We got Mr. Bikram Agarwal, the guy behind AndiOS7 and one of the top theme developer of the Android for an interview at AndroMint. Here is the transcription of the interview. If you have any specific questions, you can always ask in the comments. We believe this will help the experienced and upcoming Android developers to get some fresh ideas for themselves.
Please tell something about you.
I’m Bikram Agarwal. Geek, Blogger, Music fanatic – three words that describe my basic traits. Apart from developing theme apps for Android (and being madly interested in everything tech), I write some 5 blogs. Well, used to. That has subsided since I started app development. And I am an avid music listener. I have more than a thousand songs memorized, end-to-end. If my voice was more melodious, I would’ve been karaoke king.
I’m a software engineer by profession; currently working for one of the big 4 US telecom carriers. Based out of Bothell, WA. Prior to that, I was working for the same client at its offshore location in Bangalore, India.
When did your Android adventure start and how?
My involvement with Android started ~20 months back when I got my first smartphone. I was new in USA and was looking for a smartphone. I was debating between iPhone and Nexus. I weighed pros and cons of both. iPhone was knocked out pretty easily. I can’t roll with so many restrictions on my device. Hence, I picked Galaxy Nexus. And I don’t just use my devices; I OWN them. As in, I dig into them and keep going at it until I know it in n out. So, that’s how my Android adventure begun.
Why you choose Android over others?
There are really only two options in smartphone platform. Sorry WP. Between iOS and Android, Android is the clear winner IMO. iOS is shiny n all, but it’s more of a golden shackle. Your device is not yours with iOS. No Bluetooth file transfer, no WPS WiFi, no access to file system, convoluted communication between apps… the list is endless. That’s why I rejected iOS.
Why I don’t develop for iOS? Apart from not liking the platform, the other reason is – iOS doesn’t allow customization. I make icon theme apps and widget skins – both of which are not possible in iOS.
How did you learn to create android apps?
I started with a tool xda member tung91 had created. It was a windows computer application for building icon packs. You just needed to supply icon PNGs to it and it built an iconpack apk for you that can be used with custom launchers. It was my first step. I started going through the code of the files generated and tweaking them. Then I read a few posts in xda-developers forum regarding how to build theme apps. That’s the best place to learn anything related to android. Everyone is so helpful there.
What libraries and frameworks do you use?
For my icon pack apps, I’m using ActionBarSherlock and NineOldAndroids libraries.
Where did you get app ideas from?
I only wanted to make theme apps since other kind of apps will take much more time to make and maintain. I picked icon packs as I love changing my apps icons every so often. There were quite a few awesome icons available in xda forum. But downside was – they were in zip format. You had to apply icons one by one; which is very tedious. So, I contacted the icons’ makers and proposed making iconpack APKs for them. Once we reached an agreement, I made the apps.
Idea of UCCW Skin apps came from UCCW app developer Vin himself. He started a thread in xda, announcing the play store skins project; where other developers can build skins for uccw widgets. It was a very exciting opportunity since I already had quite a few skins made. Turned them into apps after Vin launched this thread.
Where do you get resources like graphics, sounds, etc.?
There are different approaches. For some of my iconpack apps, I take stock app icons and apply iconmask, iconupon and iconback pngs to them to create a theme. For some others, I apply different layers of customization to stock icons in Photoshop to create the new icons. And I have a couple of icon packs where the icons are made by other developers (Mike P and PhysX).
For uccw skins pack, I try to create everything from scratch mostly. UCCW allows 20 ‘shape’ elements in a skin, which comes very handy. Sometimes, some users share pngs and weather icons in the uccw skins thread for free use, which I save in my stash for later use.
What other programming tools do you use?
I mostly use ANT and Eclipse. No other tools.
How long does it take you to make a single application in android?
UCCW skins apps are easy to make. Designing a skin and making it scalable on different devices takes anywhere between an hour to a day, depending on how complex the skin is. Once a skin is created and exported from device to computer, turning that into an APK takes ~30 minutes. But testing it on my device, tweaking & perfecting it, rebuilding it and re-testing it etc takes some more time.
Iconpack apps are much more complex. You’ve got so many xml files and so many activity names to handle there. Building the first version of an iconpack app takes anywhere between 5 to 6 hours. That is excluding the time taken to make the actual icons that go in the app.
What are your monetization methods for your apps? Do you have any advice for other developers?
Well, I make money per download. My apps don’t have any other monetization. No IAP, no ads. Hence, I wouldn’t be able to advice on this front.
