Eight years ago when Apple launched its first iPhone, it wasn’t a complete success, as it lagged far behind the competition in terms of development. At first, Steve Jobs refused to acknowledge the importance of apps on the iPhone. But in 2008, the penny dropped and the moment for iPhone app development came with the introduction of the iOS SDK (and its associated languages) and the App Store.



1.    iOS SDK and associated languages

The introduction of the iOS SDK in March 2008 and the promise of the App Store revolutionized iPhone app development. It allowed developers to write and build their own applications. With the release of Xcode 3.1, Xcode became the only development environment for the iOS SDK.

Fast forward to the present and two languages are mainly used for writing iOS app codes: Objective-C, which was already in use for OS X software when it was first used to write iPhone apps, and a new programming language, Swift, which was released in 2014.

Although Swift is considered the more approachable and feature-filled language, Objective-C forms the foundation of Apple App Store. Let’s find more about both of these.


Objective-C is the primary programming language used by Mac and iOS developers to write native apps. But here’s the catch: Objective-C wasn’t invented by and isn’t owned by Apple. Objective-C is an open standard created by Brad Cox and Tom Love.

Known as a superset of C, Objective-C is an object-oriented language that adds Smalltalk-like messaging to the C programming language. The non-object-oriented operations of Objective-C are derived from C, whereas its object syntax is derived from Smalltalk.

Objective-C is built with the LLVM compiler framework, which allows C and C++ to be run using an Objective-C compiler. Modern-day Objective-C includes new features like Automatic Reference Counting (ARC), subscripting and literals.

But the programming language that was built using it has much more to show than its predecessor.


Swift debuted on June 2, 2014 and is a largely based on Objective-C, as it supports all of the core concepts of Objective-C, but is characterized as “Objective-C without C.” It is also built with the LLVM compiler framework, allowing other language codes to run alongside the Swift code in a single program.

Swift supports dynamic libraries and also supports the concept of protocol extensibility, which can be applied to types, structures and classes. This is why Swift is called “protocol-oriented programming.

Many changes were welcomed in Swift, which make it a more reliable language to work with than Objective-C. Swift uses a simplified syntax called syntactic sugar and grammar, which makes it more expressive and easier to read.

Swift has proven to be highly maintainable as it has automated dependency detection, which eliminates the use of Objective-C’s two-file system. Swift also requires less code as it has eliminated repetitive code. These two features combine to make Swift 2.6 times faster than Objective-C.

A shortcoming of Objective-C is that it has no-op (a computer instruction that takes up a small amount of space but specifies no operation), which is the source of bugs and erratic behavior when entering code. Swift is more pliant to this erroneous code. For safety purposes, it introduced a system that address errors like null pointers (a pointer value that is known not to point anywhere).

Swift also introduced a revolutionary interactive coding environment, Swift Playgrounds, which evaluates individual statements without the need to compile and run a project and displays results as updates.

2.    App Store

With the introduction of the iOS App Store, the iPhone became the best thing since sliced bread. Though mobile apps weren’t exactly new to the market when it launched, the Apple App Store managed to carve out a niche in no time. Let’s take a look back at the history of the beloved Apple App Store.

app store

Timeline of the App Store

It’s been seven years since the launch of the App Store, and a million apps, billions of dollars and a huge number of Angry Birds downloads later, it’s still a smashing and unrivaled success.

On July 10, 2008, Apple launched its App Store with a whopping 552 apps (135 of them free, with others priced between $1 and $10). This contributed hugely to its instant success. The App Store had a 70:30 revenue model, with 30% of revenue generated through apps going to Apple.

By the end of first week after the App Store’s launch, users had downloaded more than 10 million apps. By September 2008, the store crossed a milestone with 100 million app downloads. By the end of that year, Facebook became the most downloaded app with 5 million downloads.

In January 2009, Apple announced that it has reached 500 million app downloads and that it offered 15,000 individual apps. Apple also expanded its App Store revenue model to include new in-app purchases and also introduced push notifications. In April 2009, the App Store hit 1 billion downloads before passing 2 billion in September 2009 with apps numbering 85,000.

The App Store received a boost in 2010 when new app views were introduced for iPad and iPad app downloads soared past 3 million at the launch alone. 2010 also welcomed apps like Angry Birds, Netflix and Time magazine to the App Store. With 225,000 apps, the App Store eclipsed 5 billion downloads by June 2010. The launch of Instagram, an App Store exclusive, came at the end of that year.

By January 2011, the App Store reached 10 billion downloads. By October 2011, app downloads hiked up to 18 billion. 2011 also saw the launch of Siri and Temple Run.

In March 2012, Apple announced that the App Store had crossed the milestone of 25 billion app downloads. In May 2013, the App Store set a huge milestone by passing 50 billion app downloads. In October 2013, it saw 10 billion more downloads.

By June 2014, the App Store had 75 billion downloads, which increased to 85 billion in October 2014, with Clash of Titans (paid) and Angry Birds 2 (free) being the most downloaded apps.

In June 2015, Apple announced that it had reached 100 billion app downloads with the 1.4 million apps it offered in its App Store.

The iPhone and iOS have come a long way with the help of these two pillars. With improvements to the iOS SDK and the App Store, iOS development will only continue to mature and develop.