The Hackathon Guide to Building Your First iPhone App


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metrics_stopwatchSo you’re at a hackathon and just came up with an idea for an awesome mobile app. You want to start, but you are not quite sure where to begin. Your options are to use a tool like PhoneGap, or create a native application. This is definitely a personal choice, but I am a proponent for native over hybrid (PhoneGap, Titanium, etc). You will always have access to the underlying mobile platform and can create the best user experience without any lag. I personally feel that’s worth it.

But you don’t know Objective-C. Not a problem! This guide will quickly walk you through making your first iPhone app and point you to awesome resources to help you on your hacking journey in less than an hour.

Get Tools (35 mins)

Let’s begin with what you need.

  1. A Mac. This can be any Mac (as long as it can run OS X 10.7 and up). I know you must be thinking that Macs are expensive and you are right, but you don’t need a fancy laptop. You can also look into purchasing the more affordable Mac Minis and connecting it with any monitor you might have lying around your home.
  2. Apple Developer Account. Getting an account is absolutely free and will give you the ability to learn and write apps for the iPhone simulator. You will also get the ability to download Xcode (we will cover what this is later) and get access to documentation and developer videos.To put your apps on your phone you will have to enroll in the iOS developer program which costs $99/yr. You might prefer to get something running in an emulator first and then register later.
  3. Download/install Xcode. To start transforming your awesome ideas into great iPhone apps, you will need Xcode. This is Apple’s IDE or integrated development environment. All the app building happens in this program. Xcode contains:
    • GUI Editor – Create the visual appearance of your app
    • Source Code Editor – This is where all the magic happens
    • Apple’s LLVM Compiler – This turns that raw code into a runnable app
    • iPhone/iPad similar to test your code without the actual device

Setting Up and Creating Your First App (5 Min)

I created a quick screencast to show the initial setup of an app.

Making an App with the SendGrid SDK (15 Min)

Now here’s another screencast where I show how to include the SendGrid iOS SDK in your application.

Additional Resources and Tools

Okay, so now you have your basic app running and connected to the SendGrid SDK. It’s time to take the leap and explore more:

You’re only one hour into this hackathon. You have the rest of the time to perfect your app.


Meet Kunal, Developer Evangelist at-large for SendGrid and home-grown New Jersey hacker. He previously ran General Machines, which developed Deaftel - a phone service for the deaf that converts voice to text and text back into voice over a phone call. Since March 2013, Kunal has been working as a Developer Evangelist at SendGrid, helping enable developers to get the tools and resources they need to make awesome, creative stuff.

Kunal Batra on Twitter

One thought on “The Hackathon Guide to Building Your First iPhone App

  1. Pingback: The Mobile App Hackathon Quickstart Guide

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