iPhone App Developer Spotlight: Deepak Mantena and Chores, Wordy, Fright and Gratuity

This is another entry in the iPhone Application Developer Spotlight series here at the Business Blog @ Intuitive.com. This one’s fun because Deepak has already had a burst of productivity and has four applications of his own in the iPhone App store! I hope you find it interesting and enlightening.
Q: You wrote a bunch of apps for the iPhone. How long did it take you? How many lines of code are each program?
I’ve been planning and thinking about Chores in some form or another since September of 2007, before the SDK was even announced. I thought of the other applications (Wordy, Fright, and Gratuity) after the SDK was released. Completely designing all aspects of your application before diving into development leads to a quicker implementation period.
The design and testing took up the majority of my time. Thanks in part to the documentation Apple provided, the implementation period for the apps was pretty short. I feel that lines of code is a pretty poor measure of app complexity, especially when working in such an expressive language as Objective-C. That said, Chores is about 3000 lines of code, Gratuity roughly 1000 lines, Wordy about 800 lines, and Fright about 400 lines.
Q: Tell us a bit about the application, including your target market and what problem or problems your application solves?
All of my apps are targeted to anyone. Chores is a simple todo app that can be used for making lists of anything. I was frustrated by all the complicated todo apps on the market, which mostly required intimate knowledge of GTD (Getting Things Done). I was also frustrated (along with everyone else) that Apple’s Notes app on the iPhone didn’t easily sync back with your Mac. I wanted Chores to be easy enough for anyone to use and allow users to sync their todos back to your Mac. I made Gratuity because I wanted a drop dead easy to use tip calculator. Wordy is ‘word of the day’ on steroids. I feel it’s both an educational tool and (in an upcoming version) a utility, allowing you to access the entire dictionary at your fingertips. Fright I made as a fun application that merged my interests in making short films with the iPhone. It’s a fun way to play a little joke on your friends by spooking them with some videos. It’s a real social application.
I think the best apps are the ones developers make for themselves first. When a developer makes an application to address a need they have, it’s an extremely personal connection, and typically results in a great product. It’s most often the case that plenty of other people in the same situation will be very interested in an application if the developer approaches it selfishly at first, ironically enough. All of the applications I created so far (and have planned for the future) are apps I use myself.

iPhone Application: Chores       iPhone Application: Wordy
Chores   Wordy

Q: The iPhone Software Development Kit has been written about quite a bit, but I’d like to know your opinion: was it easy to get up to speed with this SDK? Is it sufficiently complete that you weren’t stumped as you developed your application?
The documentation and sample code that Apple provided was phenomenal in helping to get started with the iPhone SDK. Before the SDK, I had no experience with Objective-C, Cocoa, or OS X programming. It didn’t take me very long at all to get off the ground reading Apple’s docs.
Whenever learning anything new, there are of course moments where you are stumped, but thankfully those moments were few and far between when developing for the iPhone. I attribute the ease getting up to speed with the SDK to Apple’s well designed and thought out frameworks, programming language, and documentation. I have a lot of respect for Jailbreak App developers, who made some fantastic apps without the wealth of resources Apple now provides.

iPhone Application: Fright       iPhone Application: Gratuity
Fright   Gratuity

Q: Tell us about the experience of submitting your program to the iPhone Application Store and how long it took to gain approval. Did you have to demonstrate that you weren’t accessing external data like the Address Book? What else was required for your app to show up in the public store?
Submitting my apps to the App Store was actually a pretty no-hassle process: we developers just have to ensure that our applications are compiled meeting certain criteria that Apple has clearly laid out and then simply send our binary their way along with some related metadata. Wordy was my first app officially approved. After submission, it took less than 24 hours for Wordy to be approved. This was about a week before the deadline Apple set for iPhone apps that wanted to be in the store at launch.
Chores and Fright were submitted closer to the deadline and took about 48 hours to be approved. There was a minor issue with Gratuity that the Apple engineers emailed me about before it could show up in the store. My experience talking with Apple engineers throughout this process has been really positive. I don’t know too much about the approval, but it seems Apple has a pretty stringent method of testing of our apps before allowing them to be in the App Store.
Q: Did you develop all the graphics in the app yourself or contract with a designer to create the look-and-feel of your application?
While my education is in Computer Science, I have a real affinity for graphic design. For that reason I decided to keep all of the design and development of my applications in house. In the future, I’d love to work with a professional designer for the art assets in my applications, but not without my input. I’m hesitant to let someone else dictate the entire look-and-feel of my apps.
When you’re creating an application, there has to be a purpose to every feature. There has to be a purpose to every button and piece of text. Every choice you make as a developer must be to serve the application. This includes the very way the application looks, which is why I feel most comfortable making design choices with my apps.
Q: How much is your application, and how did you decide on a price-point?
Chores is $4.99. Wordy, Gratuity, and Fright are all $0.99 cents. The pricing of the desktop version of Chores for OS X hasn’t been announced yet, but will be soon at tapeshow.com. For a limited time, those who buy the iPhone/touch version of Chores will be discounted its full price should they decide to buy Chores for OS X when it’s released. When deciding on prices, I thought about what I would be willing to pay for what I’ve written and also asked people whose opinions I respect that same question. I want everyone to be able to enjoy my apps, so they are very affordably priced.
Q: Are you inspired to write more iPhone applications? What’s in the pipeline?
Absolutely. There are a lot of ideas I’ve been sifting through, both free and paid apps. I’ve also had lots of great feedback from users of my current apps. I have several really great updates planned to the apps I’ve got out now. I encourage everyone to sign up to the newsletter at
tapeshow.com and send me feedback. I want to democratize the whole process of software coming to market. Hearing many different people email me an idea that I’ve had floating around myself really encourages me to want to make an app. I’ve also got some great web apps that are brewing.
Q: If you’re not a full-time iPhone application developer, what’s your day job?
I want to make iPhone and Mac OS X software for the rest of my life. That is why I decided to start my software company TapeShow last year, even though I’m still in college. I want writing software for iPhone and Mac OS X to be my day job. I want to make the best software I can – things people enjoy and want to use. So far it has been an exciting experience. Thousands of people are using my software and have been sending me some great feedback. It’s very encouraging.
Great stuff, Deepak. Really inspiring for other people who want to turn an avocation – programming and hacking little apps (and I obviously mean hacking in the positive sense) – into a revenue stream and, perhaps, a profession.

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