Interview with GasBot Creator Chris Kelly
Dec 10, 2008 1:06 PM –
Summer ’08 gas prices got you budgeting? Trying to find the cheapest station in your area? If you have the G1 or Android powered phone, visit the Android App Market and download a little tool called GasBot, it shows you the gas prices nearest your location. We talked with the creator of the app, Chris Kelly, here’s the interview:
AndroidTapp: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Chris: I’ve been a software engineer for over 10 years now specializing in web applications and flash. Building online tools has always been a passion of mine and Android has helped my development go mobile!
AndroidTapp: Why did you create GasBot?
Chris: On one of my old phones, I had a similar service which at first was kind of a novelty, but the more I used it, the more I realized how important it was. Gas prices fluctuate by as much as 30-50 cents within a matter of miles of each other. I remembered the days of filling up only to drive down the road and find gas for 10 cents a gallon cheaper. GasBot is my attempt to help others save as much money at the pump as possible. In the summer months when gas is over 4 or 5 dollars per gallon, GasBot can save people 5+ dollars per fill up.
AndroidTapp: What technology did you use in creating GasBot and why?
Chris: My application is a mix of static activities and web views. I used the android WebView in order to cut down the time it would take to call a web service, parse the returned XML and display it on the screen. The WebView has also allowed me to keep the size of my application down as well. Beyond that I’ve utilized the MapView to show where you are and where the station is and integration with the Google Maps application in order to give driving directions from the user’s location to the station.
AndroidTapp: About how long did it take to create your App?
Chris: Well I had the first version out in about 3-4 weeks time. I’m not a Java developer by trade, so I had a fairly steep learning curve on how to work with the different Android APIs as well as the Java language as a whole. I do a lot of programming in C# though, which helped and hurt at the same time.
AndroidTapp: What is a cool uncovered tip or trick you can do with the App?
Chris: The ability to call a browser URL and have other applications (like Google Maps) able to pick up the intent of the call. Driving directions in Android can be a pain because it’s fairly locked down by Google. However you can make a maps.google.com browser call with beginning and ending addresses or coordinates and Google Maps has the ability to pick up that web page call and pull the information using the application that comes on the phone.
AndroidTapp: What other interesting uses can come from the App?
Chris: If you figure out the correct button sequence, it’ll hack the gas pump and give you free gas for life! Haha j/k
AndroidTapp: Can you tell us about future feature enhancements with your App?
Chris: There are so many, but I’m most excited about the fill up logging abilities I’m going to be building very soon. This feature will allow a user to log when they filled up, how much it was, what their odometer reading was, etc. Based on this information I’ll be able to calculate the user’s true MPG (not just guess based off of the EPA). Allow people to compare driving habits between fill ups (you’ll be able to tell how your driving habits effect your vehicle’s fuel efficiency). And in the future I’m hoping to be able to build a trip where you enter the starting and ending destination and it will show you exactly where you need to fill up based on your calculated MPG multiplied by the size of your fuel tank. The data logging abilities will open up a lot of future innovation down the line!
AndroidTapp: What did you really like about creating Apps on the Android platform?
Chris: Android really makes accessing information from the phone’s sensors extremely easy. The Android API system is very well done. I’m looking forward to them opening up even more functionality in the future!
AndroidTapp: What are some things you would like to see improved with Android?
Chris: I would really love to see the documentation expanded upon further with some more examples and allowing developers to comment on the APIs kind of like they do on PHP.net. You see a function and it gives an example, but underneath those you can see where developers have posted code to do some other widely used things with that function as well.
AndroidTapp: What is your opinion of the Android App Market’s distribution method?In comparison Apple’s model (strict control over the iTunes store) or the Windows Mobile model (no store at all).
Chris: I really like that it’s open to anyone. There are a few apps that are obviously just bad attempts and making revenue from ads, but for the most part you get some really useful apps. I believe that when Google opens up the market in terms of paid applications that you’ll see a higher quality set of apps being released.
AndroidTapp: What is your Opinion on the state of the Rating/Feedback system in the App Market?
Chris: The rating system on the Android Market is absolutely atrocious. The complete lack of any type of moderation has allowed people to run wild. You have people giving 1 star ratings not because it’s a poor application, but because it’s not flash and they want flash on their phone. Not to mention the racist comments, or the comments making fun of other commenters. As of right now the rating system is absolutely worthless, but I hope in the
future that Google will allow users to moderate comments. People should be able to vote up or down comments based on their relevance and therefore give them more or less weight. I believe that ratings that have enough down votes should be flagged and a Google moderator can decide whether they should stay, or just be deleted entirely.
Honestly the rating system really turned me off as a developer at first. I had thought I made a mistake releasing my App for the Android platform.
AndroidTapp: Do you have plans on releasing Apps for other martkets (i.e. iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc.)?
Chris: Yes, I have a version of GasBot in development right now for the BlackBerry platform. I’m focusing on the smaller screens first like the BlackBerry Pearl and will probably release a separate version for the larger screened phones to give more information. iPhone is a maybe, and Windows Mobile will probably be made sometime, but not in the near future.
Sponsored: Don’t be to disheartened if Android don’t release their apps on the Blackberry, mobile phones like the blackberry curve have a wide selection of applications anyway.
AndroidTapp: Must-have Android Apps?
Chris: GasBot of course! But beyond that, I really love ShopSavvy, iMeem, and one of my favorite games Scrambled Net!
AndroidTapp: What advice would you give to another aspiring mobile application developer?
Chris: Keep pushing through. There are times where you’ll get hung up on something and it’ll be very frustrating, but just utilize the different forums available or the android developer help email lists that Google has made available. The resources are out there to help you get through your application, just don’t give up.
AndroidTapp: Can you tell us what future Android Apps you have brewing?
Chris: Nothing in stone as of yet, but I’ve got a few ideas that may see the light of day in the coming years.
Thank you Chris for that interview, keep up the good work! Read our full Review of GasBot for Android.