iPhone Application Development—Costs and Thoughts

In our last post, I unmasked the mystery behind what I’ve been doing for the past few months, going into detail about one of the iPhone applications my partner and I created, as well as our LOLer Apps brand. I was quite pleased with the response, and have yet to hear any “that’s stupid!” type comments—so thank you!

I have, however, received many questions about the development process and costs associated with getting our application to turn into a reality. I plan to answer some of those questions here for you today.

It was our plan to document all of this stuff on our LOLer Apps homepage, which we still will (and go into far more detail so that anyone can get into this if they wanted to invest a little money into their idea), but I’ll go over the main points and some other things I’m guessing you have questions about right now.

How Did We Find a Developer?

As you know, we’re lazy and we didn’t create the iPhone applications ourselves. Actually, let me rephrase that. We’re smart and decided not to spend hours learning how to code the applications ourselves, just to end up with with a mediocre product that someone we could have paid would have done a better job on, in a much quicker time frame. Yeah, that sounds better.

I’m a big fan of outsourcing the work you’re not an expert on, because it can be done faster and better (and ultimately cheaper once you consider how much time you’d spend on it, which could have been used doing other things that earn money). We kept this philosophy in mind when deciding to get into this market.

We posted our criteria on Elance.com, and within 2 days we had 6 different developers come at us with their bids. To clarify, this was for our iPopit! game, which you can read more about here.

How Much Did It Cost?

The bids ranged from $3000 to $6000, and we chose to go with one of the lower tiered bids of $3500. Split between the two of us, it didn’t seem that bad—but it was still a lot of money, especially considering we were basically just throwing ourselves in the deep end and just seeing what happens. Sometimes though, that’s what you have to do.

How Long Did It Take to Get Developed?

Well, the development process happened in a few phases. First, we had to exchange our ideas and finally come up with a final product that we’d be happy with. This was important because since we were new to the market and the iPhone, we didn’t know much about what we can and can’t do. It’s safe to say that our app did evolve during the development process, and we’re quite happy with the results.

Next, we were given a very preliminary version of the app after about 2 to 3 weeks. The graphics and such were not up to par, but this was expected since we were just working on the actual game play and mechanics first.

Bugs were worked out and a “pre-final” product was ready for us within about a month.

Our Biggest Hitch

As I said, the product was ready for us within about a month—but we didn’t get it in hand until about 3 months later, and this was definitely our fault. Read carefully in case you want to pursue the iPhone app market yourself later on. We didn’t do such a good job of planning everything out, which delayed almost everything in the developmental process.

Apple’s iPhone Developer’s Program

Signing up with Apple’s iPhone Developer Program allows a person or a company to be able to submit their apps to iTunes for sale. If you’re a person (not a company), the approval process takes about a day. When doing it as a company, however, it takes much longer. This is the stage we’re at now, and we should be approved within a day or two. The reason we’re here now, and didn’t do this earlier, was because of our DBA.

Our DBA: LOLer Apps

We had a hitch in the DBA process. We entered a wrong address when doing it through legalzoom, that when it finally reached the County Office of San Diego, they denied it, and we had to go through the entire process all over again. Each time, it took about 1.5 weeks—so almost 4 weeks total here. Of course, we couldn’t submit to the iPhone Dev Program without our DBA paperwork.

Developer’s Certificate

So, the whole process involved with developing an iPhone app and being able to play it on your own iPhone to test it out is nuts. There are so many things you have to do in order to make this happen:

  1. create a certificate, which is like a profile that says you’re the developer or one who can use the app and test it on your device
  2. you have to set up your iPhone using your Identifier Code which is unique to each iPhone
  3. you create an ID specific for the application you’re using
  4. you create a provision license, which gets uploaded to your device which then connect all of the previous steps so that you can finally use the app (from step 3) on the device (from step 2), only if you’re the right person (from step 1).

At least Apple, within their Developer’s Portal, gives us great descriptions and instructions about how to do this.

Where we ran into a HUGE problem is when we didn’t yet our developer’s program set up yet (again because our DBA hadn’t gone through). The app was ready, but we couldn’t play it or see it on an iPhone because of this issue, and this was just bad timing. We wanted to play the game so we could see how it worked and forward any bugs, and our developer wanted to make it a final product as soon as possible—it was a stressful situation.

Finally though, we’re at a point where the app is pretty much finished and we’re just waiting now. You can be sure that once it’s ready to go and on sale, we’re gong to go full stride in making this happen. Woo hoo!


We didn’t do any of the graphic work ourselves either. A lot it was done by our developer, but we also hired someone on the side who is doing an outstanding job. We’re using him on all of our projects so that there’s a little bit of consistency with the apps and the LOLer Apps brand.

