Book Review: iOS SDK Development

iOS SDK DevelopmentI recently got my hands on a review copy of the new book, “iOS SDK Development”, by Chris Adamson and Bill Dudney. The book was just published at the end of November 2012, and it’s chock full of the latest techniques and technologies in Xcode and Objective-C.

The book is appropriate for developers who are new to the iOS platform, though the breakneck pace may be overwhelming. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone brand new to software development in general. So if you’re an experienced developer and want to add iOS development to your toolbox, this is a great place to start. But it is not a “Learn to program” book.

As an experienced iOS developer, I was impressed by how current many of the concepts in this book were. Of course, they cover the basics like Table Views and hooking up UI elements, but they also introduce and demonstrate a lot of the newer SDK and language features too. They build interfaces with Storyboard and Auto-Layout. They use UIDocument and iCloud to store data. Also covered is the new Automation capabilities of the Instruments tool, which can enable you to run automated user interface tests on your apps. This is definitely an iOS 6 book.

Something I really appreciated was that the authors explained what could go wrong in many situations. They explained how things could break, and especially how to fix them. This is sorely missing from most development books.

The authors also walk you through the entire development cycle and offer informative chapters on testing and deploying your apps, including a mention of Provisioning Profile hell.

“iOS SDK Development” manages to cover a lot of territory in less than 300 pages, and by necessity they only offer a taste of some SDK features, like iCloud, and pass over others completely, like Core Data. I learned a few new tricks from this book and I’m glad I read it. I’d recommend it especially to developers who are new to the iOS world, but even veterans could learn a thing or two from this one.


Book Review: Programming the iPhone User Experience by Toby Boudreaux

The title of this book offers a hint to the duality of information it offers. It tries to be both a programming book and a User Experience book, focused exclusively on the iPhone, and squeezed into a mere 165 pages. I think the book would have been more effective had it chosen one of these topics to focus on, but on many levels it still registers as a successful text which adds value to any iPhone developer.

I actually read this book twice: once when I first started out with iPhone development, and again nearly two months later, once I had a degree of comfort with the iPhone. Those were two completely different experiences. I would recommend waiting until you’re well into your first iPhone app before you read this book. There will still be time to fix any horrible user experience gaffes you have committed, and you’ll find the detailed code examples much more useful.

For the novice iPhone developer, the book hits you hard with a combination of information that is either too detailed to be of use now, or so basic, it doesn’t seem worth including in the book. There are detailed code examples of handling multi-touch swipes, and several pages earlier, there are diagrams with long lists of Cocoa class hierarchies. Neither of these were what I was expecting from a User Experience book, and neither were helpful in guiding me in crafting a good user experience for my first iPhone app.

More useful from the beginning were the discussions of Cooperative Single-Tasking (Chapter 5), Progressive Enhancement (Chapter 8 ) and UX Anti-Patterns (Chapter 9). These were filled with useful User Experience (UX) suggestions that could be applied right away to designing an iPhone app. Chapter 9 on anti-patterns is a particularly useful walk through an iPhone Hall of Shame, with some useful explanations of why these practices are wrong, and suggestions for what can be done instead.

Once I had more experience under my belt, both the Touch Patterns (Chapter 6) and the Interaction Patterns and Controls (Chapter 7) chapters with all their code examples were more useful. They play out like a reference text for adding features to your app. You want to make a custom scroller? There’s a code example for that. I even found the first three chapters more useful once I had experience with creating an iPhone app. These introductory chapters are often criticized for being fluff or filler, but they actually work as a useful checklist for your app, especially as it relates to the Mobile Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). Is it an Immersive Application or a Light Utility? Is it following the Mobile HIG guidelines for its class of app?

Programming the iPhone User Experience is a good iPhone book. Read it through once, absorb some UX do’s and dont’s, skip the detailed code examples that don’t apply to you now, and then come back to them later when you need them.

Disclaimer: I had a free copy of this book to review, which my Cocoaheads development user group received from O’Reilly to read and review.