Apple frees casual iOS developers of membership requirement

Apple is making it easier for students and other casual developers to try their hand at building apps for its products, by allowing them to test an app on their personal devices for free.

Since the inception of the iOS Developer Program, developers watching to test an app on an iPhone or iPad needed to pay Apple $99 a year for membership. Now, anyone with an Apple ID will be able to download the company’s Xcode development environment and use it to build an iOS app and test it on a device they own. It’s a big shift from the company’s previous policy, and a change that makes it easier for people to try out Apple’s platform without worrying about cost.

In addition, the OS X and iOS Developer Programs have merged into one Apple Developer Program, so app makers now have to pay only a single $99 fee to make and distribute apps for iOS, OS X and WatchOS.

The move, announced during the Platforms State of the Union session at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, will make it possible for people to learn the company’s development tools without paying a hefty up-front fee. Interested developers now only have to pay for a developer program membership when they want to use the features that come with it, like the ability to run beta tests through TestFlight, access to beta versions of Apple operating systems and the ability to distribute their apps through the company’s App Stores.

Apple’s announcement comes at a time when Microsoft, Google and other platform operators are trying to cast as wide a net as possible in order to bring on new developers. Developers can pick up a publisher account for the Google Play Store for just $25, and could already deploy Android apps to their personal devices for free. Distributing applications through the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store is free as well.

Microsoft announced earlier this year that Android and iOS developers will be able to port their code over to phones with the new Windows 10 update. Furthermore, the Windows Universal App Platform in Windows 10 will make it possible for developers to create one core program that runs across devices, and then craft user interface code for different form factors

Requiring developers to sign up and pay for different development programs made Apple an outlier, and this change makes its development tools more competitive with other companies in the same market.

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