I recently interviewed the folks over at Sourcebits, a company with a very comprehensive development portfolio. They create apps for every platform from iOS to Facebook and have been involved with such apps as Skyfire, Nightstand, Nutrition Workbench Pro and many more. Enjoy the interview.
Mobile Orchard: First, tell us about Sourcebits, what do you guys do?
Sourcebits: Sourcebits is the largest, world-renowned developer of apps for iPhone and Android. Besides this, we also develop applications and games for Palm, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7. Along with mobile development, we also have an equally competent web development team, which have the experience and expertise to bring your web presence to life. We have years of experience developing for clients from, the Fortune 500 to some great start-ups.In short, we’re a company that believes if you can dream it, you can build it.
MO: How did you get started developing for the iPhone and iPad?
Sourcebits: The process for starting the company was actually a bit more roundabout than you would expect. I’m personally trained as a radiologist and first started dabbling in development with Osirix, a popular open-source radiology software program for the Mac. I started Sourcebits almost immediately after graduation and once Apple announced the iPhone SDK we knew that’s where we wanted to be. After seeing the iPhone’s success firsthand we adopted a similar attitude toward the iPad, shifting a great deal of staff and resources toward the tablet in order to be among the first companies supporting it. Seeing as how both devices have come to dominate their respective industries we think we’ve made the right decisions.
MO: If you had to choose one, which would you rather develop for, iOS or Android? Why?
Sourcebits: Though both platforms provide some great development opportunities, I would prefer iOS development for various reasons: First of all, there’s a larger user base for iOS devices, so from a business standpoint it makes sense to focus our efforts there. Also, iOS is somewhat fun to develop for because the tools are very developer-friendly and easy to work with. The advantages of the iOS tools are pretty tremendous in terms of UX design and general reliability vs Eclipse.
MO: What is the Android development process like compared to the iOS?
Sourcebits: There are some significant differences between Android development and iOS development. Android tries to model an app as a loosely-coupled set of Services, Activities, and Content Providers, while iOS sandboxes each app like a traditional OS. Also, the iOS Interface builder for building UI elements really speeds up the entire process as compared to Android, where you have to manually edit the XML files. One major advantage of Android development is that Android applications rely on automatic memory management handled by garbage collector. You still have to handle memory leaks at times, but it’s much easier than handling memory management issues for iOS.
MO: Is there anything Android does that you would like to see in iOS or vice versa?
Sourcebits: There are a few features on Android which I would really love to see on iOS. Android has Hot Spot capability and Wi-Fi can be shared with up to 8 devices, but there’s nothing really similar on iOS. It would be really great if Apple would support this feature in iOS 4.3.
Also, the notification mode is arguably better on Android devices as compared to iOS. In Android, all notifications are neatly organized in an expandable menu. So, whenever any of these notifications appear, they are quickly displayed for some time in a small strip that always stays at the top of the screen. iOS 4 still follows pop-up notifications, which may occasionally interfere with whatever apps you’re running at the time.
There are also some iOS features which are missing on Android. For example, iOS has Unified Inbox which combines multiple e-mail accounts, a sorely lacking option on Android. There’s also native support for video chat on iOS, which you can only do with add-on apps on Android. Even though those apps work in a pinch, they aren’t as seamless and feature-rich as Face Time. Most importantly, iOS apps are generally well-designed and often have much better UI as compared to Android apps.
MO: Which platform is better for a beginner?
Sourcebits: Both platforms have their pros and cons. Android is open source, and hence you can start Android development on any system. On the other hand, you need to have a Mac to start iPhone development. This might be a hindrance to young developers or those who don’t have access to Mac machines. Also, Objective-C has a steep learning curve as compared to Java, but it’s really worth an effort as it opens the door to Mac and all iOS devices. Those who have the time or resources would be wise to dive right into iOS, but Android can be more newcomer-friendly.
MO: Do you have any other tips for the novice app developer?
Sourcebits: New developers should understand that it’s necessary to spend a considerable amount of time in designing your app. There are millions of apps on the App store, but only those with good design and functionality really make a difference. Also, make sure that you release the app without any bugs or missing features. Customers always have a multitude of choices on the app store, so you really have to work hard to stand out. Hence, your app will be soon dumped if it’s not perfect for the user.
MO: How long does it normally take from beginning to app store for your apps?
Sourcebits: It depends on the kind of app we are developing. Normally, iPhone and iPad applications take anywhere around 2 to 3 months whereas games take a little more time. Everything boils down to the complexity of the application. The most important thing is that we take a sufficient amount of time to lovingly design and perfect each app we release.
MO: What is your favorite app?
Sourcebits: Our famous in-house game, Robokill, is still my favorite across all iOS devices. It’s perhaps the best dual stick shooter game available on the App Store. In fact, the game has received some highly positive reviews on App store and by various gaming blogs across the globe. It’s highly addictive gameplay will surely keep on going for hours! Oh apologies for the shameless plug
MO: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and good luck on your future projects.