By Karen Haslam 06 Aug Do you have a great idea for an iOS app or a Mac app? Looking for the right machine to code it on? In this article we will look at why a Mac is necessary for iOS development and the minimum Mac you need for coding. If you want to skip the buying advice, you can jump straight to our recommendation of the best Mac for coding.
Want to make a version of your app for Android too? No problem.
You could build a hackintosch , and some people do, but we'll save that for another article. Take a look at Udemy's online Swift courses, too. We have already established that you will need a Mac that can run macOS Mojave If you were to consider every Mac included above that would be a huge range of Mac laptops and desktops.
Some are better suited to app development than others. You might find a Mac that looks like a bargain, but another Mac could offer much more for only a little extra. One of the most useful things for a coder is a big screen. As a developer you will probably have several programs and windows open at once: a web browser, a text editor, and the Xcode IDE Integrated Development Environment to name a few. You will benefit from a large screen or things will feel uncomfortably cramped even more so if you are using Unity3d for game development, for example.
But do developers really need a 27in iMac? Not really. If you want to use a big screen there is nothing to stop you plugging one or two external displays into any Mac.
See our screen recommendations here. A separate screen is a good option if you are looking for a portable Mac. That way you have the benefit of being able to code wherever and whenever inspiration hits, and benefit from a bigger screen when you are at your desk.
Based on the theory that you need as much screen as you can get you might want to consider a 15in MacBook Pro. And would a 12in MacBook be out of the question?
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As for the difference between a 15in and a 13in MacBook Pro - the 13in models will probably suffice. We used to advise against getting a MacBook Air, but then Apple updated the range in October and the newer model is in a different league to the old-style Air. We look at the pros and cons all these Mac laptops below. When it comes to the screen size on a laptop, choosing a Mac laptop with a Retina display make a big difference. This could could be a benefit if you tend to program in the dark as it adjusts the colours to the lighting conditions.
Which ever MacBook you choose, we suggest you factor in the cost of a separate screen for when you are at your desk, because as a programmer you are going to benefit from as much screen space as you can get your eyes on. Both the Air and the Pro can support two extra 4K displays, or one 5K display, which could be handy. Speaking of factoring in the cost for a separate screen, the Mac mini lacks a screen altogether, but it supports a 5K display, or two 4K displays, so that could be worthy of consideration.
The next consideration is the specs of the Mac. When it comes to programming, memory is key. If you are wondering whether you can upgrade the RAM later on - or maybe add more RAM to a second hand Mac - the answer is probably no.
Upgrade to macOS Mojave.
With the exception of the 27in iMac, no Macs have user-upgradable memory. The RAM inside the Mac mini, Macs are famously hard to upgrade. In some cases it can be done, but doing so is almost never easy, and usually highly risky, and will void your warranty.
Read about how to upgrade your RAM here if you are feeling confident. The processor inside the Mac is an important factor to consider if you are choosing between different generations of Macs. Some Macs were updated in , others in , but there are a few that haven't been updated since A processor from an older generation may have an impressive looking GHz, but a newer processor with fewer GHz could actually be faster. The other thing to consider is the type of processor.
Do you need an 8-core, 6-core, quad-core, Core i7, Core i9, or will a dual core, i5 suffice, or even an i3 like you will find in the entry-level Mac mini? Choosing between a dual-core, a quad-core or 6-core processor or deciding whether to upgrade to an i7 chip or even i9 chip is less obvious. Read about the different Mac processors here. You will find that Xcode builds take a long time if your Mac has a hard drive. When Apple updated the Mac mini in it was a pleasant surprise as for the first time the mini Mac was a powerful machine. One benefit in terms of storage is the build-to-order 2TB SSD, not that we think you'd need that for app dev.
Battery life is something to consider if you are looking to buy a Mac laptop for programming. Programmers complain that Xcode eats a lot of battery, so expect to be using the charger a lot. If the maximum battery life is important to you, the MacBook Air offers 12 hours versus 10 hours of battery life on the MacBook Pro.
My 2013 MacBook Air
But in the TV app on the Mac the only option is to buy the seasons from Apple. This might change if third-party streaming services make apps for the Mac. This could be a bi-product of Apple making it easier to convert iPad apps to the Mac.
We'll keep our fingers crossed. This was always the case though - you could previously access the iTunes Store to purchase and rent movies and the like via the iTunes app. The thing is that on the Mac these are all different ways to show you content available on the iTunes Store. On the Apple TV set-top-box, iPhone and iPad you'll see other content from third parties showcased here.
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In the US you might be able to also see shows here that are available on the other streaming services you are signed up for, assuming you signed up to them from within the TV app. But for no, in the UK at least, there are so few services that are signed up as Channels that the content seems very weighted in favour of Apple. Assuming you do just want to watch something you've previouly bought from the iTunes Store, just click on Library you will be invited to sign into your Apple account.
Having done so, you will see all your shows and movies you have previously bought on iTunes. You may well want to do that if your TV screen is smaller than that of your 27in iMac. You might be forgiven for thinking it would be possible to stream content from your iPhone or iPad to your Mac using AirPlay. Luckily it is possible to stream from an iOS device to a Mac, but to do so you need to install an app on your Mac. Want to learn about the next Apple TV and when it might be released? More info here. It lets you mirror your iPhone, iPad to the screen of your Mac and other devices.
You can download it here.