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Android hands on with the cycle hire widget


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Cycle Hire Widget for Android has been a runaway success, with over ten times the installs of its nearest competitor, and 93% of users rating it “very good” or “excellent”. Of the 100,000 apps on Android Market, it’s one of only about 50 featured on the front page, and it has also been featured in the Google App Engine blog, CNET and The Guardian. Now Kenton Price and Reuben Harris from Little Fluffy Toys will present and discuss their challenges and experiences in producing it.

Whilst they had some good fortune, they got some fundamentals right, and they’ll share and discuss these with you. Attendees will learn how to apply Android platform differentiators to a market opportunity for competitive advantage, and how to leverage the goodwill of our eager London community to help improve your apps. They’ll dive into the code, looking at the TFL API and discuss how they worked around the critical missing parts. They’ll discuss how to use Google App Engine for simple rapid cloud computing. They’ll talk about challenges we’ve faced, and how they overcame them. And they’ll discuss what happens when you take an app to Android Market, and the rapid revision deployment cycle for bugfixes and updates.

Kenton and Reuben each got the coding bug as pre-teens in the early 80s, with the ZX81, Spectrum and BBC Micro – our Android game Mole Miner was based on a rocks-and-diamonds game we wrote for the BBC Micro in 1985. Culminating in the thrill of Kenton having a game available in WHSmith aged 17 (yes it used to be the best place to buy computer games), they fell into separate careers in corporate IT, until deciding last year that Android was so exciting and the market opportunity so great that they formed a company to work on projects together, their boutique consultancy Little Fluffy Toys Ltd. They perform custom development as well as publish their own apps such as Cycle Hire Widget, Social Wallpaper and Mole Miner.

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Android hands on with the cycle hire widget

  1. 1. Kenton Price and Reuben Harris Little Fluffy Toys Ltd [email_address] Twitter: @LFT_Android If you have an Android phone, please download Cycle Hire Widget free from Android Market now
  2. 2. <ul><li>Who we are </li></ul><ul><li>Cycle Hire Widget overview </li></ul><ul><li>Leverage platform differentiators </li></ul><ul><li>Getting the fundamentals right </li></ul><ul><li>Use Londroid, the London community </li></ul><ul><li>Code hands-on </li></ul><ul><li>TfL API and its shortcomings </li></ul><ul><li>Google App Engine </li></ul><ul><li>Challenges and solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Going to Market with rapid revisions </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>School friends who grew up on 8-bit micros </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ZX81, Spectrum, BBC Micro, Electron </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Published games for the BBC Micro Model B </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kenton speaks at retro games conferences </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fell into careers in corporate IT </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kenton is a Microsoft integration specialist </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reuben spent five years at Symbian </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Decided to return to having fun with Android </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mole Miner is a rewrite of a game we wrote in 1986 </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>From the Comic Strip classic Mr Jolly Lives Next Door </li></ul><ul><li>“ The greatest 60 minutes of film ever committed to celluloid - or at least it seems that way when you're pissed.” - Facebook fan page </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Compact homescreen widget </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Smallest possible size: 1x1 (1/16 th of homescreen) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Compass directions to nearest 3 locations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dynamically updating closest 3 locations </li></ul></ul><ul><li>When touched, display main screen: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>List of nearest 20 locations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Map of all locations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Favourite locations </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>We expected Google Maps-based competitors </li></ul><ul><li>We focused on creating a homescreen widget </li></ul><ul><li>Compass-based directions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>All Android phones have compasses </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Crowdsourced realtime data </li></ul><ul><li>Added maps support in a later revision </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>See “in the news” link at </li></ul><ul><li>Featured on Android Market </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only about 50 of the 100,000+ apps are featured </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Google App Engine blog case study </li></ul><ul><li>CNET UK Best Android cycle hire app </li></ul><ul><li>The Londonist Best Android cycle hire app </li></ul><ul><li>PC Pro magazine Android app of the week </li></ul><ul><li>Appeared on the Press Association newswire </li></ul><ul><li>In-depth interview in The Guardian </li></ul><ul><li>90% of users rate the app 4* or better </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Learn Android properly </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the interface simple and intuitive </li></ul><ul><li>Behave like other Android applications </li></ul><ul><li>Respect the back and home buttons </li></ul><ul><ul><li>At least two other cycle hire apps keep GPS running after you press Home to exit the application </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Read Reto Meier’s Radioactive Yak blog </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lots of design tips and gotchas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Also buy his Wrox Professional Android 2 book </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be prepared to get slaughtered in feedback </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I can’t haz world-on-a-stick for free?” </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Come to Londroid meetups </li></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ask questions on the Londroid mailing list </li></ul><ul><ul><li> for general Android questions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Come to Droidcon London </li></ul><ul><ul><li>28-29 October, Business Design Centre, Islington </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>£150 early-bird signups still available </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Reuben Harris </li></ul><ul><li>Chief Technical Officer </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>XML file containing locations and descriptions </li></ul><ul><li>No realtime data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A Londroid tester suggested we crowdsource it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We created a crowdsourcing server on App Engine </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Press picked up on the crowdsourcing </li></ul><ul><li>We were the first app to show realtime data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>On launch morning, TfL website had realtime data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fed our crowdsourcing server with this real data </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Reuben Harris </li></ul><ul><li>Chief Technical Officer </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Accuracy to 500 metres is useless </li></ul><ul><ul><li>GPS takes forever to get a fix </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Often impossible with tall buildings or indoors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Skyhook Wireless takes away location provider pain </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Animating a widget is non-trivial </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not really made for that – most update ~15 mins+ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Used a service to force the arrows to animate </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Our Compass Hell </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Yesterday Google admitted their samples are buggy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Eventually an end user donated us working code! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Platform fragmentation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deploying Android 2.2 APIs in a 1.5 device </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>No approval process: hit publish, you’re live </li></ul><ul><li>Users often vicious via anonymous feedback </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be prepared for mean, nasty, unfair comments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No way of responding to them </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Respond rapidly to constructive feedback </li></ul><ul><ul><li>No approval process => immediate updates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dell Streak 2.1 update was our evil nemesis </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Please contact us: </li></ul><ul><li>Follow us on Twitter: @LFT_Android </li></ul><ul><li>Subscribe to our RSS: </li></ul><ul><li>Available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and maybe the odd custom Android application </li></ul>