iPhone App Development Without Learning Objective-C

Many people are turned off by iPhone app development because they don’t want to learn another platform (Objective-C). In many ways, learning Objective-C is taking a step backwards. Things like memory management and pointers are not something the modern web developer thinks about anymore. Also the idea of having to have different code bases for different mobile environments can be a huge deal breaker for adopting a platform. Nobody wants to create an application and maintain different versions of the app for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. Not only is it a developer’s nightmare, but the costs can be huge. New development frameworks attempt to solve this problem by abstracting the specific phone platform so that the developer can write in one codebase (usually one that is familiar to the web developer) and deploy to multiple platforms. Here are some of those frameworks:

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is an open source development tool for building fast, easy mobile apps with JavaScript. It is free to use and can deploy to iPhone, Android, Palm, Symbian and Blackberry.

Appcelerator Titanium

Appcelerator Titanium is another free and open source development tool. You can build cross-platform apps that deploy to desktop, iPhone and Android using existing web skills like Javascript, HTML, CSS, Python, Ruby, and PHP. I’ve personally tried Appcelerator and have nothing but good things to say about it.

Monotouch

MonoTouch allows developers to create C# and .NET based applications that run on Apple’s iPhone and Apple’s iPod Touch devices. This is great for your typical Microsoft shop or enterprise that has a strong .NET skillset. A 1 year corporate license will run you about $1000.

These are just a few of the tools you can use to do cross platform mobile development while leveraging existing web development skills. It represents an exciting time because as traditional web developers we can quickly and easily create mobile applications. Speaking from my own experience over the weekend, my friend and I created an iPhone app in less than 12 hours using Appcelerator Titanium for the Day of Mobile Hackathon, and we went on to win Best iPhone app. Not too shabby for 2 people who didn’t know any Object-C walking in.

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