Interview with Matt Kronyak of Droidmatic, Creators of Contacts Blast
May 15, 2009 6:00 AM –
The Android mobile operating system allows for deep customization, even replacing default applications such as the Dailer, which Microsofts’ upcoming SkyMarket for Windows Mobile prohibits. We’re interviewing Matt Kronyak of Driodmatic, the developer of Contacts Blast… a cool Dialer/Contacts replacement app for Android.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Matt. I’m a software engineer in Las Vegas and one of four members of the Droidmatic team. We are all experienced programmers and have a real passion for software development.
Why did you create your app?
All of us at Droidmatic enjoy working with new technology and creating cool programs. Some of us were interested in developing for the iPhone (a few have iPhones) but having to have a Mac was a deal breaker for all of us. We have been very interested in developing for mobile platforms for some time so when we saw the first release of the Android SDK which we could use on Windows we jumped on it immediately.
Aside from just wanting to create apps for the Android OS I purchased the T-Mobile G1 as soon as it came out. We looked at the available apps on the phone and started getting ideas for ways to improve it. After seeing the lackluster built-in contacts app that the phone came with we knew we could do better.
Contacts Blast served as both a great learning experience as our first Android application and turned out to be an awesome replacement and enhancement to several default apps on the phone that the average user will use every day.
What technology did you use in creating your App and why?
We utilized all of the standard tools you would expect an Android developer to use. Contacts Blast is built using the Android 1.1 SDK and compiled using Eclipse. We use SVN (subversion) for our source control management. All of us at Droidmatic are primarily Windows developers (C#, .NET, SQL, Visual Studio, etc) so we had a slight learning curve getting adjusted to working in a Java / Eclipse environment. Overall the tools and SDK were easy to get into and we started getting work done at a good pace.
We also used my G1 phone for testing, especially in seeing how changes effected performance and how some of the graphics appeared on the actual handset. This was important because getting accurate performance and visual benchmarks was difficult using the emulator. When developing an app with a sleek, high-quality user interface and icons it was really helpful to see how they looked on the high-res G1 screen.
About how long did it take to create your App?
Development for the initial release of Contacts Blast took about 2 months. Every update so far has taken about two weeks. We just recently released Contacts Blast Lite, a free version that users can try out with some limited functionality, in about a week.
What is a cool uncovered tip or trick you can do with the App?
I think a lot of people may not be aware that they can touch and hold most of the buttons that they see. If they touch and hold a contact’s picture in the main contact list it will automatically call the default number for that contact (one touch dialing). If they touch and hold a group icon they can choose from several advanced features. They can edit and manage the group (a feature that has not been available on the phone in the past) and most recently they can choose to use the new Blast SMS and Blast Email functionality.
BlastSMS and Blast Email let you send an SMS or Email message to an entire group of contacts. This is a great way to let several friends / family / coworkers know what’s going on in a quick and easy way.
What other interesting uses can come from the App?
Some of the other interesting features of Contacts Blast include Intellient Contact Searching, a feature that will automatically begin filtering down your list of contacts as you type in their name) and our Speed Dial grid display, a feature that lets you quickly bring up a whole group in a full screen grid view so you can quickly and easily click exactly who you want to call and have Contacts Blast immediately dial their number. You can also access your voice mail with one touch voice mail dialing by simply pressing Menu and then pressing the Voice Mail button.
One of the most unique features of Contacts Blast is that we give users full access to both creating and customizing groups which will automatically synch with GMail. In the past if you wanted to group contacts on your phone you would have to log in to GMail from a computer (you couldn’t do it from your phone), create the group, assign the contacts and then wait for the group to synch down to your phone. If you wanted to change the group you would have to go back to GMail and change it.
We provide users all the functionality they need to create new groups, add or remove contacts to an group, delete groups, and even assign a custom icon to a group. Any changes you to groups using Contacts Blast will automatically synch up with GMail, often in a matter of seconds. Being able to use groups in this way really enhances some of our other features, like Blast SMS and Blast Email. It also makes finding specific contacts much faster and easier since.
