Challenges of iOS development

As an iOS developer for over a decade, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of building apps for Apple’s ubiquitous devices. iOS development comes with many rewards, like reaching millions of engaged users and seeing your app featured on the App Store. But it also has its fair share of challenges that can leave developers pulling their hair out! If you do not want to waste time and effort on this, you can simply order iOS development services.

In this post, I’ll share the main difficulties I’ve faced in my iOS career. Whether you’re an aspiring iOS dev or a seasoned pro, you’re likely to relate to many of these obstacles. From App Store headaches to keeping up with Apple’s framework changes, it’s all part of life as an iOS coder. Read on for the inside scoop!

Challenges of iOS development

The Ever-Changing iOS Landscape

One of the biggest challenges of iOS development is that the ecosystem is constantly evolving. Apple frequently releases new devices, operating system versions, APIs, and app guidelines. It feels like you have to run just to keep up. As soon as you master a new iOS version and SDK, boom—Apple drops another major update. Over the years, this rapid pace of change has only accelerated.

Here are some of the main issues this causes:

  • You have to constantly learn new APIs and frameworks. Some older code won’t work on the latest OS versions.
  • Supporting new devices like iPads and iPhones with different screen sizes requires tweaking your app’s interface and layouts.
  • New OS versions often introduce breaking changes that can take time to fix.
  • Adapting to Apple’s changing app guidelines is an ongoing hassle. They keep moving the goalposts of what is or isn’t allowed.

All this makes it hard to future-proof apps and avoid extra work down the road. Even with the best plans, iOS updates often force you to overhaul code or add new features to keep up. The fast tempo can make development feel like a dog chasing its own tail!

The Walled Garden of the App Store

Ah, the App Store. This gleaming temple to apps has been both a blessing and curse for iOS devs like myself. On one hand, it provides amazing access to Apple’s vast user base. But on the other, dealing with App Store policies and processes can be a periodic migraine.

Here are some of my App Store gripes:

  • Apple’s app review process is notoriously opaque and inconsistent. You never quite know what guidelines reviewers will enforce.
  • Getting apps approved can involve much frustrating back-and-forth. Review times range from a few days to over a week.
  • Apple sometimes rejects apps for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Their decisions often feel subjective or anti-competitive.
  • Visibility in the crowded App Store depends on an app’s descriptions, keywords, and marketing. Quality doesn’t guarantee success.
  • Fickle app ranking algorithms make it hard to predict search results placement and discovery.
  • Monetizing apps is getting harder with consumers expecting low prices or free apps.

Jumping through the App Store’s hoops definitely requires patience. But access to Apple’s users makes it worthwhile in the end. You just have to set expectations on dealing with the process.

Fragmentation: Supporting Old Devices and iOS Versions

Imagine if Windows developers had to make sure their software worked on every version of Windows from the 90s until today. That’s essentially the plight of iOS devs supporting old devices and iOS versions!

Apple is famous for its rapid OS adoption rates. But lots of users stick with older iPhones and lag in updating. This means most apps need to keep working on previous iOS editions for years.

Dealing with this long tail of device and OS fragmentation leads to some challenges:

  • You often have to structure apps to be backwards compatible with older iOS versions.
  • Testing on many different generations of iPhones and iPads takes extra time.
  • Supporting older devices with less memory or slower processors can limit features.
  • Designing adaptive UIs for 3.5 to 5.5-inch screens involves trade-offs.
  • Dropping support for legacy iOS versions annoys users but reduces workload.
  • Deciding when to sunset an app or drop older device support is tricky.

Unless you’re only targeting the latest iPhones, fragmentation is a fact of life. Allowing for it in development and testing is key to avoiding issues down the road.

Dealing with the Rapid Pace of Change in Swift

As an iOS developer, getting to know languages like Objective-C and Swift is part of the job. The problem is Swift has been changing so frequently since its introduction. Apple keeps reinventing it with major updates every year or two.

