iPhone App Developer Spotlight: Michael Alvarez and Showtimes

Another entry in the iPhone application developer interview series, this one’s a favorite of mine because it’s about a movie-related iPhone app that I use regularly and because both Michael and I are such movie buffs. As always, please feel free to spread the word about this interview series…
Q: You wrote Showtimes. How long did it take you?
Showtimes is one of Avantar’s most popular app, and the #1 downloaded free application, which finds your local theaters and movie showtimes with a single tap of your finger. My developers wrote it and it took a team of one designer and three developers to design the interface, setup the servers, find a good host, manage the data, and write the application. It took one month just to write the application, not including everything else stated above. After launch there was still a lot of development needed optimize the app and to add new functionality.
How many lines of code is the program?
Showtimes consists of 8,000 lines of 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?
Apple iPhone Applications App Store Showtimes Movie TimesIt was hard to learn it, especially because the it was difficult to search the documentation for desired topics. Once learned, it’s easy to use. The interface builder also is not very intuitive, but once you learn the tricks it’s a easy to use.
We were able to solve every problem we encountered, but for the most part some there was a lot of frustration with the documentation. We are sure the documentation will get better now that there are so many developers providing feedback on the matter.
Q: Tell us about the experience of submitting your program to the iPhone Application Store and how long it took to gain approval.
There are two approval processes you have to go through before submitting an app.
1) Applying to become an iPhone Developer. All you have to do is fill out a simple form to apply. What was hard was not knowing what criteria we were being judged by for the approval process. We assume that having had a Mac account for years helped, and also having a website that explained clearly what we do.
We were one of the few to get approved before the launch of the App Store so we consider ourselves very fortunate because it gave us an immediate leg up on our competition.
2) Once we were approved as iPhone Developers, submitting a new program is fairly simple. It took us a week to get our apps approved.
Did you have to demonstrate that you weren’t accessing external data like the Address Book?
Not really. I don’t think it’s possible to have two programs running at the same time. Some of our apps like Yellow Pages, AirYell, and Munch don’t access the Address Book information, but they do allow you to add a new contact to the Address Book and we had no problem with the approval of that feature.
What else was required for your app to show up in the public store?
I believe that what they really look for is that your app is as bug free as possible. If the person reviewing the app finds a bug or that it does something out of the ordinary it will be rejected.
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?
All were created in house by our creative team. We have years of experience in web usability and optimization, so this helped to get the look-and-feel and usability just how we wanted it.
Q: How much is your application, and how did you decide on a price-point?
Showtimes a free application. Our intent is to ask for donations for that app, but haven’t set that up yet. Our paid applications are OneTap Movies ($1.99 USD), Yellow Pages ($.99 USD), and Munch ($.99 USD). Since we submitted these before the App Store went live, we had no competitors to analyze so we picked a number that we though would be supported by iPhone and iPod touch users.
For future applications we now have a lot of applications, and their popularity rankings, we can study before setting a price.
Q: Are you inspired to write more iPhone applications? What’s in the pipeline?
Definitely! We don’t disclose future launches, but what I can tell you is that soon you will see a very useful application for college students launching shortly and hopefully a few new games. Not only that, we are committed in making each one of our applications the very best, so we constantly improve them (based on user feedback) and launch new releases as soon as they are ready.
Q: If you’re not a full-time iPhone application developer, what’s your day job?
Avantar, the company, concentrates solely on developing iPhone apps, but we are also looking into developing for other mobile platforms like Google’s Android.
Very interesting and candid responses, thanks! If you would like to learn more about iPhone application development, please read the entire iPhone App Developer Interview series. Need help with your iPhone? I got ya covered with that too, I have lots of free iPhone help online and, finally, if you’re into movies like Michael and I, you’ll want to be following @FilmBuzz, my film alter ego, on Twitter.

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