May 2, 2009


So a little bit of background. I have been happily developing with Java for over 9 years and am very appreciative of the wealth of frameworks available that make my job easier and more productive. In the company I work for currently I have been developing an enterprise server side Java application whose job is to aggregate and feed data to an iPhone based client. It got to the point where the server was virtually complete, scaling well and had few additional features remaining in the product backlog. We ‘server guys’ had applied best practices, patterns, and frameworks with a very satisfactory result.

I then began architecting features of the iPhone client application - with no intention of actually developing on the platform but merely providing the iPhone developers with a proof of concept that they could effectively ‘transcribe‘ into the iPhone domain. The feature in question required an SQLite database on the iPhone and as a server guy I could throw SQL together with ease - so it made sense that I should do the design. However, as the iPhone implementation of my designs progressed, many issues presented themselves on the client that just didn’t exist in my Java-based proof of concept. It was at this point I realized that I’d have to delve into the world of Objective-C and XCode. Having done a bit of C programming at university and written one MFC based OpenGL app for my coursework 12 years previous - I was struck with fear at the learning curve I probably faced.

I was very pleasantly surprised. In terms of language structure and syntax - the core things that make Java development easier (or rather: less difficult) than C were all in place in Objective-C. Exceptions, Thread classes, synchronization, interfaces, etc. were there - although often they are often called something totally different and aren’t quite like the Java equivalent. I was given Dylan McNamee’s ‘Java to Objective-C cheat sheet’ which proved a useful starting point and I was soon at ease. Then, having had a quick look at the language I wanted to get started debugging the iPhone implementation of the SQLite POC.

I’d recommend that any Java developer interested in the iPhone platform jump right in - they won’t find the learning curve that steep and in my opinion you can apply all the software development fundamentals that one is often required to know in the Enterprise Java domain to this (much smaller) platform.

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