Apple's walled garden (read: iOS) is known for its privacy, end-user experience and proficiency. What iPhone and iPad or even Mac users see and use is only the tip of an iceberg. There's a whole another world within, where the iPhone-maker goes above and beyond to help maintain that high standard, either by setting certain rules or by guiding developers. Today, we discuss the latter.
Apple has a dedicated conference dubbed WWDC, which is short for Worldwide Developers Conference. The developer-centric event is where a lot of action takes place, allowing developers to meet with Apple engineers and attend fruitful sessions. While the annual WWDC happens on a large scale, Apple is also about making smaller gestures (by its own comparison) that make a huge impact on individuals. This is where Apple Accelerator comes into play.
The app accelerator programme by Apple is one of a kind, which benefits individual developers in a big way. From helping them improve their software to teaching new skills and even mentoring them individually so they gain an edge over the competition - sometimes even the big players.
Making it big
Every developer aims to make it big. A lot of hard work goes into building an app, regardless of the experience or expertise you possess. But without the right guidance, even the best of apps can be lost in the ether.
Here are the inspiring journeys of five Indian developers and how Apple helped them along the way. International Business Times spoke to these developers recently to understand their passion, motivation and the things that kept them going against all odds.
By Lucid Labs
Founder and creative director of Lucid Labs, Chirag Chopra is an enthusiastic young lad with keen passion for coding right from a young age. Having determined his career path quite early in life with no fallback career choice, Chirag pursued suitable qualifications. He did his masters in game designing. It was a beginning for Delhi-based Chirag, who then went on to create many games, one of which is Possessions, which is a 3D perspective puzzle with 50 levels. There's no dialogue or text, it's completely for users' interpretation.
"We make games, not for the masses, but which are niche and have its own audience," Chirag said of Possessions.
Chirag is already on a path to immense success. To encapsulate simply, Possessions by Lucid Labs is the only game by an Indian developer on Apple Arcade, Apple's subscription-based gaming service launched in India only in 2019. Chirag says being on such an exclusive platform has proven to be extremely lucrative, and not just in the monetary terms.
Chirag wishes to put India on the global map by making AAA games as per global standards. Having played a demo of Possessions, it surely feels like Lucid Labs is right where it needs to be. The game is extremely smooth, the animations are lively and the AR integration is seamless. The innovative idea behind Possessions, a major part of which is the storyline, is compelling.
Using the lessons learned from Possessions, Chirag and his team is already implementing them in future games. There are two games in the pipeline, Bloom and Mellow, both to remain iOS exclusive. Chirag gave us a peek into the two games and everything from the interface to the animations look fantastic.
We've been fortunate enough to be in touch with Apple from the first game itself. They have been actively providing personalised support. Anyone can make a game. But what it takes to make a good game on iOS is where Apple comes in. The right usability practices, UI/UX, marketing and gameplay. Whenever we need them, Apple is always open to sharing helpful feedback," Chirag said.
The Unscripted Life (Mystic Land)
By Abhinaya Chandrashekar and Venkat Mandalam
The Unscripted Life (Mystic Land) is a unique offering. It deals directly with kids and keeping them engaged for longer than a 10-second reel all while educating them about the world around them sounds quite challenging. But MysticLand makes it look easy. Right from the welcome screen to navigating deep within the app, kids aged between 7 and 13 will be engaged and entertained. We surely were for the brief time we spent exploring MysticLand.
Abhinaya Chandrashekar, the co-founder of Mystic Land, had a simple goal in mind - to teach kids about the different cultures in the world just as she did. In this age of digital era, kids don't need to be of age to go out exploring the world. They can surely travel the world virtually before they do it physically in later years. With that goal in mind and the engaging nature of the app, MysticLand got nearly 70,000 users in its first year of launch - a feat worth celebrating. The app turned on subscription in early 2022 and 70 percent of the paid users are from US, Canada, UK and Middle East.
MysticLand uses a unique approach to teach the kids about the world and current affairs. It uses characters, story-telling techniques, quizzes, quests, and a reward system to keep kids of young age wanting to come back to the app for more. And Apple's role in this fun journey has been, in Abhinaya's words, of simple inputs but extremely powerful.
"When we met Apple, we didn't have an app. We were at the idea stage of an app. But they realised the power of this idea early on because the story was set. The idea of having a newspaper and talking to kids about diversity and culture is the need of the hour and global experience. So Apple partnered with us not just to take us through the whole UI, design, and product inputs, but also give us insights like how it would be a missed opportunity if we didn't have daily content coming up on the home screen," Abhinaya said.
The biggest help has been Apple's validation of the app itself. We are sitting in India building an experience that is meant to appeal to kids across the world. A child in Finland or USA or Australia need to have the same, seamless experience. Apple has been our sounding board throughout," Abhinaya said.
