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Whether you’re creating a native iOS application from scratch, migrating your app to Swift 3, or updating your app for iOS 10, you’ll need a skilled iOS developer to make it happen. What needs to go into your project, how long will it take, and how much should you budget for the right iOS developer for the job? Here’s a look at the process and what to expect.

What Does an iOS Developer Do?

An iOS developer will take the specifications for your mobile app project and turn them into a functioning, user-ready iOS application. There are numerous phases a mobile app developer will be integral during: design, coding, APIs and other back-end integrations, and testing. Well-rounded iOS developers have experience with both design aspects, like UI and UX design, and actual programming, whether it’s in Objective-C or Swift. Every app will be different and have different requirements, but typically include the following phases:

  • Discovery & wireframing—This is the blueprint of your app’s content and the flow of how users interact with it.
  • Design & software planning—Any graphics are imported into the Xcode development environment. At the same time, a cohesive plan for the software architecture of your app is created.
  • Coding & integration—In Xcode, using either Objective-C or Swift, the developer will code the functionality of your app. At the same time, your app’s system architecture is built, including any back-end integration.
  • Testing—With quality assurance testing, your developer will go all the way through your app on a device or in the Simulator of Xcode to ensure there are no bugs. Debugging can be done right in Xcode.
  • Preparation & submission to the App Store—Apple’s submission and approval process is notoriously more difficult than Google’s, so it’s helpful to have a seasoned iOS developer who knows what to expect. Getting your app live and in the App Store takes a few steps, including configuring the code, creating a profile and a listing, then submitting it through Xcode for certification.

Defining Your iOS Project

Establish your project’s goals and requirements in as much detail as possible to help you budget for hiring an iOS developer. This helps developers provide more accurate estimates for your project, whether that’s design mockups or API specifications.

If you have preferences about iOS technology or programming languages, include those in your post. If you need an app coded in Swift 3, for example, you’ll want an iOS developer that’s versed in the latest iterations of the language.

Here are a few aspects of an iOS app project that can typically affect cost.

1. Project timeline and deliverables.

Laying out what you need from your iOS app will help you determine deliverables, phases, and the amount of time it will take to complete. iOS development projects can take anywhere from a week to six months, or more—it will all depend on what you need in terms of design, integrations, and other functionality.

Tip: You may need only some of the above phases. A simple utility app may require no server-side integrations, but a messaging app will need that back-end integration and database support.

2. Developer Experience & Rate

More experience translates to a higher rate, which can increase the cost of your project. Experienced iOS app developers are versed in AutoLayout, design patterns, APIs and MPIs. They’ll have worked with Xcode, Cocoa Touch, Objective-C or Swift, server-side scripting, database administration and integration, and server administration.

Define what the iOS developer will be doing as more simple tasks might incur a lower rate. Are they updating an existing app or creating an app from scratch? Do you needs some bugs fixed, or server-side scripting and database administration?

Tip: If you’re creating a new app from scratch, you may need a higher-level developer with the experience to take the project from the beginning and see it through to completion. If you have a smaller budget and are doing more simple updates, you can specify that you need a junior or intermediate-level developer.

Typical Rates Charged by iOS Developers*

Type of iOS Developer Description Estimated Hourly Rate*
Basic iOS Developer Basic iOS development fundamentals which include, wireframing and storyboarding, Objective C and/or Swift, and the Xcode IDE. $15-40 +
Intermediate – Advanced iOS Developer Beyond fundamentals, also skilled in one or more frameworks and APIs like Foundation, UIKit, and Cocoa. Skills may include familiarity with bug tracking system like Bugzilla, dependency management tools like CocoaPods, and version control with GitHub—technologies that indicate experience working on project teams. $35-75 +
iOS Developer and UI/UX Designer in one. These iOS developers can also perform traditional design tasks like high fidelity visual mockups with Photoshop, and are well versed in color schemes, typography, and Apple Human Interface Guidelines. $45-100 +

*Reflects rates charged by freelancers on Upwork in North America with over 1,000 hours and 90% success rate.

Tip: Not sure exactly how to scope your project or anticipate challenges? You can engage an experienced developer with UI/UX experience and expertise in various languages, frameworks, and project management systems to advise on how to scope your project and what kind of developer you need (one with Swift experience or will Objective-C do?). Then find a developer with a narrower expertise (and lower rate) to build the app.

3. Scope and Complexity of the iOS Project

Timelines and budgets are more susceptible to growing beyond initial scope when you don’t anticipate complexities and challenges. Does your app require complicated API integration? Will it handle sensitive data and require complex OAuth customization?

Tip: Outline challenges the developer should anticipate if possible. You’ll be able to build extra time into your budget and expand your testing timeline in the event that hiccups occur.

Defining specifications up front is the easiest way to accurately determine time and cost estimates when hiring an iOS developer.

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