While Swift’s continual enhancement is great, it also creates some challenges:

  • New language features and syntax additions take time to learn. You have to stay on top of changes.
  • Code written in older Swift versions often breaks in newer editions and needs updating.
  • Third-party libraries and dependencies lag in supporting new Swift versions, causing conflicts.
  • XCode itself usually lags in supporting new Swift versions fully, creating hassles.
  • Keeping codebases compatible across multiple Swift versions is a chore.
  • Deciding when to migrate legacy codebases to newer Swift requires planning.

My advice is to budget extra time after each major Swift update for learning new features and migrating code. This language won’t be slowing down its rampant evolution anytime soon.

Standing Out in a Crowded App Store

With over 1.8 million apps on the App Store, it’s harder than ever for new apps to get noticed. As an iOS developer, driving user acquisition and standing out from the pack has become a growing concern.

A few factors make achieving App Store visibility an uphill battle:

  • There’s an avalanche of new apps launching every day, making it hard not to get buried.
  • Apple doesn’t give new apps much exposure or marketing assistance.
  • Fickle algorithms influence app search ranking and featured placement.
  • Social and PR buzz is essential but hard to generate as an unknown.
  • A/B testing app pages to maximize conversions takes effort.
  • Budgets for paid user acquisition campaigns are almost mandatory for growth.
  • Social features and viral loops can help gain traction.
  • Retention and reviews are key to long-term rankings and visibility.

For developers without big marketing budgets, earning a featured spot or getting on popular app lists can be critical. This makes quality and innovation more important than ever. But even great apps often fade into the long tail if they lack serious promotion.

Dealing with Dependencies on External Services

Modern apps often integrate third-party APIs and services like social networks, ads, maps, data sources, and more. While convenient, dependencies on outside web APIs create some challenges:

  • Integrations require adhering to strict usage terms, privacy policies, and other guidelines.
  • External APIs can change or break unexpectedly, causing app issues.
  • Network errors and downtime of third-party services negatively impact apps.
  • Heavy reliance on social platforms for growth leads to audience ownership issues.
  • APIs sometimes sunset with little notice, forcing Emergency changes.
  • Usage costs of paid APIs like maps or translation add up for popular apps.
  • Updating API keys and credentials across environments is an ongoing maintenance hassle.

Treading carefully with third-party integrations is wise. Favor APIs with reputations for stability, embrace redundancy, and isolate dependencies when possible. Just know that snafus beyond your control may arise.

Never Enough Time or Resources!

If there’s one universal truth in software development, it’s that there are never enough hours in the day or resources to get everything done. Despite the best plans and organizational skills, unanticipated delays and roadblocks are inevitable.

On iOS projects, common resource constraints include:

  • Lack of time to implement every desired feature by launch dates
  • Insufficient QA testing time for complex edge cases
  • Shortage of engineers to assign to certain code optimizations
  • Straining artwork and asset budgets for supporting new devices
  • Difficulty recruiting specialized roles like AI developers
  • Inability to self-fund large user acquisition campaigns
  • Limitations around proprietary data access needed for features

Careful prioritization and focus helps maximize output given limited time and people. But most dev teams still feel resource squeezed, especially when project scope or timelines slip. Finding ways to work smarter and leverage automation helps—but additional pressure comes with the iOS territory.

Coping With Apple’s “Walled Garden”

Apple keeps iOS development locked down inside its walled garden. This provides quality control but limits developer freedom in some areas:

  • Apple must approve all apps, updates, and ecosystem access. Rejections are common.
  • iOS development requires Apple hardware and paying the $99 dev program fee.
  • Distribution is limited to the App Store, with no sideloading.
  • iOS APIs offer less low-level access compared to Android.
  • Apple prohibits alternative app stores, engines, and sideloading.
  • Developers can be banned for guideline violations, killing apps.
  • Monetization models like crypto mining apps are disallowed.
  • iOS customization is limited compared to Android’s openness.

