Is A MacBook Pro Good Enough For iOS Development?

Written by: Reinder de Vries, April 12 2017, in App Development

Is A MacBook Pro Good Enough For iOS Development?

How fast of a MacBook do you need to comfortably code iOS apps? Is a MacBook Pro from two years ago good enough to learn how to code? Let’s find out!

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of “Is my MacBook good enough for iOS development?” questions on Quora.

The most popular, questioned models include:

  • The fourth-generation 2012 to 2016 MacBook Pro models, with the ~ 2.5 Ghz i5 and i7 Intel CPUs
  • The lighter 2012 to 2015 MacBook Air models, with the ~ 1.5 Ghz i5 Intel CPUs
  • The thin 12-inch MacBook, with the 1.2 Ghz m3 Intel CPUs

Those models aren’t the latest, but are they good enough to code iOS apps with? What about learning how to code?

My 2013 MacBook Air

Since 2009 I’ve coded more than 50 apps for iOS, Android and the mobile web. Most of those apps, including all apps I’ve created since 2013, were built on a 13-inch MacBook Air with 8 GB of RAM and a 1.3 Ghz Intel i5 CPU.

My first MacBook was the then new MacBook White unibody, which I traded in for a faster MacBook Pro (2011), which I traded in for my current, lighter MacBook Air.

I’m happy to report that after three years of intensive daily use, the battery of the MacBook Air is only through 50% of it’s maximum cycle count and still lasts 7+ hours on battery power.

In 2014, my trusty MacBook Air broke down on a beach in Thailand, 3 hours before a deadline, with the next Apple Store 500 kilometer away…

Frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever upgrade my current machine, but we’ll get to that in a second…

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That Good Ol’ 100 Mhz i386 PC…

When I was about 11 years old I taught myself to code in BASIC, on a 100 Mhz i386 PC that was given to me by friends. It had a luxurious 16 MB of RAM, initially only ran MS-DOS, and later ran Windows 3.1 and ’95.

A next upgrade came as a 400 Mhz AMD desktop, given again by friends, on which I ran a local EasyPHP webserver that I used to learn PHP, MySQL and HTML/CSS.

Back then, we had no broadband internet at home, so I would download and print out coding tutorials at school, at the one library computer that had internet access, and completed the tutorials at home. The source codes of turn-based web games, JavaScript tidbits and HTML page snippets were carried around on a 3.5″ floppy.

Later, when I started coding professionally around age 17, I finally bought my first laptop. I got my first gig as a freelance coder: creating a PHP script that would aggregate RSS feeds, for which I earned about a hundred bucks.

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Xcode, iOS, Swift and The MacBook Pro

The world is different today. Xcode simply doesn’t run on an i386 PC, and you can’t save your app’s source code on a 1.44 MB floppy disk anymore. Your Mac probably doesn’t have a CD drive, and you store your source codes in the cloud.

Make no mistake – owning a MacBook Pro is a luxury. It’s not because learning to code was harder 15 years ago, and not because computers were slower back then. It’s because kids these days learn Python programming on a $25 Raspberry Pi.

I recently had a conversation with a young aspiring coder, who complained he had no access to “decent” coding tutorials and mentoring, despite owning a MacBook Pro and having access to the internet. Among other things, I wrote the following:

You’re competing with a world of people that are smarter than you, and have better resources. You’re also competing against coders that have had it worse than you. They didn’t win despite adversity, but because of it. Do you give up? NO! You work harder. It’s the only thing you can do: work harder than the next guy. When his conviction is wavering, you dig in your heels, you keep going, you persevere, and you’ll win.

(Fortunately my remarks didn’t fall on deaf ears, and we’ve continued our conversations.)

Great ideas can change the world, but only if they’re accompanied by deliberate action. Likewise, simply complaining about adversity isn’t going to create opportunities for growth – unless you take action.

If you want to learn how to code, be welcoming to adversity. Achieve excellence because of it, or despite of it, and never give up.

The State of The MacBook Pro

Recently, Apple released an upgrade for the MacBook Pro. Better specs, newer operating system, and a “Touch Bar”.

Many professional MacBook owners voiced their concern over the direction Apple’s hardware is taking, understandably arguing that their beloved designer machine appears to rather cater to the needs of entitled Millennials than the actual needs of professionals that rely on Apple’s hardware to produce value.

When life gives you lemons…

My trusty 2013 MacBook Air has to give out at some point, and I’m not sure what its replacement is going to be. A cheap netbook, and a second-hand Mac Mini in the cloud? Maybe I’ll install Ubuntu Linux, and run macOS on a virtual machine.

Is A MacBook Pro From 2015 Fast Enough?

Yes, it sure is. The recommended specs to run Xcode are:

  • An Intel i5 or i7 equivalent CPU, so ~ 1.5 Ghz should be enough (I can do with 1.3…)
  • At least 4 GB of RAM, but 8 GB lets you run more programs at the same time (Do you really need to?)
  • At least 128 GB disk storage, although 256 GB is more comfortable

Screen size is a matter of habit, and taste. I’m used to working on a 13″ screen, because I want to be able to work from coffeeshops or airport lounges. When I really need more screen space, I connect a cheap 24″ external monitor. I know developers that travel around with a 15.6″ external monitor.

Perhaps the one thing you really want to invest in is frustration tolerance, because you can really do without that MacBook luxury machine…

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Photo credit: Sean MacEntee, CC BY 2.0

Written By: Reinder de Vries

Reinder de Vries is an indie app developer who teaches aspiring app developers and marketers how to build their own apps at LearnAppMaking.com. Since 2009 he has developed over 50 apps for iOS, Android and the web, and his code is used by millions of users all over the globe. When Reinder isn't building apps, he enjoys strong espresso and traveling.

Grab My Free iOS Development Course

Get complementary access to my course, Zero to App Store, and learn how you can build a real-time chat app with Firebase and Swift!

Yes, Send Me The Free Course!

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