Interview with Gregg Geil from TourDataBase, developers of iFestival

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interview with Gregg Geil developer of ifestival for iphone and ipod touchAppCraver recently had the chance to chat with Gregg Geil from TourDataBase.com, the developers of iFestival. He answered 10 questions about developing apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

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

Gregg Geil: This is our first foray into the iPhone development world. We had what we felt was a pretty good idea into bring a compact application around music festivals to the iPhone/iTouch platform. I have a lot of experience in technical projects and development. For this project we brought in an expert around iPhone SDK development to help us establish the festival framework.

2. What was the inspiration behind your app?

Gregg Geil: The folks involved with Tourdatabase.com all have a big presences in the online music world. I founded a music magazine called AmericanaRoots.com a few years back which focuses on the niche market known as Americana Music. Ray Randall, our marketing guru, has been responsible for the programming of our 24/7 internet radio station and podcast shows. We both have a strong passion for music and are always looking for new ways to spread music (no matter what genre).

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

Gregg Geil: The price was easy to set since it’s a free application for anyone. Our revenue comes from festival listings along with the option for festivals to add in sponsors in their listing.

4. Roughly how many apps did you sell in the first month of operation?

Gregg Geil: The application launched in early September 2008 and while iTunes has not released our initial numbers we estimate around 4-5k downloads in the first 2 weeks based on traffic.

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

Gregg Geil: Xcode and the iPhone SDK is amazing and frustrating all at the same time. The tools provide everything you need to develop however the devil is in the details. We had a number of issues around the process of signing the code especially in a “collaborating environment”. The process of uploading to the app store changed mid-stream and while I think they have made some improvements it’s still a ways off from being perfect. For any developer, it’s like waiting on Christmas for your application to be reviewed by Apple. We waited 9 days (which from what I hear isn’t bad) however you really have no idea where your app is in the process. One suggestion I would love to see is some type of queue status to show how many app reviews are in front of you. One of the other topics is, of course, the discussion around the iPhone SDK NDA and the inability to publicly ask questions around iPhone development.

We have version v1.5 that is about to move into beta testing with our focus group. We are pretty excited about this release in that it addresses a few issues with the launch version but also adds some pretty cool functionality. We will roll out a new feature called “My Events” which allows you to go in and select the events of say a SXSW you are interested in. You will then have your personal itnerary to help you catch all the shows you wanted to see at a festival.

6. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?

Gregg Geil: Tourdatabase is a privately held company.

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

Gregg Geil: There are a number of fantastic apps coming out. I really dig Shazam which is a fantastic free application for any music lover. Flytunes just released their first version of a internet radio application which looks promising for any fan of Shoutcast radio stations.

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

Gregg Geil: One missing feature that has caused us some pain is the lack of linking to iTunes music store on the iPhone. Our focus is music and with that we need to be able to launch iTunes on the phone to bring up artists. They have very limited functionality to do so far.

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

Gregg Geil: For us, the development cycle is much like any software development in that it starts with an idea then follows a typical project plan in design, data requirements and then implementing the design. One of the challenges with iFestival is that it’s not just an iPhone application. We have a series of web applications behind that scene that manage and deliver the data. Another design decision when it comes to a data backed application on the iPhone is what to do when there is no internet available. This was especially important in our case as we wanted to ensure that iTouch users would have the same experience as an iPhone user. This required quite a lot of planning in how to deal with caching in such a way to not be dependent on having an internet connection.

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

Gregg Geil: We do but at this point I cannot discuss too much about it other than to say it’s an event-driven application ;-) Hopefully appcraver.com will be kind enough to invite us back when that gets released.

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