Welcome back to our new segment called Meet the Devs. In this piece we look to bring more attention not just to awesome Android applications that you may not know about, but the awesome developers who make them. This week we have with us Klinker Apps Inc. Here is our interview!
Name: Jacob and Luke Klinker
Developer Name: Klinker Apps
Country: United States
Website: Klinker Apps official website
Google + Profile/Page: Jacob Klinker Google+ Page
How many people on your team? Two
Tell us about your company
I started Klinker Apps by myself a year and a half ago over the winter break of my freshman year of college by developing Sliding Messaging.
For the first 7 months or so, the business was a single man operation in my dorm room during the second semester of my freshman year at the University of Iowa. Since then, Klinker Apps has expanded to also include my twin brother, Luke, and we have focused on creating some of the most beautiful and customizable apps on the Play Store for their respective categories.
What level of experience do you have with coding and development?
I am still at the level in my career where I am constantly learning new techniques and improving on my older code where I can find more efficiency. Being a sophomore studying computer engineering in school right now, I’ve had a little class experience with development, but most of it I’ve had to teach myself as I go along and I’m finally starting to get to the point where everything flows together exactly how I want it to in my code.
What languages do you know? How and where did you learn them?
Java, which I’ve taught to myself the past year and a half by going over source code I find on GitHub, the AOSP project, Google’s Android SDK, and continuously searching for questions on Stack Overflow.
C/C++, which I’ve focused on in a few of my classes for school, though my knowledge isn’t as deep here as it is with Java since I don’t use it regularly.
VHDL, which I have a very basic understanding of from programming integrated circuits in another one of my entry level electrical engineering courses.
I also know some Spanish from high school :)
What level of experience do you have with design?
I like to consider my design experience level pretty high, but I also realize that design is something that evolves. There is no perfect design out there and current apps and websites can always be improved, even in small ways. There are always new ideas to be had about design and for this reason, apps need to continue to improve upon the base that they already have.
It’s also good to remember that while one person may like a certain design, others may not. It was this concept that led me to create the current theme engine for both EvolveSMS and Talon that always anyone to be able to make their own theme and change almost every aspect of how the app looks to their own liking. There have been hundreds of themes published for Evolve alone and on my Google+ community for the app, many of these can be found. This, I believe, is the way to design an app right – make it something that the user can fully customize to their own liking and give them as much power as possible. That way, I can keep the app simple and exactly how I like it, flat and clean looking, and anyone else can make it exactly how they want it to look.
What apps have you made?
I’ve been working on EvolveSMS the past few months while Luke has created Talon for Twitter. Before that, I started Sliding Messaging and have since continued to improve and update both. Along with continually supporting these apps, I’ve published several other apps that work as addons or standalone apps such as our Sliding Emoji Keyboard that allows emojis to be used in Evolve and Talon and throughout the Android system by creating its own keyboard interface and a few others that expand off of Sliding Messaging. Through Klinker Apps, we’ve also open sourced a lot of our work so that others can learn from it and make their lives easier – all of it is available at https://github.com/klinker41/ and https://github.com/klinker-apps/. I decided to do all of this open source work simply because I know how hard it is to get started by doing it myself from little to no experience and I want to provide a little way to help others so that they too can learn from any mistakes that I’ve made in the past and make their apps better for it.
How do you monetize your apps?
With both Sliding Messaging and Talon, we charge a flat rate for them, currently $1.99 for each. As for Evolve, we wanted to try something a little bit different to see what works best, so we opted for the in app purchase method. Both have worked in their own ways… When charging for an app up front, we’ve found that less people tend to buy and download it, but the profits are much more consistent. With Evolve though, since it is free, we’ve gotten many more downloads. I like to think of this as a free trial type of period which isn’t possible when you charge outright for an app, especially for a Twitter app which has to worry about tokens. Then, users can choose whether or not they want to purchase the addons to expand the app more, or if they are happy with how it currently functions and don’t want to pay. Either way the choice is theirs and they’ll continue to receive updates and support from Klinker Apps!
The one method that we haven’t tried is advertising in a free app and making money that way, which I am against because it destroys the beautiful designs in apps and leads to a poorer user experience. Whether the app is free or not from Klinker Apps, it won’t have ads!
Do you consider yourself successful?
When I started making Sliding Messaging, I never expected it to make more than a dollar, and here we are a year and a half later with a couple of big time apps on the Play Store and a full time job providing support and improvements to go along with our classwork. To me, that is success. We’ve provided products that people love using and so even though it might be stressful for 2 people to manage all of it, it is possible and I’ve found something that I love doing through the entire process. Hopefully, I can use these little successes throughout my life to continue to create apps for either Luke and myself or another company – who knows where our lives might find success in the future!
Success is always relative to where you’re at in life and there’s always more to be had, so I hope to be able to take advantage of my current successes and turn them into even more over the next few years and into the time when I start my career after graduating college in 2 more short years.
How difficult is it to make money as a developer?
I think that the initial app is the most difficult to get noticed with and turn into a profitable business. I was able to get extremely lucky and generate some initial interest and this caused Sliding Messaging to skyrocket. We then capitalized on its popularity and were able to put out more apps to generate consistent revenue. Without that initial interest, it would have been extremely difficult to gain any traction in the market, but once you have that traction it is much easier to maintain.
What can Android do to improve?
In my opinion, one way that Android can continue to improve is Google unifying the designs in all of their apps and making everything more consistent. They have set a ton of design guidelines for developers to go off of and that is awesome, but all of their apps have a little different feel to them and I think this goes against consistency throughout the system. A great example of this is the navigation drawer that they’ve implemented in almost all of their apps. At first glance, a navigation drawer is a navigation drawer, but taking a closer look at it, we can see a lot of inconsistency throughout different apps. Some apps (Google Wallet) have colored icons in the drawer, others have flat and grey icons (Gmail). Some apps keep the same color for the drawer as the main background for the app (Google+) and some invert the color to a grey if the app is light themed (YouTube).
