iPhone App Developer Spotlight: Eliza Block and “2 Across”

Another installment in the iPhone App Developer Spotlight series, this time it’s a young woman who is also busy working on her graduate degree in philosophy (of all things), an inspiring example for other female coders who are thinking about the opportunity presented by the App Store…
Q: You wrote 2 Across. How long did it take you? How many lines of code is the program?
It took about 4 months to get it ready for the initial release, and since then I’ve done another 2 months’ work on improvements and updates, and it’s still a work in progress. It’s a little over 10,000 lines of code, and written in Objective C.
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?
Yes, I found it pretty straightforward to get up to speed with the SDK. The documentation provided by Apple is excellent. There were gaps in functionality for the initial release of the SDK, but as it evolved they got filled in and in its current incarnation, it’s quite complete. There are still a few “known issues” lingering that hinder functionality, but you run into them very rarely.
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?
My app was accepted three days after I originally submitted it. No demonstrations were required; I just submitted the binary and it was quickly approved. I have no idea what is involved in the approval process; I’ve heard stories about apps being sent back repeatedly, but I don’t know on what grounds. All of my apps and updates have been approved within a week, and on the first try.

Apple iTunes Application App Store: Game 2 Across

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?
I did it all myself. But once my app was selected by Apple to be “featured” on the iTunes store, I asked a graphic designer friend, Jason Ramirez, to make a nicer looking graphic for the little poster they put up.
Q: How much is your application, and how did you decide on a price-point?
My app costs $5.99, but I also recently released a free version to let people try it out. I settled on $5.99 because $9.99 seems like the de facto upper limit for the app store. Apps priced at $9.99 or above get a lot of negative reviews from people who seem to spend their time giving 2-star ratings to apps they view as too expensive, without even trying them first. I wanted to avoid falling victim to this, and also to encourage people who don’t already do a lot of crosswords to make an impulse purchase.
I’m pleased with the decision; the app is selling very well, and has a fantastic user-approval rating.
Q: Are you inspired to write more iPhone applications? What’s in the pipeline?
Yes, it’s been a great experience! I have another app in mind that I’m planning to write together with Eric Maland, the author of pTerm. It will be an attempt to popularize a really awesome kind of logic puzzle that isn’t yet well known. I don’t want to say more about it because I don’t want to get scooped!
Q: If you’re not a full-time iPhone application developer, what’s your day job?
I’m not a full-time programmer (although I’ve been doing it full time for the last few months). I’m a graduate student getting my PhD in philosophy. I’m about a year away from finishing the degree. But this has been such a great experience that I’m seriously considering leaving academia to do some kind of programming full-time.
Thanks for sharing your great experience and enthusiasm, Eliza! As a reminder, if you’re still getting your arms around using the iPhone my companion Q&A blog has tons of free iPhone Help too!

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