Interview with Aaron Basil of iDev2

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aaron basil interview idev2Aaron Basil of iDev2 is one of the most prolific developers for the iPhone and iPod touch. His apps include iSign, Baby Sign ASL, iToot and Sound Box to name a few. We talked to Aaron the other day to find out what life is like for an App Store dev:

1. You’ve worked on a wide range of apps. Are there attributes these apps have in common and if so, what would they be?
Basil: I have tried to focus on apps that I think are funny or interesting.

2. Of the apps you’ve developed thus far, which ones do you like most and why?
Basil: My favorite app is Baby Sign ASL. I am simply amazed at the capabilities of the iPhone. Every time I have had an idea for a really neat app that would clearly be too computationally intensive for a cell phone, the iPhone has proved me wrong.

3. If you could be something other than a developer, what would it be?
Basil: I have been training fighters for MMA [mixed martial arts] on and off since about 1992. I suppose I could see another short foray down that path. I am, however, an Electrical and Computer Engineer by training so, ultimately, I suppose I will always end up doing something tech and nerdy. Ultimately, my plan for later in life is to have enough savings together to organize outings for kids in orphanages in China.

4. What’s the development cycle for one of your apps?
Basil: Good question. Pretty much there is always a spark of an idea, then I go to wireframes or storyboards. Essentially, I draw out every possible screen of the application with markers and arrows connecting the diagrams. I have always encouraged clients to use this approach because it quickly exposes the weaknesses in the logic or flow of your application.

5. What was the inspiration behind your iDev2 and your decision to develop for the iPhone?
Basil: Funny story. I was a PC developer in my past life and have never owned a Mac. I had an iPod video go bad and replaced it with an iPod Touch. I found that I liked the calendar functionality of the iPod much more than the Razor V3XX I had been using so decided to get an iPhone. Literally, within 15 minutes of starting my iPhone I said to myself, "This changes everything." I purchased a Mac that week and set out to learn how to develop for this platform.

6. How do you settle on a price point for your app?
Basil: Honestly, for me, the pricing is simply a guess. If the app is really simplistic, like iToot or SoundBox, I price it at $1. An app with some educational content, like Animal Farm or Tell Time, I price at $2. Apps with high social value, like iSign or Baby Sign ASL can be priced higher.

7. What features do you hope Apple will implement in future versions of the iPhone SDK?
Basil: I would like to see more of the private API functions brought over the public side. In terms of the iPhone itself, I really would like to see Apple add video recording, video conferencing, a higher resolution CCD, and a touch screen that provides tactile feedback for usage by blind users.

8. What can developing for the iPhone teach you about developing for desktop PCs?
The art of subtlety. All the finishing touches that I thought of as eye candy on the PC side are essential on the iPhone side.

9. What compensations do you have to make for the iPhone’s small playing surface?
Tight designs and a well thought out user interface!

10. What’s the biggest advantage of the iPhone other than mobility?
Basil: Integration! You have a mobile device that does a lot of things really well. Calendar, contact manager, Web brower, texting tool, calculator, note taker. Oh yeah, and phone too! The beauty is, if you aren't thrilled with the apps that came with the phone, chances are other people weren't either and there is a better version available on the app store!

11. What apps are on your iPhone now?
Basil: Nine pages worth! I love my iPhone.

12. With so my iPhone developers offering free or cheap apps, are you concerned that buyers now have unrealistic expectations?
Basil: It takes some balls to spend weeks working on an application that you know is only going to sell for 99 cents and trust that things will work out. Then again, I am always willing to bet on me!

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