We take interviews of The App Entrepreneurs to get more insight of their journey of being App Entrepreneur.
Today we interviewed Armond Avanes of aCar. aCar is famous among Android users for car management and soon it will touch 1 million download marks. Armond started his professional life as a C++ developer and later switched to Java developer and architect. He has been working actively on aCar app for around 3 years. We have reviewed aCar few days back on TAE.
How did you get the idea about this app?
As a car owner I had the same needs as other car owners to track the expenses, maintenance and performance of my car on my Smartphone when I first bought my HTC G1. I did some research on Google Play store (known as “Google Market” then) and around the net for then-available applications but I couldn’t find what I wanted. So being a Java developer and already considering Android platform for development, I decided to develop one such application in a way that I wanted and needed; and aCar was born!
Why did you choose mobile platform?
Many of the vehicle expenses, fill-ups and maintenance jobs are done when you’re out and usually away from home/work and away from your PC. Just because of this simple fact many people do not tend or forget to track the expenses effectively and regularly. But our mobile devices and smart phones explicitly are always with us, so why not use them to capture those vehicle-related activities? aCar was developed to sit on Android smart phones to address these needs.
Why you have not launched iOS app yet?
Porting to other platform (and actually rewriting the app) is a very big project of its own which needs lots of resources. Especially when it comes to mature apps like aCar with a relatively large code base, it gets even harder. It’s in the long term plan to port aCar to iOS but at the moment, and due to the limited resources, it’s preferred to stay focused on other great features already planned.
What were your initial challenges for transforming your idea into app?
Being a Java developer and having hands-on experience on JME platform, there were not much technical challenges. It just took me some time to learn the advanced techniques on Android. On the other hand, creating a friendly, intuitive, powerful and polished user interface has always been an on-going challenge for me. The challenge is still going on… Turning ideas into good-looking and quality apps is not a simple task at all!
How challenging Android device fragmentation is and how you dealt with it?
Android provides great mechanisms and tools for developers to support wide range of devices with different hardware and OS versions. But there are still many Android fragmentation issues like manufacturer customized user interfaces, soft keyboards, different behaviors when dealing with external SD-Card and internal storages to name a few. The latest 4.x versions (ICS and JB) have resolved some of the issues especially in user interface area, but fragmentation is still there.
On the other hand, I’ve done my best to keep aCar running on as many devices and configurations as possible. Before the recent v4.0.0 changes, it could run on any Android 1.5+ device but we dropped the support for 1.5 and 1.6 to have more flexible code base to handle the new (and future) user interface changes. Currently aCar can be downloaded and used on any device running Android 2.1 or later, which includes %99.8 of all active devices. It switches to ICS style modern user-interface when running on Android 4.x devices while keeping the older style when running on Android 2.x and 3.x. To make this happen, lots of efforts have been put to effectively use the latest techniques to keep the hardware and OS version differences away from users.
What was the time frame for developing the app?
It took me around six months to design and develop aCar to hit version 1.0! But I’ve never stopped developing after the initial release, and it’s still going on after 3 years.
Does user reviews and feedback play an important role?
Definitely the community has a huge effect and plays a big role. User feedback has always been one of the major driving forces for developing new features and enhancements. Let’s not forget its role for reporting the bugs and issues. Of course I myself, as a user of this application, have my own feedback and vote! I have an internal voting system for the requested features and enhancements. More votes for a feature means a higher priority for it in my issue tracker and a bigger chance to be implemented sooner. Some of the comments on Google Play already mention my involvement in the community and my interaction with users. Feedback is received from several channels including Google Play, in-app support requests, and Facebook, Google+ and Twitter pages of aCar.
Do you feel advertisement generates more revenue as compared to selling the app in market/store?
Online and mobile advertisement is a huge business, but it might not work in all cases and for all apps and websites. aCar used to have advertisement in its free edition back in the very old days (before v2.0.0). But it was hurting the user experience, according to the feedback I had received, so finally I decided to drop it to focus more on user experience. The paid model has served well after then.
What is your view about the future of mobile app?
As new mobile platforms are emerging, apps will expand their presence more and more. They will be everywhere and much bolder in future. Phones and tablets are just the beginning. We’ve already seen the recent developer calls for the newly announced in-car app platforms and we will see much more!
What is your secret formula for building a successful app?
There are some key points for developers to pay attention when they develop an app. The app should be a very clear response to specific needs and requirements it’s trying to address. Having very limited screen real estate on mobile devices, it’s very important to have a clean, polished, intuitive and simple yet friendly user interface for the mobile apps. Having a good customer support and paying attention to what community say and want are equally important. After all, we’re developing apps for our users and we want to bring them some value. No satisfied users mean any success! Finally having a good social presence, to gather even more feedback from community, and a clear marketing strategy would help a lot.
What is your advice to future app entrepreneur?
Having hundreds of thousands of apps in the app stores and markets, it’s getting harder to find quality apps that fit your needs. It’s mainly because there are lots of half-baked and yet-another apps. I would like to see more polished and mature apps and I would recommend the future app entrepreneurs to put more time and efforts on their apps. It’s not an easy job at all but their goal should be to have the best app in the category.