Muh Hon Cheng & Lin Junjie

IOS De­vel­op­ers, Clean Shaven Apps

HWM (Singapore) - - Think - BY ALVIN SOON

JJ: I’ve al­ways liked mak­ing things, mak­ing soft­ware. When I got my iPhone 3G, that was when Ap­ple started al­low­ing apps, and I thought it was a good time to ex­plore my hobby again. It was just for fun ini­tially, so it wasn’t a big strate­gic de­ci­sion for ei­ther of us. HC, you have your mas­ters in biology – why go into app pro­gram­ming? HC: I ac­tu­ally got a job be­fore I grad­u­ated, but I lost in­ter­est in re­search and was look­ing for a way out. It wasn’t a strate­gic de­ci­sion to make iPhone apps, it was just be­cause I needed to solve a prob­lem, I had an iPhone and I tried to see if I could fig­ure it out, so I came up with SG Buses. So it wasn’t like you saw the next big gold mine in app de­vel­op­ment? HC: When I first started, there wasn’t a gold mine. Peo­ple were just mak­ing apps but no one knew you could make money from it. It was very early. Back then, no­body talked about mak­ing a ca­reer out of it. It was pure in­ter­est. How did you guys come up with the idea for Dis­patch? HC: Junjie has an app called Due, which is quite pop­u­lar. We went on a trip last year and he tried to fig­ure out how to do sup­port on the go, and that was how the idea came about; an email client with which you can send canned re­sponses. But the main thing about

Dis­patch now is ac­tion-based email

in the ini­tial idea. JJ: Some­times I wanted to act on an email, but I didn’t want to act on it at the mo­ment. Due has some­thing called URL schemes which al­low you to send things over to other apps. So I started ex­plor­ing how to send emails over to Due so that I could be re­minded about them later. There are also other apps which sup­port URL schemes like Om­ni­fo­cus, Things, so we started adding them and be­fore we knew it, the ac­tions be­came use­ful in our own work­flow.

which wasn’t Why did you de­cide to make an email app when there are so many email apps out there? JJ: We started work on Dis­patch in June of 2012 be­fore there were so many email clients. And then sud­denly every­body was mak­ing an email app. HC: I think we were a bit late when we launched. We were su­per sur­prised as well, be­cause do­ing an email app is su­per dif­fi­cult. What ad­vice would you give peo­ple want­ing to be app de­vel­op­ers to­day? HC: I think we’re try­ing to fig­ure out the an­swers our­selves (laughs). You have to get the app done in the first place. But get­ting your app prop­erly done doesn’t mean you get a hit. JJ: If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said “do it”. Now I have mixed feel­ings. I launched my first app, Due, in 2010. It ac­tu­ally did well enough for me to stop teach­ing photography and con­cen­trate on mak­ing soft­ware.

I think it’s easy for an app to get lost in the mar­ket now. You’re prob­a­bly bet­ter off work­ing for some­one as a de­vel­oper rather than strik­ing out on your own. There’s a big risk, un­less you’re pre­pared for that sce­nario – like maybe you have a lot of sav­ings. There’s no harm do­ing it on the side, if they can work as a de­vel­oper and do their own apps on the side. If their app makes it, then it’s not too late to quit and con­cen­trate on their app. How do you feel as a small twop­er­son team go­ing up against big­ger app com­pa­nies? HC: The app store is amaz­ing in a way that a small, in­de­pen­dent app de­vel­oper can get the same ex­po­sure as a big com­pany. My friends and I used to make games back in sec­ondary school and we won­dered how we could get it out. We came up with stupid ideas like burn­ing discs to sell to the shops be­cause that was how things were be­ing sold. Now with the app store, ev­ery­one has an equal shot at it.

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