So yeah…

I hope this post answers a few of your questions that you may have. Once we’re live, I’ll be putting everything we did from start to finish on the LOLer Apps homepage, partly to help anyone who wants to do the same learn from our experiences, and partly to help market our apps too.

If you have time and would like to help us build some buzz, please point your audiences (twitter, other blogs, facebook, your office) to our iPopit! homepage, found at http://www.howfastcanyoupopit.com.

Cheers! Thanks everyone!

  • http://www.thehappyrock.com The Happy Rock

    How much were the Graphic Design costs for i Pop It! outside of the $3.5k for development ?

    The Happy Rock´s last blog post..Marriage and Money – Giving Your Partner A Choice

    • Pat

      @The Happy Rock, Maybe $200, if that. Not much at all.

  • http://twitter.com/neilnewmann Neil Newmann

    Very informative post.

    I actually thought it’d cost way more than that.

    Did you have any problems regarding making changes to the idea later on? I ask this because many Elance providers aren’t be pleased with that.

    Neil Newmann´s last blog post..neilnewmann: Guys making tons of money with iPhone apps: http://is.gd/stol & http://is.gd/stoa – Awesome.

    • Pat

      @Neil Newmann, Actually, there was some changes we wanted to make, but luckily our developer was nice enough to understand this is something that almost can’t be avoided, and they included this in their bid. There was some negotiation and a little bit of stress, but in the end it all worked out ok for this particular app. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.joewunderlick.com Joe

    That’s stupid!

    Just kidding! Have you ever used 99designs.com for any of your projects? Always wanted to try it out but haven’t had the opportunity yet…

    • Pat

      @Joe, Actually, for a few projects. Our main designer for our apps we actually found from 99designs.com. He won the project to create our iPopit! icon, which is at the top of this blog.

  • Cos

    the cost for the project seems cheap indeed. i don’t know how to say this without sounding like a knock (which is not my intent) but somebody saying that this project was “a lot of money” when he is flush with $30k of income a month sounds …. well …. odd.

    i’d love to have that “problem” and work hard every hour possible to achieve it.

    continued good luck!

  • http://21months.com Christine Taylor


    Thank you for, once again, sharing your experiences so that the rest of us can learn and be inspired. I’ve been reading you for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve implemented some of your suggestions into my own sites as well as my eHow and Suite 101 writing.

    For example, I recently launched my online magazine, 21 Months. Traffic is slow, because I just launched, but I noticed that my conversion rate for subscribers was way too low. I switched to a modified “magic button” style on my subscription forms, and doubled my conversion rate overnight! Crazy!

    I’m so excited to watch your success with iPopit! I’ll help spread the word.

    Christine Taylor

    • http://www.smartpassiveincome.com Pat

      @Christine Taylor, Thanks a ton! We’re asking everyone we know to help, so it makes me so happy to hear that you’d like to offer your help too. Congrats on your new magazine. Don’t worry about the traffic for now, just put up good content, connect with people and good things WILL happen. Keep at it and good luck with everything!

      • Troy

        i’m thinking about getting into the iphone app market myself.
        What i would like to know is what kind of return have you seen on your investment .
        I and my friends are going to be putting all our eggs in this one basket.
        We would feel better knowing that the odds are on our side to make BIg $$$$$$
        off this. If it works this is going to be our new full time jobs.

  • http://www.thebusinessgamer.com The Business Gamer


    Zane here. Your favorite over excited IBMA friend. I have been following smartpassiveincome.com for awhile now, and so has my sister. *hangs head in shame* Although, until today I hadn’t subscribed to the RSS feed or left any comments.

    Your progress ceases to astound me, and the information you offer for free is amazing. Your information has invoked very long conversations between me and Anne that ultimately perpetuate our confidence and creativity to a whole new level.

    Between your open honest communications with the community and brave postings of your earnings, I always get a great feeling of inspiration and pride to know you.

    The Business Gamer´s last blog post..The best video optimization steps

    • http://www.smartpassiveincome.com Pat

      @The Business Gamer, Thanks Zane for your kind words and inspiring me as well. I’m glad to see you have a blog up and running. I know it’s brand new, so just keep at it and do what you’re doing.

      I left an update on IBMA. I’m curious to what you have to say about it. Let me know bro! Talk to you soon!

    • http://www.ymedialabs.com/Home.htm iPhone Developers

      The cost differs by a margin based on the platform on whihc you are developing the app like Android, iOS or Blackberry. Also for iOS apps the charges range from $100 to $200 depending upon the brands you are working with. Branded app developer charges based on their historic performance in the iOS Store and the quality of the app.

