Successfully developing iPhone apps is a young man’s game, but they don’t come quite as young or as successful as Tom Phillips, the owner app development business AppATapp. Tom began developing iPhone apps at the tender age of 17 and now he has reached the grand old age of 18, he has built AppATapp into a leading app company and has well over 11 thousand downloads of apps under his belt. What began as a part-time hobby designed to earn him some extra cash and build up his portfolio for University has led him to being the head of his own company with a very bright future ahead of him. iPhoneAppCafe caught up with him for a chat…
iPhoneAppCafe: Hello Tom, thanks for meeting us. So, without further ado, tell us why you decided to begin developing apps?
Tom Phillips: I have always had an eye for a potential gap in any market and have previously had 2 businesses that were quite successful. I watched the AppStore from the start when there were only a few thousand apps. I saw the potential to develop my skills and make some money on the side. Once I realized I could make money out of it, I quit my job at McDonalds and started developing apps in between college times. I then used the money made to pay for my first year of car insurance and save to go to University.
iPhoneAppCafe: Do you work as an app developer full time?
Tom Phillips: No. I am currently in my second year of college studying a BTEC National Certificate in programming. This takes up most of my time so developing apps is just a hobby of mine at the moment. But I would like to expand and maybe do it full time.
iPhoneAppCafe: Which is your favourite app that you have developed?
Tom Phillips: My favourite app that I have developed is Brain Tester. As I spent a solid 2 weeks designing and programming it. I am completely self-taught so making the app took quite a long time. It was fun coming up with all of the tricky questions that people may have to think about before they answer them. I am also very interested in graphic design so it was good to practice this when designing the app. I also enjoyed watching friends and family playing the app. I felt a huge sense of achievement when I saw people playing it.
iPhoneAppCafe: What advice would you give to budding young app developers?
Tom Phillips: Don’t be put off by the huge companies ruling the AppStore; small time developers like me can make it big. Most developers start small, then expand into a business and employ other developers to make bigger and better apps. Start with the simple ‘Hello World’ type app, then just expand from there. There are loads of websites that feature tutorials on how to program in xcode. I found a few of these useful as it gave me the starting blocks to create a proper app. Think of an idea that no one else has thought of. I know this is hard as almost every idea is already in the store but the next big app is just around the corner I am sure.
iPhoneAppCafe: Tell me a few highlights during your journey to becoming a successful app developer.
Tom Phillips: I think a main highlight for me was when I finally completed my first app and saw it run on my iPhone. I was ecstatic and showed all of my friends and family my work. The app wasn’t much but I was very proud of my hard work. Another highlight was when my first app was accepted to the AppStore. Again, I showed everyone I knew and they were amazed that a 17 year old like me could even do something like that. Seeing my first financial report was another huge highlight for me as I saw my hobby was turned into money! My current highlight is being featured on iPhoneAppCafe, as I never thought in a million years I would be heard by anyone being a small time developer. I sent a PR letter out to many companies and newspapers not expecting to hear anything back from them. I would recommend sending round some sort of PR to companies, as it is free and could potentially get you well known.
iPhoneAppCafe: What have been the main challenges that you have had to face?
Tom Phillips: A main challenge for me was errors within Xcode. I hate errors. I spent many hours trying to figure out a problem and then realizing it was a single comma for example. Another challenge was to get my apps seen and downloaded. That is a challenge that every developer faces; some make it, some don’t. I have been working on apps for nearly 2 years and when downloads were low I did not give up. I kept submitting my apps to every review website I could find.
iPhoneAppCafe: What do you think of emerging Online DIY app builders that lets you build and app yourself at low cost? (Appshed, AppHub)
Tom Phillips: I have not come across these websites before, but looking at them now I think that this is most definitely cheating the small developers who work day and night to code their apps. But for people who do not have a clue about programming and are very visual, this is the perfect solution. I still think it is cheating.
iPhoneAppCafe: Tell us anything else that iPhoneAppCafe fans might be interested to hear.
I am currently 18 years old and have been running AppATapp for nearly 2 years. I am UK based and not a US company. I have worked my way up and learnt many things along the way. I think that if you are interested in programming in general, you should definitely look into programming for iPhone. I am so glad I did and hope I can expand and keep on creating new and exciting apps.
I currently have 5 apps in the AppStore one free and the rest of them costing only 59p. I have just released a new app called Brew Up. My friend came up with the idea of a list were the user could type in the desired brew of his work mates. He always had the problem of asking everyone, getting to the kettle and forgetting what they had asked for. He told me that he needed an app for fill this problem that he had. The app was released only 3 days ago and has already had a number of very good reviews. I hope that I can make this app more well known as I think it would help many more people within their workplaces. So go on, try one of my apps. See if you can do better. It’s harder than it looks, but don’t let that put you off.
iPhoneAppCafe: Brilliant Tom, thanks for this! Best of luck with AppATapp in the future!