How I learned
Back in July, I decided that I needed to learn how to make iPhone apps. I had a trip planned to NYC for about 10 days as a vacation of sorts while Kellianne worked at her salon there (Space, highly recommended). We were staying at Rick Webb’s house, and there’s this great cafe down the street from his place called 88 Orchard.
For those 10 days, I basically worked in their little basement and learned how to make iPhone apps (which required learning a bit of Objective-C, and general app development since I’ve only ever done web development).
It was frustrating, but also great, to learn something completely new to me from a cold start. I had the time and determination to build something simple and make it go all the way to the App Store.
What I came up with back then was an app for a game we play at the Robot Co-op every day at lunch (which we learned from Jason Fried of 37 Signals when he came to help us design the first version of 43 Things). Literally, every day for the last 4+ years, at the end of lunch, since we learned this game, we put our credit cards in a pile, and someone holds them under the table and picks one out of the bunch. That person pays for the whole meal.
This game is great for a couple reasons.
- It’s fun
- It simplifies the paying process
- Superstitions sprout up around it
Any game that has these qualities (substitute the paying process for any other social activity) is a favorite of mine.
My first iPhone app
Luckily, the game is simple. You choose players from your phone’s contact list, and then randomly reveal who is paying the bill. The suspense of displaying people who are NOT paying the bill one at a time is an essential element of the game, because you can feel possibilities and statistics shift subtley in your fingers.
The app adds the ability to keep track of who pays for lunch the most often, and also tallies who is above water and below water in the random distribution of lunch payments. A favorite motto of ours is, “The game is fair, as long as you play an infinite number of times.”
So, after my 10 days of development (which I wrote about more extensively on my 43 Things goal), I finished off a few details back in Seattle and submitted it to the App Store. It eventually showed up and I think I sold like 10 in the first week!
I was stoked. Unfortunately, the App Store doesn’t really make it easy to track sales (you have to download text files for each country each month and import them into spreadsheets… just about 3 steps too many for me to care).
I just checked it again for the first time in 3 months and saw that I’m still selling a few apps every once in a while. I’ve almost made it to the minimum payment threshold for them to actually pay me!
So, while I’m not gonna quit my day job anytime soon, it’s cool that somehow people keep finding this app and continue buying it. It’s even been reviewed by a guy named “poopsack” to say that “this should be free”.
For me, I’m just glad that it’s useful enough for us to use at lunch. Build what you want to use, right? And anyway, holding the cards under the table is just too much of a hassle, and looks suspicious to the waiters.
It’s $0.99 if you think the game is at all interesting. I’m planning on adding a few more features… most importantly the ability to share data on the web.