There are other examples as well, but the main point I want to highlight is inconsistency, and that makes it difficult for 3rd party developers to find a design that flows well with the rest of the system. Should we do it one way or another? I’d like to see the same design throughout all of their apps so that we can in turn be consistent with the same design patterns.
Why did you choose Android? Do you develop for other platforms? What are the differences between them?
I picked Android to start out developing on mainly for one big reason: that was the type of device I had when I started. I’ve never been the biggest Apple fan, so I got an Android device when college started and never looked back.
I’ve dabbled in a little iOS development, but always find my way back to Android just because that’s what I know already and I don’t have the time on my hands to maintain both Android and iOS apps.
What are your thoughts on iOS and Windows 8?
iOS is a great platform that I see a huge audience for, people that just want their phones to work day after day to make their lives easier. This is great and Apple has done an awesome job turning it into that type of device… it’s a concept that I’ve tried to incorporate into my apps as well, especially EvolveSMS. I want something to just work out of the box and work well so that anyone can use it.
I prefer Android over iOS simply because I personally like to have more control over my device – I like to look at the AOSP project and learn from that and figure out how things function under the hood, and Android is perfect for that.
As for Windows 8, I’ve been using it since the RC days and haven’t ever felt the need to look back. It does everything I want it to and the metro start screen works well as a touch interface on my laptop when I don’t want to use the mouse for something. Its different than what Microsoft has done in the past, but that doesn’t mean its a bad thing at all and I like the direction they’ve taken the platform.
What do you think of the Android design guidelines?
I think that the guidelines are extremely well thought out and lead to beautiful, well designed apps for the end user to enjoy. That being said, I’d like to see more consistent examples implementing these guidelines out of Google themselves, which goes back to my answer from how I personally think that Android can improve.
What are your favorite apps?
To name just a few of them on my device making my life easier:
1) Action Launcher – I’ve always been a huge fan of Chris’s work that he does and Action Launcher is truly innovative, I’d highly recommend it to anyone.
2) Google+ – Not many people may user Google+, but I think that it is a good way to interact with my users, giving them updates on the app, betas to test out, and a place for them to voice their ideas. The app is great at managing all of that for me, so I find myself on it quite often. Only thing that it’s missing is a search function to look through posts in communities.
3) Tapatalk – Use this a lot for the same reasons as Google+, I try and stay as up to date as I can with my threads on XDA and helping people with the app.
4) Flyne – Its a great news reader that taps into my Twitter lists so I can stay up to date with everything happening. Its another app that I’d highly suggest people to try out if they haven’t already done so!
5) Google Play Music – Love the service and the app is beautiful, helps me get through long days of studying and working!
Then, of course, a few honorable mentions… I have to throw in Netflix just because its such a great service and the app has improved dramatically since it was first introduced. Also Kindle, been reading a lot of Game of Thrones lately and love doing it on my tablet. And finally, the stock email app from KitKat… it was updated when Android 4.4 came out to be much more user friendly with its navigation drawer and now I couldn’t live without it to help manage my work and school emails, I always try to email customers back as quickly as possible and that app lets me do so easily.
And, lastly, I’d be crazy if I didn’t name EvolveSMS and Talon on the list, I use them 10 times more than any other app on my phone!
What has been your experience been like working with Google?
Overall, extremely positive. You can do a little bit of everything through Google’s services and that makes my life easy. They’re dedicated to making Android the most prominent mobile OS which just helps me and my business out with more potential customers.They put out awesome devices like the Nexus 5 for great prices, not breaking the bank to try and keep up with the latest technology which is extremely important for me. Google Wallet makes all of my customer transactions quick and painless and the Play Store is a great way for me to host my content, as long as others who make themes for my apps, leading to more visibility which is always something I love to see.
My only possible gripe at this point… I didn’t get a ticket to Google I/O because of their random drawing and I would have loved to go and learn more from some of their engineers. I did say earlier that I’m still learning as I go and I think a conference like that would be the perfect opportunity to continue that growth.
What does the future of development look like?
I’ll continue to make new Android apps and support my current ones, which seems like a more and more daunting job every day as they continue to gain traction. But, its something that I love doing and am always eager to do when I come back to my apartment after a day’s worth of classes – I don’t see that changing anytime soon so I just say bring it on, I’ve always loved a challenge.
Luke and I just recently started working on a new app as well that’s taking up a lot of our development time right now… not quite ready to reveal everything yet, but its working it’s way up to replace one of the 5 apps that I listed as my favorite apps! There’s always room to do something better, right? :)
Of course, there are a lot of different tasks and some of them are not backed up by some block which is out there, but the amount of ‘blocks’ will grow with time.
What tips do you have for aspiring developers?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone! At least for me, I tried to do it all on my own and eventually got there, but after I started to get Luke working with me, helping out with programming and giving me new ideas, productivity doubled and stress went way down! There are always people willing to help when you need it. And maybe those people don’t join you and help programming, maybe they’re just more experienced than you and can point you in the right direction when you run into a problem or maybe they have libraries they’ve open sourced that you can take advantage of.
I, for one at least, love helping people program as much as I love doing it myself, I’ve recently been helping another one of my little brothers put together his first app.
We want to thank Kapp Development for chatting with us! If you’re a developer and this looks like something you’d like to do, check out our Meet the Devs form! We look forward to hearing from you.