Monday, March 3, 2014

Android company interview: Leviteo

LeviteoHi guys! Sorry for being absent for quite some time. I had to leave the civilized world and explore places without computers and Android phones. I have to say that I quite enjoyed it.
To make it up to you, I want to give you an interview which is different than usual. My today's guest will not be a single person, but a small development team with quite an unexpected hit app. They'll share information about the tools they use and their current projects. I hope you're curious about their approach, which is probably more professional than one-man hobby enterprises I mostly focused on before.

Bartek: Tell us something about you company. Who are you? Where do you live and work? What kinds of things do you do?

Leviteo: Hi there! We are Leviteo. A Polish-based Internet software house. We work and live in Bialystok- a small town situated in the north-east of Poland. We mainly develop mobile apps. It's not all, however, we also develop software (software designed for developers- such as tpacker- a first online tool to create texture maps, iOS and Android icons and animation sprite sheets), games, co-working with the Bialystok Technical University, we create tools designed to get various apps promoted (more info below), we are currently developing our game engine and do mobile apps, websites, marketing and various things for other companies.

Bartek: Who created the company and how did it all start?

Leviteo: The company emerged from two creative, yet very different minds. One of them, Artur Czemiel already had a company called Aexol which specialised in mobile app development. However, Artur lacked a partner with a business gut and that's why, when he met Jakub Ołtarzewski, a Business and Psychology graduate, he immediately asked whether Kuba would like to join him in business. Thus, Leviteo was born in March 2013. It is a relatively young but very progressive company.

Bartek: How did your programmers learn how to create Android apps? What resources were they using?

Crazy Ropes
Leviteo: Each and every member of our development team is a graduate of the IT department at Bialystok Technical University. Which basically makes them pros at everything they do. We have a software and a mobile team, both developing their unique projects.

Bartek: What libraries/frameworks do you use? Why did you choose them?

Leviteo: Corona SDK is our weapon of choice- this multi-platform tool is effectively speeding up our development processes and, what is more, people gathered around Corona are quite awesome! We use a tremendous amount of plugins which are very useful.

Bartek: Why did you choose Corona SDK? Did you try other frameworks/engines as well? What was your experience with them?

Leviteo: We use corona SDK mainly because:
  • Gideros has a very weak API and not a lot of materials included.
  • Phone Gap is too slow for our needs.
  • Corona SDK is great because we can use Lua language.
  • It has a great community behind it. For example there's an IRC.
  • 3rd party tools are available.
  • It has a very good documentation with examples which is very helpful.
  • Graphics 2.0.

Bartek: Where do you take app/game ideas from? How do you know if they have a chance to be successful?

Leviteo: There are 13 people working in Leviteo. All of them are passionate about mobile world and technology, so it's not really difficult to come up with great ideas with such a creative crew. Sometimes we gather in the common room to have a brainstorm- we always vote before something is decided and while creating an app itself- all the company is involved and up to date with the process. And how do we know if they have a chance to be succesful? It's out know-how ;) But seriously- with great knowledge on mobile app marketing, some sense in mobile world and a great idea, there is quite a lot you can do for yourself. I'm not saying it's all easy. Even the best ideas require strategy and analysis. We are patient and we try to learn from our mistakes.

Bartek: Where do you get resources from (graphics, sounds, music)?

Leviteo: All our resources come from the creative team. We have a few people responsible for the graphics, music and general design of the company. They are a very imaginative bunch. They can create anything from the background of the mobile app to the icon of calculator and make it an art.

Bartek: Do you hire grapic designers full time or do you have them create something for you whenever there's need for it?

Leviteo: We have a graphics department including two genius people. One of them, our art director is a Bialystok Technical Univeristy graduate and the other comes from Colombia, where she worked in a very big digital agency. They are available all the time which makes all the work easier, whether it's just an upgrade of an icon or a design of a whole game.

Bartek: What other programming tools do you use?

Leviteo: We use various tools- Dropbox, git, Tool emulator with Xcode and Android Studio.

Bartek: How long does is take you to make a single app?

Leviteo: It depends, really. We have plenty of mobile apps that have taken various amounts of time to be created. There are those which were created in just a week, and there are those which are still developed and upgraded. More or less, it takes a month or two, or even three to publish a quite satisfying mobile app. Mind the fact that there are just a few people working on them in Leviteo. If we had 100 people just in Mobile Development Team, mobile apps would be produced on everyday basis. Otherwise, it's just the matter of discipline, deadlines, and care put into the projects that make us develop at all. We are not Woody Allen's of the mobile world, but we do quite alright for ourselves!

