iPhone in Action, by Christopher Allen and Shannon Appelcline, bills itself as an “introduction to Web and SDK development” for the iPhone. In print form it costs $39.99 direct from Manning (with free e-book) and in e-book only form it’s $24.99. If you’d rather brave Amazon.com, the print copy costs $26.39 at time of writing. Manning were kind enough to send me a copy of the book for review and after working through it, I knew it’d result in an interesting review..
The 30 Second Summary
A lot of information on developing both Web and SDK apps for the iPhone in a reasonably compact book (400 pages). Not suited for total novices, but well suited for existing programmers who want comprehensive coverage of the iPhone platform, the development of webapps, and the key concepts in developing native apps with the SDK along with examples. Can get confusing in places due to the pace and lack of “hand holding” but it’s an ultimately rewarding read for the eager developer. A solid effort but, again, not for complete novices.
Webapp Development++ – Turns out Safari really rocks!
Objective C: A hurried introduction, alas
It is not until chapter 9 – about a third of the way through the book – that we get to any “tough” stuff, with an introduction to the SDK and “C’s concepts.” Sadly, this chapter is woefully too short; a mere 9 pages that merely give the briefest of overviews about C, typing, memory management, messaging, and MVC. If you want to learn Objective C in a step by step fashion, you’ll need to buy another book (or even a screencast), although you could possibly “pick it up” from the examples in the remainder of the book.
Chapter 10 digs into getting the SDK installed and then presents a steadier introduction to Objective C. It’s a little fast paced for beginners though and after just several pages it’s claimed that “What we’ve covered so far should be sufficient for you to understand (and write) most simple Objective-C code.” It really isn’t, but if you have some familiarity with Objective C, this fast pace could be encouraging. While I wouldn’t dissuade a total Objective C newbie from buying this book, I’d definitely recommend they become familiar with Objective C some other way first before using this book to get up to speed with the iPhone’s use of it.
Building an iPhone application for real
In Chapter 11, we’re introduced to Xcode and quickly thrown into building our first iPhone application. This is presented very well, and while the app is merely a single line of text on an otherwise blank screen, the underlying code is very simple, well explained and it’s a great feeling to finally have an app up and running.
This section of the book moves really well. It’s fast paced but you’re developing a number of small iPhone applications in no time. Typing out the code by hand really helps with the learning experience (yes, I did it!) and even though the explanations in the book are a little terse, they’re just complete enough to get a feel for what’s going on (again, assuming you have a basic understanding of Objective C – if not, some of the references to “synthesize” and “property” will feel weird given the book’s brief introduction to these topics).
WIthout going into a chapter by chapter walkthrough of the remainder of the book, I’ll say that it does a reasonable job at quickly walking you through the key topics you’ll need to understand to move on as an iPhone developer without dwelling too long on any one thing, making it a solid “walkthrough” type book. iPhone in Action is a good book for existing developers who want to become familiar with iPhone development.
iPhone in Action never treats you like a novice (which, if you are a novice, is a negative point) but tries to get you into developing iPhone applications as quickly as possible and gives you just enough ammunition to make you feel like you’re getting somewhere. I found it a little hard going in places because a lot of details are skimmed over, but ultimately this can help you learn the material in a more practical way as long as you’re willing to keep researching and re-reading.
- Strongest coverage of webapp and Webkit-specific iPhone development I’ve seen so far.
- Solid introduction to SDK / Objective C based iPhone development for existing developers familiar with object orientation.
- A no-nonsense approach.
- Hurried and shallow coverage of Objective C and some of its underlying concepts.
- Definitely not for non-coders (though the introduction does warn of this).
Official Site: Manning : iPhone in Action
Authors: Christopher Allen and Shannon Appelcline
RRP: $39.99 (includes e-book)
Amazon: Click here to check out the book on Amazon.com – current price $26.39.