While Apple’s restrictions aim to provide a secure high-quality experience, they do create development constraints. Weigh these trade-offs carefully if considering iOS-first vs cross-platform approaches.

Intense Competition in Top App Categories

For developers trying to build successful consumer apps in crowded categories like social, messaging, dating, gaming, fitness or photo sharing—good luck! The competition is absolutely ferocious.

Breaking through against thousands of polished apps with existing network effects is insanely difficult without a sizeable budget. Top apps also rapidly copy any innovative features.

For indie developers tackling these categories, huge marketing hurdles exist. Smaller niche categories with less competition are often smarter targets for bootstrapped startups or solo devs.

However, the outsized rewards of building the next hit social app still lure developers to take their chances despite the odds. Bring extremely patient capital, focus on retention and engagement over growth, and prepare to grind it out for the long haul.

You cannot (no problem) test older versions of iOS

If you need to check out the simulator for iOS 7, you have to spend a lot of time. This is technically possible, but for this, you need to download an old and no longer supported version of Xcode, which only works under Mavericks. If you do not want to burden your IT department with such a routine, you can order any services at

Certificates and Profiles

Dealing with iOS certificates is tedious, bureaucratic, and shrouded in mystery. Sometimes something goes wrong, and neither the Apple documentation, nor Xcode, nor the Member Center will answer the true reasons for what is happening. There were examples when the working code gave an inactive button in the application. As a Fullstack developer, you don’t need to ask Apple for permission to run your code on your devices, just like on any other platform in the world, even macOS. But such stories have happened, and Apple does not comment on them in any way.


And there you have it—the rollercoaster ride that is iOS development. As you can see, building great apps takes skill, perseverance, and the willingness to cope with a constant stream of challenges. But it’s also incredibly rewarding, both financially and creatively.

My goal here was to give an honest look at the ups and downs iOS devs face daily. Don’t let the obstacles deter you, just go in aware of the trade-offs. With smart planning, passion, and high-quality execution—success awaits the most dedicated iOS developers. The journey isn’t easy, but the destination is worth it!

Now get out there, open XCode, and start building the next game-changing iOS app the world needs!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main challenges of iOS development?

The key challenges include keeping pace with Apple’s rapid ecosystem changes, App Store policies, fragmentation across devices/iOS versions, standing out among competition, learning new Swift versions, technical debt, limited resources, and dependence on Apple’s platform.

How often does iOS change?

Apple issues major iOS updates annually, with monthly bug fix releases. There are typically 2-3 significant iOS versions in active use at once. Apple also releases new iPhones yearly and new iPad models every 12-18 months.

Why is supporting old iOS versions difficult?

Legacy iOS versions have limitations, bugs, and lack new features. Supporting old OS versions requires extra testing and duplicate code bases. At some point it becomes necessary to drop the oldest iOS versions to focus engineering on the present.

What causes apps to get rejected by the App Store?

Common rejection reasons include UI/design issues, bugs, guideline violations, sensitive content, privacy concerns, instability, manipulative behavior like fake reviews, illegal use cases, and repetitive clone apps.

How can I make my app stand out on the App Store?

Focus on a great user experience, stunning visuals, simple workflows, effective branding, smart A/B testing, localizations, competitive research, useful notifications, retention features, and continuous refinement based on user feedback and metrics.

Why is Swift still changing so much?

As a relatively new language, Swift is still rapidly evolving. Apple keeps making syntax changes, adding major features like concurrency, improving performance, and tweaking the language design. It will likely remain in flux for a few more years.

What are tips for managing dependencies on third-party APIs?

Document integration workflows, handle errors gracefully, build in redundancy, isolate external calls, leverage SDKs, pin to API versions, stay on top of changes, have backups when APIs sunset, and monitor performance closely.

How can I cope with limited app development resources?

Careful scoping, minimal viable product focus, prioritizing critical features, technical debt management, automation, targeted hiring, outsourcing, and compromising on non-essential “nice-to-haves” can help maximize output with finite resources.

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