Sunday, November 18, 2012

My applications so far

During the process of learning how to program Android I created a couple of simple apps. Then I decided to publish them on Google Play, just to see if anyone would be willing to download them. It was very motivating to see more and more downloads every day (even if it was just one more). It also gave me motivation to create something new, when people were actually enjoying what I'd done. I strongly suggest everyone who wants to be an independent Android developer to challenge themself to publish at least one application. I promise, it's going to be exciting and will make you check the download statistics every single day. Also, besides bragging about it in front of your friends, you can put it into your CV or LinkedIn profile. Even if your app is lame and the code looks messy, from that moment you can call yourself a real Android programmer.

But back to the subject. Here's what I've done in chronological order. Most of the apps started as a simple exercise and then grew into something more sophisticated. Take a look and judge for yourself.

Raczkowski na dziś

I really like Marek Raczkowski - a polish artist and drawer. He has an unofficial facebook fanpage where people post his drawings that he makes for various magazines. This fanpage has a lot of followers, so I decided to make a program which would enable browsing through the images, even if you don't have a facebook account. It turned out to be much harder to do than I first thought (but aren't most things like that?). The facebook API was very slow, they changed it fairly often without informing about it (so the app would just stop working) and finally the fanpage couldn't be accessed without logging in, even though it is available for everyone through a browser. I ended up using Google App Engine to store the links to images and then serve them. I released it as a free application, but added AdMob adds hoping I could earn at least a little bit of money. Well, the earning part didn't work that well, but I was really proud of my work. I would tell you to check it out for yoursef, but to understand most of the comics you need to know the Polish language and realities. Limiting your audience this way is usually not the best idea when you're trying to reach as many people as you can. I didn't know it then...

Galeria Andrzeja Mleczki

Encouraged by a couple hundred downloads of the previous app, I decided to make a similar one featuring another artist. I chose Andrzej Mleczko, because of his popularity and proliferation of his drawings. The basic engine was already done. The only things I had to do were preparing icons and implementing data source connection. It was all pretty easy and after a couple of days I had a fully functional app. Again, mostly for Polish speakers, unless you are ready to facilitate Google Translate.

Toilet Sounds

The story of this app is quite interesting. I was trying to write something totally different, which would utilise an accelerometer and require playing some sounds. To learn how the latter task is actually done, I created a side project and implemented playing mp3s based on a tutorial I found on the internet. Meanwhile, my tablet broke, so I couldn't test my app any more, so I decided to write something simple, which could be tested on an emulator only. I asked my friend to draw me the inside of a toilet and added different sounds after touching certain objects. Later on, I also added some actions the user could trigger (like turnig off the light, waking up the cat, etc.) and transformed the whole thing into a game, which goal is to find all hidden objects and their sounds. I wasn't expecting it to become the game of the year, but rather a good laugh for some and perhaps a few nice comments on Google Play for myself. As before, I included AdMob adds in it, just in case it became a huge success. Well, it didn't but still it beat the previous apps. Probably because I took some effort and translated it's title and description into other languages. I already had a Polish and English version. I used my friends to help me with Italian and Russian. I strained my brain to remember some German I was learning a long time ago, to make Toilet Sounds available for people from the country of Goethe. Finally, I used Google Translate to obtain the description in all other languages. To prove that it worked, here's the list of countries with the most downloads: USA, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Brazil, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Russia. For me, the funniest part was to have users from Asian countries I didn't really know the location of.

Ring Live Wallpaper

Since high school I've been interested in computer graphics, so when I learned how to program, I started playing with various effects, OpenGL and shaders. The time had come to utilise that knowledge and create my first live wallpaper. I was hoping for it to become an even bigger success than Toilet Sounds, because I found some really bad wallpapers with a large amount of downloads in Google Play. I based my app on Jared Tarbell's idea from I added some enhancements and optimizations, as well as some parameters for the user to modify. It was going to be my first paid application, so I wanted to make it worth the money. I even published a demo version, lacking the possibility to modify wallpaper's parameters, but otherwise working just the same. I was really happy when I saw how smoothly the effect run on an actual device. Unfortunately, the whole project turned out to be a big failure. Although the wallpaper seemed really attractive, only a bunch of people downloaded even the demo version.

Blender Live Wallpaper

I couldn't live with a thought of a failure of my previous wallpaper. I decided to make a new one, based on another neat effect, to make sure it wasn't just an unfortunate coincidence that almost nobody wanted to download my piece of code. Again, the process of creating it gave me a lot of satisfaction, but the result was exactly the same. Either the wallpaper was really bad or people just wouldn't know about it's existence.

That's all I have on Google Play so far. I know it's not much, but still, I think I have a good background now. Where do you get your ideas for programs from? Do you have similar experiences with live wallpapers. Do you have a way of promoting them? If you have something to share, comment on this post or just email me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hello World

Hello everyone!

You're probably wondering why I decided to create another Andoid blog, although there are plenty of them already. Well, I want this one to be focused on a struggle to make money on Android applications. I will try to find out, if it is possible for an average programmer with a handful of ideas to make a living this way. I set my ultimate goal to $1000 a month, which should be enough to pay my bills and prove that it can be done. The inspiration for starting this project were two blogs and

Who am I?

I'm just another programmer out there dreaming to be able to do what he likes the most, which is working on his own projects with no boss to tell him what to do and no boundaries to limit his imagination. Is it enough to succeed? We'll see. To prove that I am not totally hopeless, I have to add that I hold a masters degree in computer science granted by a large university in Poland (where I live). I also have a couple years of work experience (mainly in Java and C++).

The beginnings...

I would lie if I said that I haven't written an Android application before. In fact, I already own a Google Play developer account. I have also released a couple of applications. If you're looking for some information on how to write your first program or setup your programming environment then you won't find it here, but I'm sure you can learn about it somewhere else. This blog will address people who are curious about the rules of Android market and chances an ordinary programmer has to make a living from it.

Wish me luck!

Do you think I can make it or do you think I'll fail miserably? Have you tried doing a similar project yourself? Do you have a hint for me? Post a comment with a word of advice or just laugh at me and my foolishness. Any opinions will be greatly appreciated. Stay tuned for the next episode where I'll introduce you to my applications.