Early in your path to learning iOS development, you will want to sign up for the iOS Developer Program. This program has a number of benefits; the biggest one is that you can publish your apps in the App Store and directly push them to an iPad or iPhone for testing on a live machine. Beyond that, the iOS Developer Program gives you the ability to download betas of iOS and grants you access to a wealth of technical resources.

This post was originally published in the App Builder Blog in June 2012. I am wondering if the current application process is smoother?

Applying for the program is pretty easy in theory, but there can be some pitfalls. Before you apply, you should know what kind of membership you want. There are four versions, but only three of them are for commercial use. The academic program is for people in accredited schools to allow them to try their hand at iOS development, but they cannot publish apps. The individual and company programs are identical except for two major differences: individual memberships do not require much identity verification, and company memberships allow you to assign users under your account. The enterprise program allows for private deployments of applications. Pricing is another difference between the programs: Academic is free, individual and company are $99 a year, and enterprise is $299 per year.

While the steps of enrollment are pretty easy, there can be snags. The first hangup is the need to fax in paperwork. Yes, I said fax. If you are a medium or a large business, this is not an issue; there is always a fax machine somewhere in the building if you look hard enough. But for a small business or a startup, faxing documents might mean a special trip out.

Once I faxed in my paperwork, Apple responded pretty quickly. Less than six hours later, I received an email telling me to call them. When I called them, I found out they had a problem with my documents. They asked for a “certificate of formation” and in South Carolina, the Secretary of State issues a “certificate of existence.” What is truly sad is that the text of the different documents from state-to-state are virtually identical. And between being a single member LLC, officially being in the county but not an actual municipality, and the minimal paperwork needed to be a business in South Carolina, I did not have any of the other requested documents.

The case was escalated a number of times, but it was clear that while everyone I spoke with was sympathetic to my plight, understood my position exactly, and was willing to work very hard to see me through to get the matter resolved, they could not change or make exceptions to policy. It is clear that the policy is silly, because a number of states apparently issue certificates of existence, but Apple is not willing to make exceptions. I want to make it very clear that everyone I dealt with at Apple was extraordinarily customer-focused and non-confrontational. Instead of just stonewalling me like so many other customer “service” groups like to do (Verizon, I’m looking at you), they immediately escalated issues to the right people, who then made sure to personally take ownership, provide fast responses, give me their direct extensions, and so on. Apple’s personnel earned an A+ in a scenario that I am used to receiving D- quality.

At the end of the day, I was offered two choices: they could submit me as an “individual” instead of a “company,” or I could get a Dun and Bradstreet Number, which is a form of identity verification for businesses. I opted for the latter. It was very painless; I searched for my company (it was already in their system) and provided a combination of personal details and business information to confirm my identity, and the system gave me the number. I called the Apple representative I spoke with, left him a voicemail with this number, and in a very short span of time (less than a couple of hours), I got an email letting me go on to the next step. Oddly enough, they charged me sales tax for the program membership even though no physical goods were sold.

All said and done, it took less than 24 hours from the time I faxed in my paperwork until the time I had an active account. However, I do not suggest that you put off your membership application until the last minute based on my good experience; once you think you may have a need for the Developer Program, you should get the ball rolling.