1. Tell us about yourself - where you live, your job, things you like to do.
I live in Austin, Texas, and work at Freescale Semiconductor as a Test Engineer testing microcontrollers used in cars. I spend most of my free time with my family, but also like amateur astronomy, geocaching, and of course making apps for Android of late.
2. Which Android device or devices do you own? Why did you choose Android? How do you customize your device?
I own an HTC Evo 4g. I chose Android for many reasons: carrier flexibility, open source mentality, more open to developers, more powerful devices, annoyance with Apple's single-mindedness and inflexibility when it comes to both software and hardware. Also, I just like to root for the underdog -- or underdroid -- and see him win in the end. On the outside my phone has a black rubber case with a skin screen protector since I tend to drop things. On the inside it has the APOD (astronomy pic of the day) wallpaper, and I'm running Fresh ROM although I'm thinking to switch again soon. I pretty much always have it on me -- you can check the power charging schedule to see my sleeping patterns.
3. Do you root or not? If you root, why?
Yes. Why not? I jailbroke the iPhone and wanted to root on Android too. Benefits include getting more up-to-date OS before released OTA, removing carrier-based apps, replacing wimax/radio firmware, etc. There is also the free wifi hotspot as an added bonus as well as wireless ADB.
4. Is there a particular category of apps that interest you the most?
I like astronomy apps, obviously, but mainly Iike game apps as it’s neat to see what creative things people will come up with. Love Angry Birds!
5. What are your top 3-5 apps and why?
Such a hard question! There are some standard apps (Gmail, Maps, Facebook, Market, Camera, Phone, Mail, Calendar) that I use very regularly but aren't my "top" per se-- just ones that get used a lot. I really like Google Reader to track my RSS feeds, and Dolphin Browser and the Weather Channel for keeping up to date on things. I also like Camera 360 which I think takes better pics than the standard camera app. Of course also there's Pandora for listening to music. I use Battery Graph a lot to track my battery usage.
6. What apps are popular among your colleagues and friends?
Pretty much the same ones that I just mentioned. Some use Google Voice, Slingbox, Twitter, TuneIn Radio, and Yelp. I had a friend whose Evo was stolen and he recovered it using Lookout so I got that one right away, especially after the Android Trojan scare.
7. Give an example of a time an app was truly useful to you.
There are many, many times that an app is useful to me. Google Maps is really great to help find a place, give driving directions, even show you traffic results. I use it pretty much every time I go somewhere unfamiliar. For a more specific example: Our coffee shop at work has a daily Twitter trivia question that gives you a discount -- so usually by the time I leave my desk and get there, I've looked up the question and the answer to get the discount.
8. Do you have a blog, Twitter, Facebook etc. URL's you'd like to share?
I’ve published a few apps that you can find at Skywonders Software. Right now it's a Facebook page but eventually I plan to have a real website behind it. You can find us on Twitter at @skywonderscom.
9. How did you get into app development?
Ever since I had a Palm device, I've wanted to make apps for it (yes there were apps before smartphones). I took a look at Android when it first came out and was immediately interested in it but didn't really get serious about it until I got the Evo last summer. I'll admit I briefly considered coding for iOS when I had a jailbroken one last year, but I was really turned off by the app rejection policies, having to get a Mac for development and the greater initial investment. Since I have a regular job and family, it was hard for me to really get started until Christmas break, when I was able to really get off the ground with it.
10. Tell us about your apps.
Right now my apps are related to amateur astronomy, as that is something that I'm interested in and I know. I also plan to make non-astronomy apps.
My first app to come out was Telescope Calculator, which allows a telescope user to calculate the power of their optical system. An optical system’s power depends not only on the telescope objective, or main lens, but also the eyepiece used with it. Astronomers usually have many eyepieces in their collection and so often have to switch between them to zoom in or zoom out with their equipment. I wanted to provide a quick way for someone sitting at their telescope to know which eyepiece was the right one to use. I've recently made an update that puts the calculator in “night mode”, where everything on the screen is red or black, to reduce the impact of light on the night vision that astronomers hold so dear during their observation sessions. That app has a free ad-supported version and a paid version with extra features.
The second is Telescope Flashlight, which basically permits your phone screen to be used as a red flashlight for background lighting during an astronomy observing session. Many others permit the screen to be turned red but this one turns off the hardware button lights and lets you adjust the brightness level, so it's more geared for astronomers. Some people thought it would magically make the flash LEDs on the phone put out red or do more than just make the screen red. But many others have said that it meets their needs perfectly. As a developer that makes me happy -- we aim to please our customers.
11. What is most important in building a successful app?
"Successful" is relative, so I may not be in a position to comment, but I'll give my opinion anyway. Have a good idea, but it doesn't have to be a great one -- not even an original one in some cases. For myself, I want to do something I know about as my time is limited. Also I'm keeping things simple while I hone my coding skills.
- Implementation is key, but simple can be just as good as complex, sometimes better. Better to do one thing well that people want than have lots of features that no one uses.
- Marketing -- think of who will use your app. What do they want? How do you let them know that the app they've been waiting for is finally available? Also think about how you plan to make your apps stand out against the competition. Be sure to use keywords appropriately and title your app to stand out but not so much people can't tell what it does right away.
- Support - track your app and make sure to correct any user complaints and issues. If a user asks for an improvement, chances are there are 10-100 others wanting it too that didn't speak up.
12. How are you getting the word out about your app?
I'm using Facebook and Twitter mainly as a way to communicate back to my users. I've posted a few things on the local astronomy club (Austin Astronomical Society) Facebook page and on a few forums online but not much more than that.
13. Anything else you'd like to share with the Appolicious audience?
Appolocious seems like a great way to share favorite apps with people and to get good recommendations. I'm always looking for new and improved apps -- I have 240 installed on my Evo right now-- thank goodness for Froyo!