Interview with Gary Fung


gary fungAppCraver recently spoke with Gary Fung, the developer behind MyDelicious and the soon-to-be released Smart Dial. He answered our questions about his process for developing apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

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

Gary Fung: Since the announcement of the iPhone 3G, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I started developing apps for the iPhone. It was 3-4 months ago when I came up with my first app concept, MyDelicious. Since then, developing apps has become as much of a hobby as it is my side job. Smart Dial is an app I’m extremely excited about.

2. What was the inspiration behind your app?

Gary Fung: I wanted to develop an app that was highly useful and in demand. Through various web sources and chatting with different iPhone fans, I found that a lot of users complained about the original phone app, in that they were not able to find their contacts quickly enough. That combined with the familiarity of searching and dialing phone numbers on all cell phones prior to the iPhone triggered my eagerness to develop Smart Dial.

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

Gary Fung: I definitely did my share of research in pricing of other apps and dialers. Smart Dial is currently offered at an introductory price of $2.99. I decided to categorize the app as a Business app as it would appeal most to this group given the number of contacts a business user has. Relative to other dialer apps, Smart Dial offers much higher utility. A lot of effort was put in the usability and performance, which I’m finding many apps are lacking. In fact, I’m quite surprised at the popularity of other $2.99-$3.99 toy apps which provide very low utility and poor user experience.

Smart Dial should stand out amongst the sea of dialers. I’m optimistic that this introductory offer will be a hit with all consumers.

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

Gary Fung: Like most other developers would tell you, the iPhone SDK is like nothing else in a developer’s world. The documentation is done reasonably well — very detailed and clear. However, a couple of things stand out in my mind from a design perspective.

Apple has prohibited any 3rd party app from dialing numbers with * or # (though # is probably a rare use case). I (among others) have filed a bug report to Apple and was replied that this was intended with no explanation. Another example is the inability to invoke the SMS app despite being able to invoke Mail, Phone, and the App Store.

Most frustrating is that I’ve been waiting at the edge of my seat each day for approval. Surely many iPhone developers feel the same way. I would be thrilled to see a queue status of where your apps are in the review process.

5. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?

Gary Fung: For now, I’m an individual developer.

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

Gary Fung: I’m quite an App-aholic. I have a ton of apps, but the ones that stand out are Monkeyballs, Remote, Byline and Koi Pond.

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

Gary Fung: Coming from a diverse development background (web app, c++, Java), the development cycle for iPhone apps is no different from other development projects except for one aspect, the approval process.

As it is right now, approval time can take anywhere up to 1-2 months (if your app is rejected) which can easily be 2-3 times of the actual development time. The lengthy approval time is annoying but still somewhat understandable. What is truly unacceptable is that the process has no transparency at all. Developers are completely left in the dark with a “In review” status with no ETA, no queue position, nothing. Not a single developer right now has any idea if updates have the same queue as a new app, if different category have different queues or if free apps are reviewed quicker.

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

Gary Fung: I’ve started to work on the next release of Smart Dial. Hopefully it will be released soon. Already I am getting a lot of positive feedback and many are anticipating this app to be available for sale.

I do have other apps in the works. Perhaps you will hear about them through AppCraver when the time comes. :)

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