When To Choose an iOS Backend Provider or Build Custom

So many mobile apps these days are much more than just a mobile app. They lean heavily on external resources that help to power the content delivered within. So, as a beginner, it doesn’t take long before you realize just how many apps need such a component. A question I often see is when it comes to using an iOS backend provider.

Which brings us to our next reader question:

[alert color=”blue”]Anonymous Asks — I’m learning how to create apps on iOS and it’s becoming clear that I need a backend service to power my app. How can I do that?[/alert]

Great question. The good news is that you do have several options available to you. Your own personal desire, more than anything, will determine which option you choose. While it makes sense to learn how to create a custom backend service, that may not be the right answer. I can’t recommend that path to someone at the beginning of an existing path.

Avoid Overwhelming Yourself

If you’re already learning how to write iOS apps then the last thing you should do is add more learning to your plate. Learning something new isn’t a trivial experience. There are big differences in how programmers in the mobile space think versus those in the web services space. The architecture is different. The tools, languages, and communities are different.

So my recommendation for beginners is to just ignore learning how to build a custom back end. If you already have an app or two under your iOS belt then you might consider learning it.

Backend Providers

Services like Parse can help you manage and build a backend that can power your app. Parse can also help with push notifications, analytics, and can power any platform that you build on in the future. If you build an iOS app this year, who is to say that it won’t become a hit and you find yourself needing an Android version? Boom, the Parse SDK will help you with that.

The free Parse plan offers a lot, for each app, so I wouldn’t worry about the cost immediately—especially if you charge for your app.

Learning to Writing a Custom Backend

When you are feeling the urge to learn writing a custom backend becomes a viable option. This may also be needed when you start running into a situation that Parse can’t help you with. In those cases I would recommend learning how to build web applications with Ruby on Rails. The language is mature, well documented, and has an outstanding community of developers. You can’t go wrong with it.

This brings new challenges to deal with, but it doesn’t have to be that big of a pain. The luxury of building a backend is that you don’t have to deal with all the front-end madness that can eat a tremendous amount of time. Testing is important in the API space. Having a well-tested API will prevent headaches down the road.

Custom Backend via Outsourcing

One of the final recommendations is outsourcing this backend component to a friend. If you’re in school find another go-getter to help you build your app. You may encounter great insight from a buddy who can help shape where your app is going. If you’re not in a school environment then I’d reach out to my network to see if anyone would be willing to help out. Depending on what you need, a great backend developer should be able to whip up a basic version of what you need quickly.

Wrapping up

So there is a few options for you to consider. Remember, your time is valuable so avoid putting out unnecessary effort initially. I will be covering a Parse example in this weeks technical post so be on the lookout for that if you’d like to see a practical example.


You have a few options here that you can explore. Learning how to write a custom backend can be valuable, but so can leveraging a service like Parse. If you’re learning how to write mobile apps don’t overwhelm yourself by adding even more to learn. You’ll have your fair share of learning within the iOS realm.

Your Turn

Have you used Parse for your mobile app before? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below.

Do you have a question? Write me and I may cover it in a future question post!





One response to “When To Choose an iOS Backend Provider or Build Custom”

  1. […] If you’re looking for a few more thoughts, you should read this weeks question post When To Choose an iOS Backend Provider or Build Custom […]

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