Welcome back to our Meet the Devs segment! In this piece we take a little time to get to know the people who really make Android what it is today and that is the app developers. This week we have with us Ryan Senanayake.
Name: Ryan Senanayake
Developer Name: RSen
Country: United States
Google + Profile/Page: Ryan Senanayake Google+ Page
How many people on your team? One
Tell us about your company
January 2012 – Present (2 years 4 months)
Though I had been coding since an early age, my first publication was an Android app in January 2012 to keep track of classes at school. I later expanded on this solution and brought class schedules and alerts to Android, iOS, and the web via Lion Time. Lion Time also used Google App Engine to push schedule changes to all devices.
In the following Summer (2012), I added to my portfolio Matrix Mate, a matrix calculator for Android (2k+ Downloads), and a suite of three artist fan apps (11k+ Downloads). For the second half of the Summer, I made an Android client for the medical practice management solution Kareo. Although Kareo recognized the quality of the produced client, they were focused on other projects and were uninterested in purchasing. Nevertheless medical practices that use Kareo are currently using my client.
My Sophomore Summer (2013) gave me the time necessary to allow me to embark on even more ambitious projects. Carma In-Car for Android (5k+ Downloads) used voice control and text-to-speech to provide a completely hands-free in-car experience. This paved the way to my most successful project Open Mic+ (400k+ Downloads) which brought the hands-free experience outside of the car via Google Now. Open Mic+ was featured on XDA, LifeHacker, SlashGear, Android Community, and Android Spin. During the second half of the Summer, I worked on creating an Android client for Haiku Learning. Haiku Learning expressed strong interest in purchasing this client, but after several months of negotiations felt it necessary to be able to hire the developers of the product which was impossible due to school. Nevertheless, the current implementation was released as Couplet for Haiku Learning with the idea of out-performing the official client when it is released.
During my Junior year, I also created Hangouts Widget, a quick project, but also moderately successful with over 40k+ Downloads and also featured on XDA, LifeHacker and Android Community.
What level of experience do you have with coding and development?
My Dad taught me the basics of coding, I have basically taught myself everything more advanced like Java, Android, etc. I am taking AP CS right now, just as a way to make sure I don’t miss concepts. I wrote my very first program in C# around 7 yrs old (not sure about when exactly) and since then I have gathered a considerable amount of experience.
What languages do you know? How and where did you learn them?
How do you monetize your apps?
I played around with advertising for awhile, but found that ads annoyed users and paid small amounts. Since then I release my apps as free and if they obtain some success, I’ll add a Pro version to support update development.
Do you consider yourself successful?
I definitely consider myself successful considering my age. While I’m aware of other developers with similar ability at my age, I consider all of them also successful. That being said, I am far from finished and I’ll never stop pushing.
How difficult is it to make money as a developer?
If you have a unique product that takes time and skill to develop, the money will follow. I had made a cumulative $5 before I released Open Mic+. From the release of Open Mic+, I knew that it was different and poured my effort into it. Now I am making a considerable amount of money for an app that was fun to develop.
What can Android do to improve?
Speech Recognition libraries are atrocious on Android! There are known bugs that Google knows about, but has only fixed for their closed source libraries, if Android was to fix these it would make development so much easier. But in general, Google has done a tremendous job in helping developers out and it is always a pleasure to do Android development.
Why did you choose Android? Do you develop for other platforms? What are the differences between them?
I chose Android initially, mainly because my first phone was Android and I thought it was magical to be able to actually create something to make my life easier. Now I choose Android because I foresee it crushing the rest of the competition and I want to build products for the future instead of the past. Also when I develop on Android I just feel like I have the flexibility and control to make an app different whereas as iOS and Windows phone kind of force you down a path.
What are your thoughts on iOS and Windows 8?
I’m not the type of person who hates people because they don’t use Android. I think that iOS and Windows Phone OS fills some of the customer segments that Android doesn’t. But what does annoy me is when people use iOS because everybody else has it or because it is made by Apple. I think that if more people looked at phones at their face-value they would choose Android.
What do you think of the Android design guidelines?
I think the design guidelines are really well formed and really help developers make sure that their apps stay consistent with the OS experience while also giving them enough control to make their app unique.
What are your favorite apps?
Switchr is an app that is actually developed by my friend who goes to high school 15 minutes from mine, I think it is a tremendous piece of work and use it everyday as a replacement for navigation buttons. I also really like Facebook Messenger (chatheads was quite innovative, though it is still a bit buggy), Google Now, Muzei, Stack Exchange, Quizlet, Tasker, Twilight, and Waze.
What has been your experience been like working with Google?
I have always loved Google. I did a summer camp called Google CAPE during the summer of 9th grade where they gave me a bunch of free stuff, helped me learn coding, and other really fun stuff. Ever since then my dream job has been at Google (or forming my own company). That being said, I had a rough time with them a couple of months after the release of Open Mic+ (~sept last year) where Google took down the app because of privacy concerns. They were basically concerned that I was forwarding speech recognition results off of the device, but this isn’t even possible as I didn’t have the internet permission. They never reinstated the app which bugged me, but they also never took down Open Mic+ after I put it back up on the play store. Despite that episode, I still really like Google.
What does the future of development look like?
Definitely the next big thing is going to be wearables. A couple of my friends have Google Glass and while it is still way too expensive, I can definitely see the applications. Also the Moto 360 looks awesome and I’m definitely buying when it comes out.
What tips do you have for aspiring developers?
Have fun learning, if you aren’t having fun you won’t make it far. Also don’t let anybody tell you that you’re too young to be doing CS, everybody is equal in the eyes of the app store. Finally, participate in hackathons, I haven’t yet and will be participating in my first in Codeday Seattle, but from talking to my friend (a senior in high school), they are really useful networking events as well as a lot of fun!
Anything else you’d like to share?
We want to thank RSen 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.