How it feels to learn iOS
It’s a little bit more than Swift
Bill: Yo Steve, I finally found the next big thing. It will change the world. Since this is my baby, I don’t think I can tell you what it is. But, I still want to ask you a couple questions. As you know, I can’t afford to hire developers, so I am thinking of learning and building by myself. I plan to launch it in three weeks. I learned C in back in college, so building a mobile app should be a breeze. Anyway, you are pretty good with iOS, right?
Steve: Oh, yeah? I contribute to open source projects including Swift and server-side projects. I have been organizing iOS Meetups for the past 5 years. So, I might be the right guy to ask.
Bill: Cool. So, I don’t know where to begin… Right, which programming language do I need to learn?
Steve: (Wanting to say “Let me google that for you”) There are two languages you might consider: Objective-C and Swift.
Bill: Alright, Swift? It sounds bizarre. So, should I learn both?
Steve: Not necessarily, no one is learning Objective-C in 2016 unless you are planning to work with a team whose code is already written in it.
Bill: Then, what’s the difference between Objective-C and Swift?
Steve: The primary difference would be that Swift is a relatively new programming language built and recently adopted by Apple in 2014. While Objective-C is 32-years old and used to build OS X, iOS, and Cocoa Touch frameworks.
Bill: So, you must be saying lots of things are already written in Objective-C. Then, why should I even bother to learn Swift?
Bill: Optionals? What the heck?
Steve: In Swift, every instance must be initialized to be type safe. In a real world, however, you will encounter empty values which are known as “nil”. For instance, when you make an API call from Facebook, you may not receive a person’s profile picture. In this case, Swift allows you to deal with the situation using Optionals to store nil values
Bill: I see. That sounds interesting. By the way, do I need to buy a Mac to make apps?
Steve: (Facepalm) Hell Yeah. Come on. Mac OS is always superior.
Bill: I am glad to hear! I recently bought 2016 MacBook Pro. I truly loved the touch bar on its keyboard even though it was only $2399. Why buy Surface Studio? Anyway, what else do I need?
Steve: (Slightly Annoyed) You need to download Xcode.
Bill: What does it do?
Steve: Xcode is the IDE for building Apple software tightly integrated with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks.
Bill: I have no idea what you just said. Where do I begin?
Steve: (Grinding his teeth) Hey, I gotta catch the train. Talk to you later.
Bill: Wait, Steve, Just one more question!
Steve: No, I have to go now. Just google shit.
3 Days Later
Bill: Hey, Steve. How’ve you been? I spent my entire weekend learning iOS. But, seriously, though, I am confused. I really need your help.
Steve: Oh, yeah? What do you need?
Bill: Well, first of all, I downloaded Xcode and learned Swift and Object Oriented Programming which I have never seen it before.
Steve: (Deeply breathing in) Ok. That sounds about right.
Bill: I also learned how to create UIButtons, UILables, and UIImages using storyboards and connect with view controllers to customize them.
Steve: Alright, continue.
Bill: But, I have no idea why “viewDidLoad” and “didReceieveMemoryWarning” appear whenever I create new view controllers.
Steve: (Relieved) That’s actually a good question. viewDidLoad is a function that runs once when the view controller is first loaded into memory. So you can create such as custom UIs in the block as soon as the view is ready. didReceieveMemoryWarning is also a built-in method that sends to the view controller when the app receives a memory warning. The both are optional. By the way, you will eventually need to learn viewDidAppear and viewWillAppear
Bill: Oh, I see. What are they?
Steve: Never mind, don’t worry about it. Ask me when you need to dynamically update the user interface.
Bill: Oh okay. Also, when I create a new project, there is a Swift file called, “UIApplication”. What does it do?
Steve: It manages the entire app at a higher level. For example, you can instruct what to do when a user presses the home button, receives push notifications, and so on.
Bill: Uhhhh, What? I have never used an iPhone before…
Steve:(smh) Don’t worry about it. You first need to learn UIKit first.
Bill: I thought I’ve already mastered it.
Steve: Not even close. You don’t even know how to create views without using Graphic User Interface.
Bill: You mean the storyboard?
Steve: Yes, you know nothing.
Bill: Wait wait, so you are saying that I can build apps like creating a website using CSS?
Steve: Absolutely. Large teams tend not to rely on Storyboards alone.
Bill: Wait, Steve. What are you talking about? So, you are telling me not to use Storyboards?
Steve: No. You MUST get the fundamental first before you can make custom windows and views. Have you played around with UITableView and UICollectionView?
Bill: Uhhh, nope. Do I have to learn?
Steve: (About to explode) No shit. They are the most used features in UIKit of all time. UITableView is often used to build setting pages and UICollectionView is typically good for user generated content such as Facebook’s Newsfeed, Pinterest and Instagram’s main page, and so on. Just because you learn how to drag and drop, it doesn’t mean you know iOS.
Bill: Oh… So, you are saying if I learn UICollectionView, I can make apps like Facebook?
Steve: (Speechless) No. You need to authenticate users with tokens and pass data between view controllers either using delegates or segues. You also need to learn how to communicate with backend using Firebase or AWS Mobile Hub at first.
Bill: Uhh, what? I have no idea what you just said.
Steve: To build apps that fit in every Apple device, you need to learn Auto Layout and possibly UIStackView. Be able to parse and network using external libraries such as Alamorefire and SwiftyJSON. Understand concurrency and Grand Central Dispatch or simply GCD for asynchronous operations. Use protocol oriented programming to make light code and possibly use NIB files to generate custom UIs.
Bill: Auto Layout? Grand Central Dispatch? NIB”, “Protocol”? wa-what?
Steve: Don’t even.
Bill: Uhhh, maybe iOS is not right for me.
Steve: I am telling you, you’ve only covered less than 1% of one out of 100+ frameworks out there created by Apple alone. I am not even mentioning how to integrate with third party APIs. I know nothing, how can you say you’ve mastered it (smh)?
Bill: I thought iOS was simply dropping a couple of screens and connecting them like how you do in PowerPoint.
Steve: That’s what people think. It’s not. It takes years to become better at it.
Bill: Hey Steve, I am sorry about what I said… I have been wrong all the time.
Steve: That’s okay. I made the same mistake when I had a transition from front-end development to iOS. I thought I knew it all.
Bill: Well, what should I do now? Should I abandon my dream app?
Steve: If I were you, I would stick with it and learn iOS development little by little every day. I would learn the fundamental first even though it’s going to be an unpredictable journey.
Bill: Okay. Sounds good. Steve, could you be my mentor, please?
Steve: Sure, I will help you along the way. What’s your idea about?
Bill: My idea is about blah..blah..blah..
Steve: That’s a great idea. I love it.
Steve left with a smile on his face
Thank you for reading the article! I still remember vividly typing random code inside of “viewDidLoad” without knowing its functionality. Learning iOS was challenging and I always wanted to give up… But here I am today, sharing and interacting with phenomenal iOS communities around the world. I feel privileged and thankful for this opportunity.
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