 months, you should feel comfortable building basic utility apps leveraging UIKit, Bytecode, local data storage, etc.

If You Have 1-2 Apps Under Your Belt…

Learn intermediate concepts through rigorous skills reinforcement:

  1. Revisit old projects and refactor them ruthlessly
  2. Analyze other popular apps for architecture inspiration
  3. Implement Apple‘s recommended design patterns
  4. Explore niche domains like CoreML machine learning

Over 6-12 months, target building at least one polished portfolio piece app featuring advanced interfaces, animations, notifications, etc.

If You Have Multiple Apps in the Store…

Expand your horizons into cutting-edge territories:

  1. Architect complex apps leveraging Coordinators and RxSwift
  2. Evaluate SwiftUI for adaptive cross-platform development
  3. Integrate iCloud and CloudKit into your app data stack
  4. Experiment with Apple Watch connectivity, widgets, App Clips, AR

Constantly push yourself into unfamiliar terrain. Learn new frameworks voraciously even if not immediately useful.

Within 12 months, release an app showcasing multiple advanced iOS capabilities.

Closing Thoughts

My friend, thank you for reading this epic guide!

I aimed to provide a lifelong curriculum covering everything from Swift syntax basics to sustaining profitable app businesses.

Remember, iOS development is a craft requiring patience, focus and perpetual learning mindset.

If you apply diligent effort navigating these resources, your skills will inevitably reach elite heights.

I welcome any feedback on the roadmap above. Reach out personally as well for 1-on-1 consulting on executing your app ideas!

Finally, for further inspiration check out these developer stories:

From Zero Programming Experience to Full-Time iOS Dev in 6 Months

Solo Developer Makes $80k/year Building Niche Apps

Now go unleash your potential!


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