By Mustafa Yusuf
Who doesn't need a productivity manager in this fast-paced life? While there are plenty of options out there, there are hardly any that truly stand out. Tasks is surely among the top ones, as is the case of search results on the Apple App Store. But getting to where it is now wasn't easy. With a little help, a lot of hard work and guidance, Mustafa couldn't be happier of where his brainchild currently stands.
Mustafa started building apps in college. In fact, his first app helped over 10,000 VIT students check their marks, attendance, etc. VIT Academics, the name of Mustafa's first app was an instant hit. He then built on that interest and chose a similar career path. The road then led to Tasks, a critically-acclaimed app on App Store.
"I used to frequent the App Accelerator in Bangalore by Apple for advice and insights since my college days and my learnings helped me craft beautiful and accessible apps with rich system integration with Apple hardware and software which benefits both my users and me greatly. They provided a lot of help in terms of design, technical and business decisions. A major point of inspiration for me was attending WWDC in 2019 where I met a lot of like-minded developers and had the opportunity to learn in-person from experts," Mustafa said.
Tasks, which was only published in 2020, ranks among the offerings from tech giants like Google and Microsoft. The app's USP is its simple, minimalistic UI, but it's more so about having multiple steps right before completing the tasks. Doing away with the traditional do-and-done method, Tasks lets you have do, doing and done. Besides, there's seamless syncing, integration of various iOS features and more to give it sort of an edge over other apps.
Apple keeps giving me advice on many things. If it wasn't for the App Store editorial team to push the app up the search. It's a brutal market, the productivity space is not easy for task manager to exist. Dumb enough or smart enough, the app is called Tasks. Now, it's one of the top apps in App Store. The design critic here at Apple has also been helpful on many levels," Mustafa said, recalling Apple's help with Tasks.
Work-life balance may be a challenge for many, but Bijoy Thangaraj has found a balance. The CEO of JSplash Studios has managed to keep his passion for music and coding alive simultaneously, which is a rare combination. Bijoy is a professional piano and guitar player and with his expertise in coding, he managed to release eight apps - all under the umbrella of music.
Bijoy wanted to share his musical expertise through the medium of technology so he launched Rhythm Pad, which is a drum app for professional musicians who want that every beat to be perfect without latency. He records his own sound packages personally at his studio to give users the details of the sounds and assures it can very well be used professionally.
Bijoy's drum app is known for low latency. With over 12 million downloads, Bijoy's apps portfolio is critically acclaimed. Bijoy takes user feedback very seriously. Besides regular flow of emails, he was even contacted by the sound engineer of Godsmack, a popular American rock band, who sent some feature improvements. But there have been more targeted support from Apple for the improvements of apps.
I've received a lot of support from Apple since late 2019. They reviewed my apps and suggested UI improvements and technology-driven changes along with iOS-exclusive features to improve the overall look and feel of the apps. These integrations helped me give a lot of value to iOS users. There were one-on-one consultations, which have been extremely beneficial," Bijoy said, adding "I'm also working with Apple on new technologies like ML, Vision, SharePlay, AR. A lot of my apps will be using these features in future updates."
By Prajanya (Co-founders: Krishnaprasad & Raksha Rao)
COVID-19-induced lockdown taught the world a new way to live life. And technology played a crucial part in that life. From working remotely to getting things done online rather than in person became the way of life. This gave a significant boost to Prayoga, a yoga fitness app which offered a human touch to lifeless apps.
Prayoga, Yoga for Mind and Body, is unlike any other yoga app you find online. It leverages next-gen technologies such as AR, spatial audio, SharePlay and more to give users an immersive experience while practicing yoga from the comfort of the home. The app carefully curates yoga asanas and courses by professional trainers. But all of it would be for nothing had Apple not given the right guidance at the right time.
In 2019, Krishna and Raksha were at WWDC, where they were introduced to the Accelerator. It was the same year, Apple introduced body tracking feature. Coming from a background of yoga practitioners, Prayoga was a natural fit.
When COVID hit, the app grew in popularity. In 2020, the duo scaled up their offering by working with a marketing agency, shot 75 high-quality yoga asanas, got yoga experts to curate courses and even integrated machine learning into the app. The users' flow increased steadily. Further development led to Prayoga being supported on all Apple products, including Apple TV and Apple Watch. In December 2021, the founders felt Prayoga was a fully matured app.
Speaking of Apple's support in the process, Krishna said: "We have been in constant touch with Apple right from the beginning and the help has been incredible."
Krishna recalled how Apple supported when there were new technologies like machine learning, body tracking, etc, launched and with the right help, they were the first to integrate these features into the app successfully.
We sometimes couldn't understand the right way to use certain frameworks. Apple gave feedback whenever we hit roadblock. Apple's help came a long way in terms of marketing too, as there was no big marketing budget to spend being a small shop," Krishna and Raksha said.
Prayoga is going to get a whole lot better in the coming weeks, the founders say, with many exciting features in the offing.