Another interesting feature that not many apps are utilizing right now is that we rotate the screen when you rotate your phone. We use the accelerometer in the hardware and switch between landscape and portrait mode based on how you are holding your smartphone.
Can you tell us about future feature enhancements with your App?
We are always working to make general improvements like improving performance. Users have recently been requesting a custom Dial Pad and more ways to customize the look and layout of Contacts Blast. We are looking into all of these requests and will be implementing some new features for the next release.
What did you really like about creating Apps on the Android platform?
The Android SDK was surprisingly easy to get in to and start making apps with. All of us at Droidmatic are experienced C# and C++ developers with some mixed experience of Java in the past. Our general software development experience combined with a fairly well laid out SDK and tools package made getting up and running mostly painless. Being able to easily get apps directly on the G1 hardware and even debug directly with the hardware was great.
What are some things you would like to see improved with Android?
Performance is always a big issue. Whatever ways the OS can be enhanced performance-wise gives us more resources to work with.
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).
I think everyone recognizes that the Market needs some work. An open market is certainly a more competative market and will really give small to medium sized developers a chance to compete on an even playing ground. In comparison to the iTunes store I would say the open market model for the Android Market has the potential to be more profitable and fair for small developers.
The main improvements I would like to see in the Android Market include more specific categories, better ways for users to find and filter apps, a better rating system, and a way for developers to respond to user comments.
Sometimes users will leave a comment and give a bad rating for situations that the developer could help them with if only they had some way of contacting or responding to that user. Facilitating communications between developers and users would be the biggest improvement the Market could have.
What is your Opinion on the state of the Rating/Feedback system in the App Market?
The Rating/Feedback system is a really weak point for the market right now. Users can buy an app, leave a review and then get a refund. Their review stays even if they never use the app again. Its also not clear what version of an app a comment is refering to. In many cases we see old comments that people do not update reporting a problem that was fixed a long time ago. For paid apps I would like to see comments removed from users who don’t actually own the app (users who refunded).
Another problem with the Rating/Feedback system is that there is now ay for the developer to get in contact with the user or to respond to their comment. Some comments are simply false, while others may be because the user doesn’t understand how to use the app correctly. If the developer could contact the user to help them out I think everyone would be better served (the app would get a better rating, the user would get the help he needs and have a better experience, and the market will sell more apps).
Do you have plans on releasing Apps for other markets (i.e. iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc.)?
Our focus right now is still on the Android Market although we have some interest in the iPhone. There is some indication that a development platform for creating iPhone apps in Windows may be available in the future. If that is the case I suspect we will look at what we can do with that.
The Android Market is very new and has a ton of potential so our primary focus is still with Android.
Your app is a paid app, why did you choose this model over the free model, and how to you project its success?
We planned on releasing Contacts Blast as a paid app from the start because we knew we were delivering a quality product that is not only extremely functional but has a great user interface and looks really cool. Contacts Blast is the type of app you can use to show off your shiny new Android smart phone to friends and co workers (the black background with white text contacts list the phone comes with is less than inspiring).
That being said we recently released Contacts Blast Lite, a completely free version of Contacts Blast with some limited functionality. You get the same great user interface and customization options but with a few features disabled or limited to 5 uses per day.
When listing an app in the Android Market we are limited to only a small paragraph of text and can’t provide any pictures or screenshots for our apps. We wanted users to be able to get the Contacts Blast experience for free since we knew they would love the full featured app and be willing to make a purchase.
People want quality and we are happy to give it to them!
Must-have Android Apps?
Solitaire by Ken Magic, Twidroid (twitter app), Contacts Blast
What advice would you give to another aspiring mobile application developer?
Spend the time and effort to make a quality app. We continue to improve Contacts Blast with every release and we see a great reward from that. The more features and better quality we provide, the more purchases and less refunds we have. If you make something worth buying people will buy it.
Can you tell us what future Android Apps you have brewing?
A new update for Contacts Blast will be out in a few weeks with some new features. We are looking into starting a new project and possibly doing some games. We have a lot of exciting things in the works so keep an eye out at www.Droidmatic.com for news on our latest developments!
Thanks Matt, great app… and keep up the good work! Don’t forget to check out our 4+ Android App Review of Contacts Blast