App development is a serious business. As per Sensor Tower, the Apple App Store revenue stood at $38.5 billion in 2017. Apple themselves revealed that iOS developers had earned $26.5 billion in 2017. In India, there are around 470,000 jobs directly attributable to iOS App development. These are huge numbers. No wonder Apple decided to open an App Accelerator program in India’s Silicon Valley, Bangalore, in March 2017 when Phil Schiller was here. It’s just over a month since the program started, and it’s already bearing some fruits.
Last month during Apple’s education event in Chicago, where the company announced the new iPad alongside many education-related initiatives, one of the prominent apps showcased was developed in India with help from the Bangalore App Accelerator. The app, Froggipedia, utilizes the latest ARKit 1.5 to help Biology students to virtually dissect frogs using the Apple Pencil on an iPad. This is the first ever Indian app to be showcased on stage by Apple and is developed by the Ahmedabad-based animation firm, Designmate.
“The development team had just eight people, out of which six were challenged, and they could still pull this off thanks to the App Accelerator team who helped us with refining the UI and UX“, said Captain KJS Brar, the CEO and Founder of Designmate which has over 300 employees, 70% of whom are differently abled. “Next, we are building an app for Mice, followed by Starfish, cockroaches, sharks, and maybe Humans. Imagine seeing the heartbeat with the power of AR!”
Prashant M, the VP at Designmate, says the team came to Accelerator in February this year with the first version of the Froggipedia app. “Of course, we had our technical experts here, but packaging that into an app needs a different kind of expertise which the team at Accelerator helped us with. In the beginning stage, we were at the Accelerator in Yelahanka, Bangalore, for around two weeks, and then the team was in constant touch via phone calls throughout, providing detailed feedback.”
Another developer who is using the Accelerator facility in Bengaluru is Ashwat Prasanna, who just turned ten a few days back. This fourth grader has developed the Quickvert app which is a handy tool to convert scientific units from metric to imperial and vice versa. Ashwat claims it took him about a week to get done with this app, and he had a couple of sessions with the experts at the Accelerator before he ironed out the UI. While he knows a bit of C++ and Python, Ashwat prefers Swift, Apple’s own programming language for macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. “The reason I like Swift is it’s a very easy-to-understand, easy-to-learn language, and I like the variety of options to do the same thing in Swift.
“The experts at the App Accelerator helped me better structure the code. I used to be all over the place before. They also helped me with the UI and debugging.”
Along with User Experience, the stress is clearly on making the best use of ARKit. That’s what Mirelz, a startup based in California, found out. Pratima Adusumilli, who is the founder and CEO of Mirelz, says she worked for a year just to figure out the feasibility. Her app, which is still in development, uses AR to showcase jewelry. “We first came to the Accelerator in July last year. Initially, we met for design feedback. While we started working with model photos, we always wanted the live experience where people can virtually wear the jewelry on their phones,” says Pratima. “We had put that on the roadmap as 1 to 2 years away. But when we came here, we attended a two-day lab for ARKit and realized we could implement this much faster. That was a key moment for us.”
Prathima says her team started to work on the Android app first but later realized that ARkit works seamlessly to integrate with SceneKit, so the whole execution is much faster and easier on iOS. “And of course, the support is much better here, even if you consider the things you get out of the box.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Rama Krishna, the CEO of the Hyderabad-based firm, FluidTouch, which was founded in Tokyo back in 2009. Despite being in this field for over eight years, Rama frequently takes the help of the App Accelerator. “The technology is constantly changing and changing fast. It’s hard to keep up the pace. For example, when Metal was announced, we were struggling with it. Attending sessions and one-on-ones with the experts here helps a lot. And we are not UX guys; we are coders. So when people here suggest basic things like the color of the Edit button, it goes a long way in perfecting the app.” Rama’s NoteShelf 2 is one of the most popular note-taking apps with new features being added every other day.
Currently, the App Accelerator is only available in Bengaluru, and anyone based outside of the city would have to travel to make the best use of the facility. Tanmay Sonawane, who is based out of Mumbai and has developed multiple iOS apps like Write for Mac and VeroSMS wishes the facility was closer to his city. “I really love to take some feedback from the App Accelerator team. Maybe I’ll give it a chance for my next (upcoming) app. Things are pretty well documented, and online resources are plenty, but personally, this accelerator program would be very helpful for the expert feedback,” concludes Tanmay.
That’s the thing. Expert developers and amateurs, young and old, hobbyists and entrepreneurs — everyone will have a good reason to visit the Apple App Accelerator and seek help. Apple will soon be kickstarting Business and Marketing sessions to help the budding entrepreneurs in India that should help them sell and market their apps in a better way.