Today we are interviewing the Owner of Level Up Studio's from France, Ludovic Vialle.He is the creator and developer of some of the most popular applications on Android today.Level Up studios are the Creators Of 'Beautiful Widgets', one of the most popular weather applications widgets on android cause of it's sleek design and awesome graphics.They also are responsible for for 'Foxy Ringer' a ringtone manager app, that was one of the winning applications from the Android Developer Challenge 2.Their latest App is 'Touiteur' a twitter client application that is highly customizable and offers some of the best features of any twitter application on the market today.Without further due let's jump right into the interview.
Tell Android Fans a Little about Level Up Studios
LevelUp Studio is a company I created when I started to develop for the Android platform in July 2008. Actually alone, someone is joining me very soon in order to increase the effort to provide nice applications for the mobile platforms, and especially Android.
What got you started developing Android Applications?
I was an iPhone user since the first 2G version, but I was annoyed by the limitations of the customizations and the Apple policy. Also I love what Google is doing, so I switched to Android using a HTC Magic. I started right away with the SDK to learn how to code for Android, and found it very exciting. I wanted to do my own applications, and we can do almost everything on that platform, including a lot of things that the iPhone cannot do.
A while after using my Magic, HTC released the HTC Hero with the new Sense user interface. And I fell in love with their design. I wanted the same on my phone, but that was not possible. So I started to code my own set of widgets as my first big project for Android.
Beautiful Widgets is one of our favourite Widgets, are you surprised by the popularity?
Totally! I thought that it would interest only a few people, but there was a big interest. Also the fact that I am updating it very often and adding features help a lot, people want that their apps supported and improved.
At one point HTC had a problem with Beautiful Widgets can you explain a little more about what happened?
Yes, I was mimicking their clock and some other widgets very closely because I was fan of the look. Of course they did not like the idea and told me to stop doing it. We do have good relations and they were totally in their rights, and I agreed to change the design. Actually this was certainly the best thing that could happen, because I was able to have my own design and set of features and follow a different path.
Beautiful Widgets is such a great widget, have you ever been approached by manufactures to use it on their phones?
Not yet! But this is probably because there is no contact information on my site! But actually this is something that I can offer.
I was often missing calls or text messages when I was going out because I usually have the ringer volume at the minimum. While being outdoors, you need a louder volume if you want to hear your ringtones. Also some friends have the bad habits of sending me text messages late in the night or early in the morning. You can always turn off the sound of your phone, but I usually forget. So why not having all of this automated? FoxyRing use the phone microphone every few minutes to sample the ambient sounds and change the ringer volume accordingly, also you define your sleep hours, and it turn off and on the ringer automatically.
How does it differ from other Ringtone managers?
Its ability to sample the ambient sound and change the ringer volume is the main feature and everything is automated. Also the interface has been designed to be easy to use. On the other side, FoxyRing offer less features than some fully featured applications like Locale. But they can be complimentary, FoxyRing can be a plugin for Locale.
How did you come up with the name FoxyRing?
I wanted a name that was easy to remember, funny and that could define the goal of the application. A Foxy Ring would represent a smart ringtone, at least for me!
Did you think FoxyRing would win the Android Developer Challenge 2 Competition?
I think that everyone that have participated in the ADC2 had hope to win, and I did. You really need to work on your project and think that you can win, be optimist! I have been working a lot to finish FoxyRing for the ADC2, and when I mean a lot, it was 7 days a week and at least 12 hours per day, and before the submission, I was coding days and nights! My wife have been very nice with me and I thank her for that. Waiting for the results was tough, but when I got the email (that went to my spam folder) saying that I was 3rd in my category, I was very happy!
The questions were: what to do? What does android need? My answer was: Beautiful applications and user interfaces. I have studied all the possibilities for an application, and came up with the idea that Twitter would be fun to develop, and I was not fond of the design of the current applications, while not denying that they are great.
Touiteur has some great customizable features and very slick design ,how long did it take you to design the application?
Around 4 or 5 months. I have been slow because at the same time I was still improving my other applications. I do not consider Touiteur to be finished, there are some major features missing, required for what I could call a basic Twitter application such as user search or geotagging. But I am trying to catch up with the others clients and then I will start to polish it. It is going to be faster than right now since I am going to have help from another (talented) developer that I will probably introduce within 15 days.
There are plenty of twitter applications what advantages do you feel Touiteur has a advantage over the applications?
My goal was simple: an easy to use and beautiful interface. Some might not like it, but it is a nice thing that they can choose from many applications. My only regret is that I have to sell a Premium version, because I am not backed up by an investor like some others client! It would be nice to offer it for free. So I tried to come up with both world and made a free and paid version with more features.
The rumor of Twitter coming up with their own Android Application have you worried at all?
I would lie if I said no. But I understand their move, I am just curious to learn how they will do it. I just need to do it better and people still want to choose their application.
What do find is the easiest thing about developing for android compared to other Mobile OS's?
Probably the fact that they use java, it is a language easy to learn and you can develop very quickly. The Android SDK is really nice!
What can be the most frustrating part of developing on the android OS & How does all the different versions of Android OS affect you development of apps??
Probably the device and android version fragmentation. You have to think about all screen size and keep support for the older Android version such as 1.5 (which was not supporting multiple screen size). In an application it is not a pain to support multiple screen size since they have done a very nice job on that. But it is harder with a widget, to be able to render almost the same thing on all the different devices. Also the speed is a problem. We are now using more and more faster devices, so the problem is disappearing, but it needs work to catch up with the iPhone.
What would you like to see in future Android OS versions or Changes?
The JIT compiler is something that I am waiting for, the speed should be really better. Android need a better reactivity when using it. Otherwise, I am quiet happy with what we have. We just need to migrate the older versions quickly!
What is your opinion on the Android Market? positive and negative?
Both, I do like the fact that I can post an update instantly, but sometimes I think that the applications need to be filtered by Google in order to remove all the very bad applications and scam. I think that it is hard for the users to find good applications, there is no official computer interface like the AppStore and iTunes. The Google Checkout system accept only credit cards, and since each developers can only sell with their own currency, the users are often charged by their bank for the change transaction, and they are confused by the exchange rate. It really needs to be improved. A section to display the top applications of the week or month would be nice too!
What kind of Android Phone do you use personally?
A Nexus One!
What new phone from Android has you the most excited?
Again the Nexus one, it was complicated for me since I live in France to order it, but I got it a week after the release. Then my wife replaced her HTC Magic with a Nexus One since Google sent me one for being a finalist at the ADC2! If I did not have a Nexus One, I would probably be lurking at the HTC Desire.
Besides Level Up Studio's Apps, which apps do you use most on your Android Phone?
I use RemoteSMS to be able to send text message from my computer, Pure Calendar widget from Francois Deslandes, My Tracks from Google and of course all the Google applications like Gmail, Maps and the calendar.
Does Level Up Studio's have any plans for any new applications soon? any hints?
I do have some idea but at the moment the goal is to improve the current applications. So I cannot really say.