George Halfkenny is a self proclaimed software geek who loves Lean Start-Ups and Android App Dev. After creating a simple Parking Locator called ParkingBrain, George relocated to Silicone Valley from Miami Beach in January 2012 to work on a start-up venture (Rheti) with business partners. She won the Phandroid.com Google IO Ticket Contest, but hopefully that’s not the last we’ll be hearing from her.
Find the full interview below.
Phandroid: You won the Phandroid Developer Appreciation contest for a Google I/O ticket, what are you most excited to see at the conference?
George Halfkenny: Let me start by saying Thank you to Phandroid for running the contest. I can’t wait to attend, I feel like a kid headed to Disney World. For me, being in the company of 5000 Google geeks will be joy in itself. Once I get over that high, I’m eager to hear and see new innovations Google will present during the week. Over the past few years, these announcements have come with uber-cool demonstrations, like the 5000-pound labyrinth last year to introduce the Android ADK. As an Android app developer, I’m excited to hear more about standing out in Google Play.
P: How did you get started with Android Development?
GH: By way of participating in Start-up Weekend events. I worked a day job building an automated testing system for an e-commerce solution provider, and sought something more exciting. The people I met at the first SW events were primarily Android developers, at the second event, I joined the team and we built an Android/Google TV two-screen experience app called Chattr.tv. We won first place and were offered seed funding but because of everyone’s outside commitments [work, school, start-ups], Chattr.tv never took off. Nonetheless, my passion for Android development was born, and I got involved with Rheti (http://rheti.com) .
P: What kind of phone do you have?
GH: I have a Samsung Transform Ultra for personal use. Call me old school, but I am unwilling to live without a physical keyboard. The Samsung Transform Ultra from Boost is better than OK, but not the best. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is my favorite phone for the features and design …sadly it doesn’t have a physical keyboard.
P: What was your biggest challenge in developing Rheti App?
GH: Rheti App is an app that builds apps. The biggest challenge has to be figuring out what the most important development tools are that people need to build apps. Working with users over the past two years we’ve learned that everyone has varying ideas of what an app building tool needs to be. The Rheti team has honed in on novice users, so making the phone based development environment intuitive on the small screen is challenging. In trying to add new functionality, we are forced to justify the value added and how frequently it will be used. Staying connected with our beta users has been critical.
P: Monetization: in terms of driving revenue, can you tell us about your experience, your strategy, and the overall potential?
GH: Monetization is something that left me scratching my head for a long time. Lots of Android users don’t want to pay a dime for apps. In my opinion, monetization has to happen after a user identifies compelling value in the app. By aiming to develop a new brand of Android app, monetization has taken the back seat.
P: What do you want to see in future versions of Android?
GH: With freedom and openness comes creativity and individuality. As an Android developer the biggest challenge we face is screen size & UI fragmentation. I wish Google would reign in the OEMs to assist everyone in creating a better user experience, or put guard-rails on the sandbox.
P: Do you develop for other platforms and how does Android compare to those platforms?
GH: I only develop for Android, but I have tried using cross-platform tools. The Android development experience (once fully understood) is amazing. With cross-platform development tools, too much emphasis has been placed on iPhone. With Rheti, this has meant having to spend extensive time trying to figure out how to make things work. Future releases of the Rheti app will be developed using native code so we can deliver more functionality faster to our users.
I think cross-platform tools are beneficial when the application is very simple. For example, when I made the ParkingBrain app, I focused on the person running to pay for parking at BART stations. When it was tested in the field, I determined that a very simple one-screen experience was most valuable. With ParkingBrain, users can grab their laptop bag, lock the car and input their parking space while running to the train station. In this scenario, I was able to use PhoneGap; however, for a complex application like Rheti, cross-platform tools are not Android centric and have not fit the bill.
P: If you could give one tip to fellow Android Developers, what would it be?
GH: Engage your user and get their feedback. If possible, watch others use your app and see where they get lost. Watching/listening to uses and then applying the appropriate fixes to your apps is the best way I know to improve our work. We’ve found that what seems like the right thing to do in the Code Den, might confuse or frustrate users who don’t understand the power of the shortcut or feature.
P: Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you.
GH: I regularly create mind-jogging goal posters on jumbo post-it notes and post them all over my house. They keep me motivated and give my friends a laugh.
P: If you could only download and use one app for the rest of your life (excluding your own), which would it be?
GH: Google Maps!. We love pinning places to visit and plotting out highway adventures. As a girl with a Chihuahua as her #1 companion, getting lost in a bad area is really scary.
Developers attending Google IO 2012 can look forward to seeing George at the event, roaming the hallways and sitting in on the sessions. But of course you can find her online as well: LinkedIn, Twitter, SincerelyGeorge.com and of course Rheti.com.
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