iOS development - what to buy ?


Mar 9, 2008

i'm thinking about developing some apps for iOS, and because of that, there are some prerequisites outside of the $99/year payment to Apple :).

First, there is an issue of the development computer itself. We can safely rule out the hackintosh route, so the only real choices are :
  • 2010 mac mini - 718€. The cheaper alternative, but it is only C2D@2.4GHz, only 2 gigs of RAM, hard drive can be replaced only in a extremly crazy way (you need to take the whole mac mini apart to replace it with other hard drive or SSD).
  • Macbook white - 759 €. Same hardware specs as the mac mini. Hard drive replacement much easier according to pictures.
  • Macbook Pro 13" 2.3GHz - 1199€. A lot more pricy than the other 2 solutions, on other side it's Sandy bridge and 4 gigs of RAM. The issues - another 28-29€ for the DVI or HDMI adapter, it has compatibility problem with selected SSDs (Crucial c300/m4; Intel 510; some reports the same issue with Vertex 3 as well). The SSD compatibility issue should not be that big of a problem, i could upgrade the SSD in my main PC instead and put my current Corsair Force in the MBP.
  • The remaining options are either too expensive (MBP 15/17) or useless (iMac, Macbook Air, Mac Pro, mac mini server).

Then there is a question what iOS device to buy, with strong preference of iPod touch 8GB 4th gen (239€).

Of course there is a possibility for "used device market", but i'm not really ready to go that way.

What are your suggestions ? It will be used only for application development (iOS, maybe replacing my current laptop too for J2EE development). If there will be any gaming at all, then it will be TF2 (but this is not a deciding factor).
Why are you "not really ready" to go for a used Mac? If your main task is iOS development, you won't need the latest and greatest hardware. You can get a used Mac Mini for a reasonable price. Also, I don't understand why you've labeled the iMac as "useless." Perhaps you need to tell us more about your intended use patterns and overall setup so we can better assist you. I get that you want an SSD (though you haven't said why you need one). Previos generations of Mac Mini had different ways to replace the drive. I think the very last white one was super easy (just remove the top case with a putty knife) but someone who knows more can correct me.
I bought a refurb Mac Mini from the online Apple store. It's just a Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz, Fall 2009 model. It's more than adequate for iOS development and even Mac OS development.
You don't really have to pay 99 dollars until you want to publish your app in the app store. You can still use the simulator with the sdk.

You can hackintosh all the development until the final stuff, when you can use a core duo laptop with broken bits all over it to do the final deed.
  • used market - the problem is that i am from a small country (Slovakia), so there is a very little Apple customer base for the start (i mean computers, not iPod/iPhone/iPad market). This also means the used computers are relatively expensive compared to what i lose on performance of the new one. For example the current offers i see on the ebay-like local websites :
    - 800-850e for 2009/2010 unibody macbooks
    - 450-550e for old white macbooks (i mean the 2GHz generation, not the current 2.4GHz generation)
    As you can see, the prices are not really that great, i will rather have a brand new 13" white version with added 4 gigs of memory than an used 2009/2010 unibody version with same specs, but half of or no warranty. Or that 400e extra for a brand new model with Sandy Bridge CPU... I know it sounds crazy, but things like to die on me (hell, i just have to RMA a Seasonic X-650 power supply because of fan noise; or look at my WD20EARS, which just returned as a replacement for a RMA; which was itself a item returned from a RMA).
  • iMac is useless because i don't need another big piece of hardware on my desk. I have a high spec PC for my work and gaming (i7-2600K, GTX570, 8GB RAM, HP LP2475w+secondary 21,5" display), so i need something relatively small, cheap and of course i would like to connect it to my HP display if possible - that means either mac mini or 13" laptop. That pretty much rules out iMac (because it is too big), Mac Pro (i don't need another desktop), Macbook Air (doesn't have the needed connectivity plus it is expensive) and Mac Mini Server (i don't need two hard drives, i have a fileserver with terabytes of space for data).
  • SSD - i have SSD in all my computers, for me good old hard drives are just simply slow if you know what i mean.
  • use patterns depend on the decision between macbook or mac mini. In case of Mac Mini it would just sit on my desk, connected to my display and all i will use it for will be the iOS development and nothing else. No gaming, no J2EE development, nothing else. In case of the laptop, i would use it for the same things as my current laptop, that means generic use (web browsing, mail,...), J2EE application development, PHP webapps, ocassional gaming (TF2) in adition ot iOS development.
  • @pxc: there is no online Apple store in Slovakia, and there are no refurbs sold in Slovakia. That things is pretty specific to US and other bigger markets. 5 million country means we don't even have music store in iTunes, no direct Apple store, no official iPad2 sale,... You get the idea.
The mini should be sufficient with a 2GB RAM upgrade. Anything beyond that you don't need. Compiling a typical iOS app is exceptionally quick, particularly now that Xcode runs with LLVM on the back end as opposed to GCC, so you don't need monstrous computing power. You won't need to replace the hard drive either: the drive it ships with will be ample, though you may want an external drive in addition to use for Time Machine.
So you say i should buy the 2010 mac mini for 718€ plus 1 piece of CMSO4GX3M1A1333C9 - 4GB SODIMM module (33€; there really is no reason to buy 2GB module only, the price difference is too small).

I have a fileserver with 12TB capacity, plus i would probably use Crashplan anyway (that is what i use for my Windows desktop), so that external drive and/or Time Machine is not needed.

Edit: There is of course another part of the story, if i buy a laptop (MBP), then i will of course sell my current Acer TimelineX, which again changes the price landscape a bit.
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You don't really have to pay 99 dollars until you want to publish your app in the app store. You can still use the simulator with the sdk.
I've used the self-signed certificate/SDK hack to put binaries on the iOS device when my (personal) developer subscription lapsed. Nothing can really replace testing on the actual device unless the UI is trivial and performance isn't a concern.
I choosen the last option (buy the MBP 13" 2011 Core i5 version, then later sell the Acer TimelineX), due to the fact that simply a laptop will be more usable than a single use and less powerfull Mac Mini. Plus if we remove the price for which i can sell the TimelineX, the MBP will be actually the cheaper variant.