AppCraver recently spoke with Nicolas Solan. He answered our questions about developing apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
1. When did you start developing apps for the iPhone?
Nicolas Solan: I started developing for the iPhone in November 2007 on my jailbroken iPhone with the old non-official SDK on Windows. At home and just for fun, I ported my Earth3D application to it. It’s only a technical and simple 3D animation of the Earth. Earth3D is my ‘HelloWorld’ application — it’s the first one that I ported to a new platform. Earth3D is included in my own cross-platform 3D engine that runs on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, PSP, WinCE, Symbian OS and of course the iPhone. I left my old job and now I’m an independent developer. I’m also a certified iPhone developer and I develop with the official iPhone SDK now.
2. What was the inspiration behind your app?
Nicolas Solan: When I played the amazing Labyrinth game via the iNstaller on my jailbroken iPhone, I saw that OpenGLES ran efficiently on the iPhone. I was already developing some 3D applications, so I said "why not develop games on the iPhone too?"
3. How did you settle on your price point for the app?
Nicolas Solan: It’s not easy to determine how much your application can be sold for in this new market. I checked for other apps in the App Store and tried to find a price.
4. Roughly how many apps did you sell in the first month of operation?
Nicolas Solan: When the App Store was released on the new iPhone OS 2.0 in this summer 2008, I ported my free Earth3D application. I now have the exact download count for August, and it was downloaded to 474,187! It’s an amazing figure and encourages me to continue my work. Thanks to all people who downloaded it and gave me feedback.
5. How did you like the developer tools provided in the iPhone SDK? Is there anything missing?
Nicolas Solan: I have worked with many SDKs on several platforms on embedded systems during my career and the iPhone SDK is one of the best. But, you need to have the “mac philosophy” to handle it correctly. I think that the essentials are already inside.
My first steps with certification (to sign up for the distribution in the App Store) was not easy. But, once this is done and properly configured, the rest is pretty easy. The iPhone is an incredible device and I think it’s the future in smart phones. All the other competitors are behind and try to copy the iPhone.
6. Is your company privately owned? Venture backed?
Nicolas Solan: I’m an independent developer now. I develop some tools and games for other companies and also my own games with some independent infographists. I have more and more opportunities for working on the iPhone with other companies for games and tools. The iPhone gave birth to a new ecosystem.
7. What are some of the other iPhone apps that you like?
8. What kind of features should Apple implement in future versions of the iPhone / SDK?
Nicolas Solan: I don’t know. But it’s important that Apple works on the battery life. For me it's the most important thing because gaming take a lot’s of power with sounds and music and 30- or 60-fps 3D rendering.
9. What’s the development cycle for iPhone apps like?
Nicolas Solan: It depends if you do a simple ‘port’ to the iPhone or if you develop from scratch. A simple port could take one or two weeks but a new game could take from few weeks to many weeks or many months.
10. Are you working on any other apps that you will be releasing soon?
Nicolas Solan: Under the name of “NICOTEAM” I have already released ‘Earth3D’ (free), ‘AirHockey’, ‘VideoPoker’ (free), ‘Awele – Mancala’ and recently ‘Tribal 2’. I have some other great games in development and we (me and the infographists who work with me) have many ideas for new games. I also have some tools in development but I prefer to come back to you when they are finished.