  • http://DivorcedDadFrugalDad.com DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad.com

    Thanks for sharing the nitty gritty details– it is the little things that make projects hard . . .

    Finally, there is no shame in outsourcing . . . it is the smart move!

    DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad.com´s last blog post..Words of Wisdom: Bill Cosby on Parenting

  • http://cloakedlink.com/wurdokwohh GetAFreeIphone

    Keep working ,great job!

  • http://cloakedlink.com/wurdokwohh FreeIphone

    Pretty Good

  • http://wrinklydollar.com Wrinkly Dollar

    Nice idea. I’ve been tossing around the idea of iPhone development myself. Keep us updated on your earnings as they roll in.

  • Pingback: 18 Passive Income Opportunities to use your Tax Refund on — Passive Family Income()

  • Fred

    I followed the link to your apps and they look fun, but is there a way to see what they really do, like a video shot?

  • http://www.iphoneappquotes.com iphone app development cost

    Its important to note that you can find a cheap iphone app developer, but one that is experienced and already has apps in the store will cost roughly $100 per hour. Make sure you go with a developer that is coding in Objective C and not some WYSIWYG editor that translates HTML and javascript to C.

  • http://www.goodrec.com/groups/john-moseley/ Edwardo Cupit

    Merely want to say your article is astounding. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your rss feed to keep up to date with future post. Thanks a million and please keep up the fabulous work

  • Donna

    Thank you so much for this article! It was really helpful as I am in the very early stages of the plan. I’ve started interviewing applicants from Odesk.com and look forward to getting started. Now that I know about the hiccups with the DBA and other requirements, I think I might have a good shot at making this as seamless as possible.

    What is your opinion on a non-disclosure agreement? I’m using Apple’s sample and wanted to get some feedback on how necessary they are? I hear that most developers sign NDAs routinely.

    Thanks again!

  • http://www.alwaysonmessage.com/ app developer

    I wonder if app developers are charging more or less these days… demand is up but so is supply… intrigued which is growing faster…

  • http://www.uwsp.edu/ATHLETICS/mbb/05-06/schedule.htm Schedule

    Maybe you could make changes to the blog title iPhone Application Development – Costs and Thoughts to something more suited for your webpage you make. I loved the the writing yet.

  • http://www.kryptonsoft.com/outsourcing/iphone-application-development-india Arun Kumar

    Thanks for this information it really useful for me to know. Thanks Arun Kumar from iPhone Application Development Team, KryptonSoft, India

  • http://moneymakinginarecession.blogspot.com/ Rose

    It sounds like an awful lot of work and expense. I’m not ashamed to admit that your account put me off the whole app development route altogether.

  • Tim Carmichael

    how did you safeguard the intellectual content of the app during the development phase?

  • http://www.inkatechnology.co.uk App Developer

    I guess you can even get apps done for free if you find a student willing to learn ObjC. Though the quality might be questionable to say the least. Here’s a good “inside” information on what really good apps total:

  • todd

    yeah im doing an app too, i had a lot of pit falls so far, if there was one I found it, hello, its taken me almost a year to get mine out, i did all the graphics and interface graphics myself, i got a developer to make it for just over 3000.oo its not a perfect version but i will need updates to keep it viable later on when i can afford it. i should have it out soon! then i will get the 3 more apps based on the same framework off the ground a little later on, my 2nd app will be better then my 1st and I think they should all sell well, but who knows it has a funny side to it and that is my hook, as it sits i am a very broke out of work guy working on these apps full time, hoping these will free up my life sooner then later. wish me luck! =)

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/services/mobile/iphone-application-development iPhone App Developers

    Excellent details shared here.

  • http://www.amirrimer.com Amir Rimer

    Great post Pat!

    I love to outsource as much as possible.

    Sometimes business owners have a problem with giving tasks to other, because they want to be in total control, and they simply can’t let go.

    Yet, the reality is that in many times this is just plain fear. Your life and your customers life will be much better if you outsource your work.

  • http://www.weblineindia.com/hire_wordpress_developer.htm Hire WordPress Theme Designer

    Thanks for sharing this great post. It’s very enlightening. I absolutely love to read informative stuff. Looking forward to find out more and acquire further knowledge from here! Cheers!

  • http://schoolofapps.info Schoolofapps.info

    Building apps is always an interesting thing. While LOL type apps can do great, I find its really helpful to pinpoint a business owners pain points and then build an app that solves it. Then charge a monthly subscription for the business owner to access your app. To learn more check out: http://schoolofapps.info

  • Adam

    for good information and way of explaining., This will be really useful about
    making Iphone apps. Thanks for sharing.Check this out http://julysystems.com/ios-iphone-application-development/