AppCraver recently heard from Andreas Amann, the developer behind Calling Card. He answered our questions about creating apps for the iPhone.
1. When did you start developing apps for the iPhone?
Andreas Amann: I joined the party rather late – I broke down and bought myself an iPhone in late August and didn’t do any iPhone development before that (I downloaded the SDK as soon as it was available but onlylooked at it for an hour or so)
I started developing my first application five days after buying the phone.
2. What was the inspiration behind your app?
Andreas Amann: Personal need – after using the phone for a few days I realized that there was no easy way to call internationally using phone cards (I have family overseas) and I didn’t really want to add additional phone numbers to all my international contacts so I started developing “Calling Card.” After online research I realized that a lot of people seemed to share my grief and that no solution was available from the App Store. I always wanted to develop something for the iPhone but coming up with a good idea what that would be was actually the hardest part.
3. How did you settle on your price point for the app?
Andreas Amann: I looked through the App Store at what seemed to be popular and from my personal experience when looking for apps I noticed that $0.99 apps amount almost to an impulse decision to buy and I do like that fact that there are a lot of very powerful applications out there at a low price point.
4. How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? Is there anything missing?
Andreas Amann: Not counting the occasional glitches and bad documentation (it took me several days to be finally able to compile versions that would run on phones other than my own) I do like it a lot – the framework is pretty well built and allows to concentrate on the actual app without having to spend too much time with UI details.
There are a few limitations in the SDK (things not exposed to third-party developers but obviously available to Apple’s own applications) which I hope will get added over time (I tend to believe that they were left out due to time constraints rather than doing so on purpose…). I don’t really understand the reasoning behind the limitation to develop on Intel machines only as it obviously is absolutely possible to build and deploy applications on a PPC machine – this seems like a ploy to sell more new computers.
5. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?
Andreas Amann: No company here – just me coding through the night:-)
6. What are some of the other iPhone apps that you like?
Andreas Amann: Shazam is an extremely impressive app and I am always amazed on how well it performs even in noisy environments. Air Sharing comes in handy at times and Labyrinth is a very nice way to show off the iPhone to people that haven’t seen it before.
7. What kind of features should Apple implement in future versions of the iPhone / SDK?
Andreas Amann: For the iPhone software itself: I feel that copy/paste is a must – I hate to have to write down stuff on little pieces of paper to by able to look at an MMS message in Safari (since I get an SMS with the information on how to retrieve it) – maybe they should just add MMS support too?
As far as the SDK is concerned, support to access the calendar database! I don’t know whether this was a conscious decision on Apple’s part or they just didn’t have the time to implement this properly but I strongly feel that access to the central calendar information is a must (much like the currently available access to the contacts database). What would make my application much more useful would be if they would not restrict certain phone numbers (containing ”#” and ”*”) from being dialed by third-party applications.
In addition, it would be really nice if the whole review process would be a little more transparent to the developers – right now the application tends to disappear into a black hole to emerge back in the App Store a few weeks later…
8. What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?
Andreas Amann: Coming up with the idea seems to be the hardest part. Once the concept for the app is set, the actual coding went along pretty quickly and I had a first rough version to send to a few beta testers in a little over a week. The limited testing proved to be extremely useful as I received a lot of good feedback on what people would like to see and most of the bugs got ironed out before the official release (this beta testing cycle took about another couple weeks). Of course, writing the documentation is the part that always seems to take forever – since there is lots of ample time between submitting the application and it being available on the App Store that time was put to good use though.
9. Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?
Andreas Amann: Not at the moment due lack of another idea on what would be useful and fun to write. I also have to gauge how much time support will take before I go off and start something new so that I can still have some free time for myself.
I just submitted the first update to my Calling Card application though with several new features (and the occasional bug fix as well).