T Nation

Iphone App Idea


Say I have a great idea for an iPhone app, but I have no f'n clue how to make an iPhone app. I'm talking about an app that'll potentially make me like hundreds of dollars from so many people buying it. Option number one is I learn how to make one myself which involves a considerable amount of time and patience which I do not have either of. Option number two involves getting someone to write the app for me based on my ideas. How does something like that work if it actually does make me the aforementioned hundreds of dollars, do we split it 50/50 or what? I have no idea about such matters.


Sorry but I think someone already beat you to it.



If it screams out YOU'RE HUGE at random time intervals, I'll buy it.


You would hire a programmer for a set price or hourly rate. That person is not entitled to anything. Depending on the complexity of the application, it could take many hours and several thousand dollars. I hope your idea is worth more than hundreds like you mentioned.


You want to head over to a site like www.elance.com and look for someone who does mobile phone application development. For example, http://www.elance.com/s/quality_coding/#tab= has a pretty good rep and they charge $40 an hour. You can look through portfolios and contact people or post the project and allow contractors to bid on jobs.

You definitely want to pay the outsourcer yourself - do not go in 50/50. The #1 rule of doing any sort of business on the internet is not to go in with anyone on anything. People will lie, cheat, and steal, when there is a few thousand miles between the two of you and it's not worth prosecuting someone and sometimes not even possible to do so over a few hundred (or few thousand) dollars when they live on the other side of the world. I mean after all, who would go in with you 50/50 if your only role was to come up with the idea? Once they have it they can just steal it and upload the app themselves ;p

Two more things:

  • There are over 100,000 apps in the marketplace. Your app needs to be either exceptionally clever or you need to do some promotion yourself on this front if you want to get found.

  • Apple doesn't except every app. They deny apps frequently on the basis of "duplicating functionality" (highly dubious) and if it offers no perceived value (also highly dubious). Make sure to comb over the rules to the app store before you throw a bunch of money at a project.


Not to mention having him sign an NDA, getting a patent lawyer, searching for any existing code that is similar and incorporating yourself among other things...


Not to mention that APPLE takes a 30% cut.

And, personally, I would NEVER hire a foreign developer to do this shit. You WANT to meet face to face, trust me. At least, it's definitely preferable. There's an element of face to face communication that you simply cannot reproduce even over Skype, etc.

I say this because this is what we did at the startup I had with two friends. You do NOT want some Chinese/Indian/foreign developer, regardless of the cheap labor (compared to here).

I would find someone with a history of mobile app development. I would personally look for a UI designer with serious back end dev experience. Typically, the front end and back end guys are separate, but they also historically clash over how they want to implement features: the designer wants it one way, the back end guy wants to implement it in such a way that "break" the design.

And no, developers will not typically agree to future payments via app sales.

IF you were to hire someone abroad, you'd want it to be a legit company with a history of development, ideally one that has dealt with American companies, so that the firm's reputation could be at stake in the event of an NDA breach. An individual could simply be anonymous and hard to pursue if you want to take legal action.

Trust me, everyone and their mother has "an app idea." I'm not saying yours isn't legit, I'm saying that it takes a MONUMENTAL effort to be the next Angry Birds or whatever app you're thinking of. It takes innumerable (seriously, stop counting) iterations and user feedback. It takes an act of god to convince devs (really, really good ones) to pour their talent into something that may not take off anytime soon.

The really good devs want to see their work take off and be used immediately. They get sore if the business dev guy/girl isn't doing his/her job; they want to see their work make an IMPACT. Plus, they want that shit for their portfolio to show off.

I would look at HOW to hire a good programmer. There are articles on this. Definitely look for people that have work on github (share their code publicly) to assess how passionate/prolific they are. That's only one way, but there are other ways.

Good luck.


Spoken like a Silicon Valley hustler with startup experience.

I like.


For iPhone apps you don't always need to jump through those hoops. It really depends on what you are going for. For example, the 'company' featured in this article:


has gone on to make over a million in less than 2 years by outsourcing a large number of apps on elance. The guy who writes for www.smartpassiveincome.com makes ~7k a month off iPhone apps that he had outsourced entirely and he didn't run out and file a patent each time he came up with an app. Most of the apps are pretty simple.

It really depends on what you are trying to do. I have a friend who is building a very large app that will take months of development who will file for patent and trademark the name. However if you have an idea for a simple app that is less functionally and more gimmicky (which is not necessarily a bad thing), you can get them done really cheap on elance. You can get an english-speaking developer but I hardly think it is necessary to meet face to face to develop say, an app on converting units.


haha the training partner app!! that's genius.


thank you for your help.


I think that's a given re: simplicity of development/idea and communication; I wasn't implying that he'd need to meet in person for a mundane app. I've only worked on social networking / complicated apps, and I was speaking cost and hurdles of communication.

Good luck with your app idea. Remember, marketing and UI are two key areas. Your UI needs to be absolutely polished and addictive (for lack of a better word).


Smart man.