We recently had the time to sit down with Rabi Boundi, one of the founders of Movin’ App. As a top developer, we had lots of questions for him. Below you will find the transcript of our interview. For any vying developers, or for those that would like greater insight into what it’s like to be a developer, read on!
What’s it like to be an app developer? What sort of daily routine do you have?
One of the best things about running a small mobile apps company is that you can, well, you have to, do almost everything in the applications lifecycle – finding new ideas, software design, programing, graphics, marketing, sales, support, etc. While it can get a bit crazy and exhausting to deal with so many different tasks, it’s a very rewarding experience, plus you are guaranteed to never get bored.
So, I would say, like most start-ups, we don’t have a daily routine. As an example, today I spent the morning working on some code for the next version of our Call Actions app and doing some accounting. In the afternoon I did some reading on a new technology we plan to use, visited a client for a proposal, and now I’m attending an interview with you.
How many apps have you developed? Have there been any particularly difficult or satisfying projects?
Last year, we published many Android apps, but probably the most challenging one was Quick Note, due to some difficulties with the homescreen widgets. When developing the app, we realized how fragmentation in Android could become the source of many problems. Many standard features that worked perfectly in the stock versions of Android were simply broken or doing strange things in devices with custom launchers, like those from Sony or Motorola. Finding a solution that works in almost all devices was really fulfilling, especially when, after one year, Quick Note has been installed by more than 500.000 users, and we receive every day plenty of emails from happy users.
Monetization has always been a tricky issue for app developers, and especially for Android developers. How do you monetize your apps?
For our Android mobile applications, we follow two strategies that have proved to work very well: In-App purchases and/or advertising. When publishing a new app it’s also very important to get it noticed very quickly. We know that many users are overwhelmed with the huge amount of apps in Google Play and, of course, they don’t have the means to pay for every app. For this reason, we always try to offer a free, yet useful version.
It’s a win-win situation, users are happy with a free app and we get a larger user base that is willing to support the development in order to get some extra features. Sometimes, we give the full version of the app for free with a small banner, and we offer users the possibility to remove it through an in-app purchase. To summarize, the monetization strategy really depends on the kind of application, but we always try to keep in balance the user’s satisfaction and making our business profitable.
How do you come up with ideas for apps? Is it hard to come up with original ideas, considering the huge variety of apps found in the Play store?
Most of the time, ideas come from personal experience and from user requests. For example, the idea for our latest app, “Call Actions”, came from the fact that many people we know needed to create in-call reminders. Another example would be “Spanish Flashcards”, which came after several users of our Spanish tourism guide app “Hola” requested to have learning flashcards.
We apply the same principle when improving our existing apps. Most of the new features are the result of user’s requests. It’s really amazing how people come up with new ideas or ways to use our applications. I would like to seize this opportunity to thank all users who shared their ideas and helped us improve our apps, as well as to encourage them to keep doing so.
How long have you been developing, in general and for Android? What programming languages do you know?
I created my first program in QBasic when I was in school, and then I got along with some friends to develop games and apps in assembly language for Casio calculators. In some way, we created a rudimentary app store, as we started sharing our programs with other classmates.
Mac, PC or Ubuntu?
Well, I like Ubuntu very much and I still have to try the new Windows 8, but working with Mac is much more efficient. The power of UNIX with a nice and simple UI.
Android or Apple?
I would say Android, Apple, Windows Phone, and even BB! Every platform has a different philosophy behind, and none is better nor worse, they are just different.
Have any favorite apps or apps that you’d like to recommend to our readers?
From the ones we have developed at movin’App, I’m using Easypad every day to take notes and Call Actions to create in-call reminders. After this short (but honest) self-advertising, I would say that Adao File Manager is a must for managing files, and I would also recommend Swiftkey, as writing with a soft keyboard is less frustrating since I got it. I also have several games, but Moron Test is definitely a must: so much fun watching the faces of your friends when they start playing.
Where is app development going, in your opinion? Will the web on mobile devices be a better experience than apps themselves? What’s the next big thing? Have you seen anything cool at SXSW?
Now that geolocation and social integration are no longer novelty but just another feature (sometimes even a must), I think probably the next step is unification. The smartphones and tablets market has reached a nice stage of maturity, with 2 dominant platforms, iOS and Android. However Blackberry is still there and Windows Phone is pushing hard, and combined they account for more 25% of the market. This means application developers have to optimize their resources and start creating cross-platform applications.
In this sense, HTML5/JS is the obvious option with frameworks like PhoneGap. This means that, in the next years, the web on mobile and the apps themselves will be almost the same. Only apps depending on a platform’s specific functionality like Android’s homescreen widgets will be developed as native applications. In some way, mobile apps have become some kind of bookmark, because many times the mobile application and the equivalent mobile website are almost the same.
In my opinion the next big thing is TV. Since last year, we started creating Samsung Smart TV apps and after attending the last Samsung Developer Forum, I can say that, in a few years, there will be no need to use a slow responding and cumbersome remote control. Like with Kinect, everything will be controlled with gestures and voice. Let’s see what Apple will show us with their new iTV, but also Google, with the next version of Google TV.
Another notable trend, probably more long-term, may be cars applications. Today, more and more cars are sold with a built-in SIM card and a data plan for M2M communications, so it seems natural to create Android-based car computers that let users install voice controlled apps or kids’ games for the backseats screens. There are already some interesting prototypes available, like the Saab IQon.
About SXSW, I really liked the Lego Robots running Android OS, another step to make Android the universal OS.
We wanted to say a big thanks to Rabi for taking time out of his busy schedule, and for shedding some light on the many things developers go through in the creation of high quality apps! Without developers, there would be no Android. Thanks for reading! This is part of a new series we are starting, so be sure to check back as we interview more developers. Also, feel free to suggest developers that you think should be interviewed!