Bartek: How much are you making on your apps?

Leviteo: Well, all I can tell you is that our most successful mobile app has more than a million of downloads. Please, do the math yourself :)

Bartek: How do you test your apps and find bugs in them?

Leviteo: Software testing methods are traditionally divided into white- and black-box testing. These two approaches are used to describe the point of view that a test engineer takes when designing test cases.

Bartek: How do you monetize your apps? What ad networks do you use if any? Do you have any advice on it for others?

Leviteo: How do we monetize our apps… Generally our apps are free to download. We tend to implement various in-apps to buy which are not expensive at all :) We have tried various monetization techniques and discovered the best ones for ourselves.

Bartek: Which ones of your apps were the biggest success and which ones were below expectations? Why?

Weed Scale
Leviteo: Weed Scale was and is our biggest success. With over more than a million downloads it gave us a boost to do more and better apps. The app was very innovative when it was published so that was a big step for us. But honestly, we try to put our heart in every project. Otherwise it would just be a waste of time and money. How the app is going to be received- regardless of our efforts- it's all a mystery.

Bartek: Do you use any marketing techniques or ASO to promote your apps?

Leviteo: Yeah, we do use marketing techniques. Our Marketing has 4 people. All of us go beyond efforts to come up with the best ideas to promote our apps. ASO is very effective, that is true. It's very difficult to come up with the best phrases that would make our app visible to the potential gamer/user. What is more, one can post about their app on various mobile development forums, have their app reviewed, create some promo graphics and game plays. Of course social media is very ubiquitous in our promotion. It's all I can tell you. The rest is our secret which proven to be effective and brilliant.

Bartek: Do you publish for other platforms as well?

Leviteo: Yeah. We publish our apps on iOS market as well.

Bartek: What are your team's favourite Android games/apps?

Leviteo: We all love Candy Crush Saga. Seriously! It's a great app with a well- thought psychology which makes you hooked after just one level. It's our dream to create games as well as King or Rovio. What is more, our developers are also heavy game players. Being game-oriented makes work easier because you don't have to guess what players would like. Players are the best developers.

Bartek: What Android blogs/sites do your team read regularly?

Leviteo: Corona SDK forum, XDA-Developers and other various forums tackling on mobile apps development.

Bartek: What are your plans for the future? What do you want to create/achieve?

Leviteo: We are currently developing our game engine which would be (we do hope it!) very successful! ;) We are currently opening a platform designed for developers on which you can exchange mobile app reviews for being reviewed. It's all very exciting- you guys should totally check it out. ( Our market research showed that there is no such thing where you can safely get your app boosted without any bigger effort. And yet, we came up with this tool and we are really hoping to do good with it. The fate of a mobile app is very cruel, especially of these which are not promoted with money. Hopefully, this tool will be an answer to many frustrated developers who would not stand a chance with their apps- even brilliant ones which are just a drop in the ocean of Google Play Market. The future looks very promising and busy!

Bartek: Why do you think people need another game engine? Could you describe what's different in it than in other existing solutions? When do you want to publish it?

Robot Chicken Street Run
Leviteo: We think that it's worth working on your own game engine. It's going to be something else, we promise you, we cannot discuss it yet, however. We are in the last stages of building the engine, so it's going to be published very soon. We sound mysterious, we know, but, that's all I can say for now!

Bartek: What advice would you give to other developers (something that you wish you had known before yourself)?

Leviteo: The advice I was given to tell you by our development team leader, is that you should choose your development tools wisely. You can loose a lot of time only because your tools are not designed to fit your needs in particular projects. So read, research, get to know as many tools as possible and then feel free to estimate which one of them would be best for you. Moreover, great ideas are not always everything. Mobile marketing is very important.

Bartek: Where can people find you on the Internet?

Leviteo: There is a lot of places you can find us. Please check these out:
Twitter: @Leviteo2013

Just a quick update of what I'm doing now. I'm in the middle of the Programming Mobile Applications for Android Handheld Systems course on Coursera. I have to say that I quite enjoy it and I learn a lot. Unfortunately, it's too late to sign up for it now, so if you hadn't done it before, you'll have to wait for the next session.
I'm also working on a small app, but I probably won't finish it soon, for some mysterious reasons I'd rather keep for myself now :) I can tell you that it uses Google APIs though...
I expect being quite busy this month, but it doesn't mean that I won't post other interviews and maybe even manage to squeeze some extra content - we'll see. Anyway, thank you for staying with me and I hope you enjoyed reading this post. See you soon.

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