Interview with Hive05, Developers of ICONtact

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A few months ago AppCraver spoke with the guys over at Hive05. Somehow, their interview got lost in the archives. So now, without further ado (or at least without any further ado), meet Josh and Chris of Hive05, the developers of ICONtact.

1. When did you start developing apps for the iPhone?

Josh: I wrote some small applications to tinker for my day job, but it was not until mid July ‘08 when we started on Game Trivia Catechism full swing that I’d say i really started seriously developing anything.

2. What was the inspiration behind your app?

Josh: I’m obsessive about adding photographs for my contacts, and felt that all of my hard work was currently being underutilized by default contacts applications on the phone.

Chris: ICONtact was Josh’s baby, as I’m one of those that had photos for maybe 5-10% of my contact list. With the app complete, I noticed that I’d started adding pictures just to fill them in, like a real life contact list version of Pokemon Snap or something.

3. How did you settle on your price point for the app?

Chris: ICONtact started as a side project, something we put together during a breather from GTCdevelopment. We figured it would serve as a great introduction to the Apple review process and the mechanics of the App Store while at the same time preparing us for large-scale releases down the road. The price point reflects that, and for a small utility app that does one thing quite nicely, I think $0.99 fits.

4. Roughly how many units have you sold?

Josh: Just under 1,000 sold. As an interesting side note, mixed in with the sales figures Apple also provides the statistics for upgrade downloads. Based on these figures roughly 50% of all ICONtact downloads are upgrades.

5. How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? Is there anything missing?

Josh: I’ve been using Xcode and Cocoa on the Mac on and off for hobby projects for about the last 5 years. I think Apple has done an amazing job in porting the Cocoa framework to the iPhone, and the SDK makes all kinds of very cool visual effects extremely easy to pull off.

That being said, I think there is still a lot of work to go on Xcode. Coming from a Microsoft development background, Xcode is a very basic development environment. It gets the job done, but does not have the UI polish that Microsoft has put into their development tools. Having seen the evolution from Xcode 1.0 they are definitely improving it by leaps and bounds, but there is lots of room to grow.

6. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?

Chris: Privately owned. For now, it’s something we’re doing alongside day jobs, a chance to work on some fun apps with a great crew. We’ll see where it goes once we’ve finished up a couple larger scale apps. If anyone out there wants to give us encouraging sums of cash to develop neat things, feel free to hit us up.

7. What are some of the other iPhone apps that you like?

Chris: Let’s see… my most used are probably Now Playing and the new Facebook app. I still regularly use webapp versions of NewsGator and Springlets, and I’ve got a rotating stable of games I’ve been playing. Currently, it’s Adventure, rRootage, and Frotz. On the horizon, I’m really looking forward to Crystal Defenders from Square Enix.

Josh: I’d say the biggest “wow how did I ever get by without it” application for me right now is Units. Its a free utility that converts between various measurements, including currency.

8. What kind of features should Apple implement in future versions of the iPhone / SDK?

Josh: I would love to see more of the “Apple Only” functionality exposed. One example of this would be the ability to screen-capture the last state of the application for use when loading the next time.

Chris: I wrote up an App Store wish list. Basically, I’d be happy to see further refinement in the iTunes store itself, particularly in the way apps are filtered, found, and reviewed.

9. What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?

Josh: This is another area I would like to see improvement. Right now you basically develop your application, run a test with a small group of known users, then push it out. There is not really a lot of functionality for doing beta-tests or other practices common in traditional software development.

Chris: On the design front, I’ve able to mock up and iterate interface bits while Josh works on implementing functionality, so by the time a particular system works, we know roughly what it is going to look like. From there its a lot of testing, tweaking, and listening to feedback.

10. Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?

Chris: The next iPhone app from us will be Game Trivia Catechism, a game that we’ve been working on since early summer. Based on a DS homebrew project by Thuyen Nguyen (who’s also come onboard for this version), it’s been an ambitious labor of love for the entire team. GTC is a know your roots sort of title that focuses on the history and lore of video games, featuring a story campaign, something around 600 questions, competitive play, a catechism mode with notes and anecdotes for every single question (literally a book’s worth of content), and a custom soundtrack by Danny Baranowsky.

Coming from the game industry, we feel that the heroes and hallmarks of game dev aren’t given enough recognition, and Game Trivia Catechism is our attempt to alleviate that, even if just a little bit. It’ll be a free App Store release.

After GTC is out of the gate, we’ll begin to focus on the whole making apps that generate income thing.

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