Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why I Became an iPhone App Developer and My Reasons for Buying an iPad2

Almost a full month ago, one day after it launched, I ordered an iPad2. I have wanted to buy an iPad since the day the first generation was released, but I diligently waited for the second generation to arrive before sinking that kind of money into this device. My lovely new toy has had quite a journey to get here. First, it had to be produced as quickly as possible in the Foxconn factory in China. Then it shipped straight from China to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong it dallied over to Alaska, from Alaska it went to Tennessee, and then it finally landed on my door step in Missouri this afternoon. And now I am happily set up, writing my first blog post from it.

I am still wondering why I needed an iPad. I have a MacBook and an iPhone, so I essentially have an iPad, right? Honestly, right now I don't know what unique function my iPad will serve, but I will admit it makes a very nice mobile blogging station! In the two hours since my iPad has charged and registered, I have:
                      (1) Played with photo booth
                      (2) Bought my favorite iPhone game again so I could have it in all its HD glory. That game is Plants vs. Zombies, and it is completely awesome played on this large touch screen. To think, just yesterday I thought that the iPhone platform for Plants vs Zombies HAD to be the best platform the game was ever released on. Isn't it amazing how easily your opinions can change?
                      (3) Bought the blogger app BlogPress that I've been looking into buying forever. I didn't buy it for the iPhone because I couldn't really imagine writing to my blogs on my iPhone, but now I have a very good mobile platform for writing. My desire for a mobile writing platform was my #2 reason for wanting an iPad.

In case you haven't heard the news through some other channel known as Facebook or Twitter, in August of last year I became a bonafide, published iPhone app developer! It was about six months after I had gotten an iPhone that I saw a video from the Apple WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference) talking about developers and the stories of how they created their iPhone apps. Before that point it had never occurred to me that I could create my own iPhone app. I don't know why, but the thought never crossed my mind. It's computers I program, not phones. But watching that video really hit home for me, and I knew instantly that is what I wanted to do. I wanted to do it so badly that I went out 2 days later and purchased a MacBook (it is required that you write your code on a Mac, and I had never been a Mac owner, my iPhone was my first Apple product). So there I was, $1200 in debt by the time I bought the MacBook, the dev membership and a couple how to books. At that point I didn't even know what app I would write, but I had faith that I would find the perfect app to write.

I worked through books, learning the iPhone SDK, learning XCode, learning Objective C, while waiting for my app idea to come. Two weeks later, it did. I was at the county library with my two girls, looking for books for them to read. The school the girls go to is involved in a program called Accelerated Reader. Each child is assigned an "AR Level", this is their reading level and ideally should correspond with their grade level. For instance, my fourth grader is almost through the school year, and her range is 4.7 - 5.2. The company that runs Accelerated Reader reviews books and assigns a reading level to them. Each book that has an AR level has an associated quiz with it. The student takes the quiz after reading the book, it assesses the comprehension of that book, and their reading level is periodically adjusted.

Back to the library ... Over 119,000 books have AR levels assigned to them, but they aren't listed on the books like an ISBN is. There I was, browsing the shelves, wondering what level the books were, when I had a duh! moment. There HAD to be an app for that! So I pull out my iPhone, do some quick searching, only to discover that there was NOT an app for that. The uniqueness of that statement hit me. There's an app for practically everything, yet I had stumbled upon a niche that needed filling. It might not be the next top 25 app, but there had to be a decent potential user base of parents like myself who wanted this app.

That was the moment I got my first app idea. My second iPhone app (in the works) is also unique, with a much higher potential user base, and is not based on any current technology or company, but I won't disclose that ideas in a public forum. For my first app, however, I just wanted to break myself in to iPhone development. My long term goal was to try to break even on my investment. The app was over a year in the making. This wasn't because it was particularly hard, but because I had a third kid, and a miniature stroke, and other fun stuff that took my time away from my hobby. In August of last year, my hard work paid off and my iPhone app was released -- ARFinder (website here). I watched in amazement as a few people each day actually bought ARFinder. I certainly wasn't anywhere close to rich, but it was a start, and people were actually carrying around something I had written in their pockets! I am still amazed by that thought. In January of this year, I had a 13 year old boy email me ask me to support the iPod touch. Long story short, I had no clue that all devices that hadn't upgraded to iOS 4.0 were not allowed to download my app. It was a simple update, and with that came double to triple the daily downloads. I am still far from rich, but I'm approaching my 1,000th download! My app has also (briefly) made it into the top 200 list. All in all, I am very happy with how this app is doing, and it really makes me feel accomplished.

So now on to the #1 reason I bought my iPad2: to support releasing ARFinder to the iPad. I don't feel comfortable releasing my iPhone app to the iPad without testing it on the actual device because it is very important to me that my app looks and behaves like it belongs on the iPad. That is not something that I can truly determine without having the iPad. So yes, I'm taking a gamble with a $700 investment so shortly after finally breaking even on my initial investment. I won't know how much revenue I can bring in if I don't try, and at least this gives me a real reason to buy the iPad2. Okay, I'm still not convinced there is a justifiable need to buy an iPad, but at least I do have a semi-good reason to buy one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


iphone app developer said...

Good post on your story to be became iPhone Developer and buying iPad2. I also want to bring my new Air Mac Book. For that purpose I am making a good future for my jobs.
Thanks for posting.