From my first gig as an reviewer for the now-defunct iPad N Gravy (no link; Safari warns that the site has been compromised by malware) to my current digs here at iPod to iPad I’ve seen a lot of indie apps. Many were games, but all were the product of someone (or a select few someones) with an intriguing idea, skill, and the drive to bring their concept to an app store. While I have professed my affection for indie apps (who doesn’t love an underdog?) I have to date little exposure to the brave souls that actually breathe life into the little icon on your smartphone’s screen.
I was recently contacted by Tam Hanna of Tammoggemon, the developer of TouchCalc, a powerful (and free) graphing calculator app for Android, BlackBerry, and eventually iOS. While I restrict my writing to products within the Apple envirosphere, he was kind enough to chat with me about what its like to be an independent app developer.
Not surprisingly, he followed a similar track to my best friend from high school, programmer Scott Lemmon (you’re still missed, Scott). He had some formal education, but was primarily self-taught through study of a field he found interesting; reaffirming something I’ve long stressed- no matter how complex something is, if you find it interesting you’ll pick it up far easier than you would have thought. Here’s a short excerpt of our discussion:
Is app design your first career or did you find yourself drawn to it?
A: I have been hounding the mobile IT scene since 2004, so yes, one can say that it is my first and primary career.
Was there any one particular platform or operating system that first sparked you to start developing?
A: Definitely Palm OS and OnBoardC. Hacking a mobile app on a mobile phone is just insanely cool – it is a pity that this isn’t possible anymore.
What are the differences or barriers developing for different mobile OS?
A: This is a good and hard question. To developers who start coding for mobile for the first time, the legalese – think certification and such – can be quite a burden. But once you have the structure set up, this becomes easy. The next issue is the different API and languages. As you gain experience in IT, this becomes less and less of an issue as the fundamental concepts largely are the same across platforms.
Is the process of getting an app approved for the various Android outlets difficult?
A: My experience with Samsung shows that the staff are rarely unhelpful or actively trying to hinder or annoy developers. Instead, they try to eliminate errors before your users find them; this can really save face. Of course, the clocks do tick a little different at Apple. After all, these boys get a lot of press out of being tough to developers.
How long did it take you to release the current version of TouchCalc?
A: About a month from concept to the first beta. Samsung’s QA team was very helpful, but generally is known to be rather docile towards apps.
Are you working on any other projects, or are you focusing on honing TouchCalc?
A: The frequent update cycle promised does take a lot of resources inside of Tamoggemon. Nevertheless, we currently plan to port TouchCalc to Android, BB10 and – given feasibility – Symbian. We are also open to new product ideas, but currently have nothing open in that area.
In my correspondence with Tam I found him to be stereotypical of the geek culture I’ve grown up with- intelligent, motivated, and a generally good guy. I enjoyed the insight into the world of developing; I find it completely fascinating- it’s not very often that we get an insight into how the things we use every day come to be. If you have a non-iPhone handset, help support the passion of an indie developer and give TouchCalc a look!