Which apps were your biggest success and which one was below expectation?
My biggest success till date is (Link not active). It was among the top 20 apps of the “New paid apps” section at one point. Even today, this app is downloaded more number of times, compared to my other apps. I used to get a lot of “why would I want ios look on my android”, “Go get an iPhone then” etc comments. But what they didn’t understand is – this doesn’t diminish Android in any way. In fact, it shows the power of Android. It shows that Android can have whatever ios has but ios can’t have the power of android. I guess most sane people understand that and hence this app sold like it did.
Second most successful app is the Ubuntu theme packs – (Link not active) and (Link not active). Ubuntu for phone was a hot cake back then and for valid reasons. It looked mind-blowing the prototype video. Nobody wanted to wait for it; me neither. So, made this set of uccw skins pack to replicate the Ubuntu look and people loved it.
One app that went under the radar and generated buzz below expectation is (Link not active). I was sooo excited when these icons’ idea had come in my mind. Every icon is made individually and all icons are HD quality. These icons are like no other in the play store. And they look great against any kind of wallpaper. Still, this app didn’t get much download.
Do you follow any marketing techniques or SEO for your apps?
For marketing my apps, I post screenshots in different forums, in mycolorscreen and devianart. I give a free sample whenever possible. Am not very familiar with SEO; but I try to give as much details about the app in the app’s description with keywords. Don’t throw unrelated words or too many keywords though; else Google will suspend your app for spamming.
5 Must have apps on your device?
Solid Explorer – BEST file browser for Android, Titanium Backup – MUST have app for any device, Nova launcher, QuickPic – Stock gallery app is PITA, UCCW and FolderSync. Well, there is six actually.
What are your favorite android games?
- Rayman Junglerun – The artwork/graphics is awesome; as well as the game play.
- Can Knockdown 3 – Nice time killer.
- Cut the rope (all 3) / Pudding monster – love the sound effects in these games
- Pivot / Super Hexagon – due to the “Damn it! I’ll complete it this time” element of these games.
Which are the android devices you currently own?
Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4. Will order the Nexus 5 once I return from my vacation.
Which android sites and blogs you follow regularly?
AndroidPolice, Droid-Life and AndroidCentral.
What do you think about andromint.com and What Can we Do Better?
I hadn’t come across androidmint before. But now that I’ve seen it, I think it is indeed quite good. And I’m not just saying it because I’m giving an interview to it. 😛 The tabs/tags at the top of the page is very useful. I would love to see more ‘exclusive’ content in it. I don’t mean breaking news, which other sites will get sooner or later. I would like original pieces like advice columns, apk teardowns etc.
What are your future plans? You want to create/achieve.
I have plans to make Zooper widget apps next. I had tried that few weeks back but found them a little difficult to make. As I had my vacation planning to take care of, had dropped that idea. Will look into that again.
Would love to achieve the “Top developers” tag in the play store and “recognized themer” tag in xda-developers. But don’t know the criteria for either.
What advice would you give to other developers (something that you wish you had known before yourself)?
I would give advice regarding play store developer policies, since those are the things I learnt the hard way.
1. If you are making an app based on some other popular thing – like windows phone / Ubuntu etc, don’t use those words in your app’s name. Those will be suspended by Google. You can use those words in the description, but not in name.
2. Use appropriate keywords in the app’s description; but don’t overdo it. Throwing keywords willy-nilly will get the app suspended.
3. In the app’s description, clearly mention what your app can and can’t do. And mention the refund policy.
4. Provide some good-looking graphics in the screenshots section.
Enjoy your work. That’s key to making a great app. Ask yourself – will I pay to have this app on my device.
Where can people find you on online?
Play Store – (Link not active)
MyColorScreen – mycolorscreen.com/vicky_buddie/
Devianart – bagarwa.deviantart.com/gallery/
Facebook page – www.facebook.com/iWizardVic
Google+ community – plus.google.com/communities/110108478093869030118
Blog – iwiz-vicky.blogspot.com
Anything Else You Would Like to Add?
Android community is beautiful. Everyone is really nice and helpful. But don’t be a fanboy. Every platform has its pros and cons. Something which is a must-have for you, might not be necessary for another person at all. Something which looks complicated to you might be super easy to another. There’s no use of fighting with someone over which platform is better. (pssstt. Android is better. 😛 For me, at least)
Hearty Thanks to Bikram Agarwal for this awesome interview and sharing his experiences. Do you like this interview? Would you like to ask any specific question to him? Share your views in the comments section. Thank you.