Developer Spotlight: Alexander Tsepko of FX Photo Studio
TiPb's developer spotlights are like DVD/iTunes Extras for the App Store -- a weekly look behind the scenes at the programers and designers that bring you the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad apps and games you love. This week Rene talks with Alexander Tsepko from MacPhun.
Note: This interview was conducted a few days before WWDC 2011.
What's your name? Alexander Tsepko. Some people call me AT.
What's your company? MacPhun LLC.
Where are you located? USA and Ukraine (Europe). Most of MacPhun people are located in these two countries. But we also have freelancers (developers, beta testers, designers) in some other countries around the world. These people give us great input on what features to include in apps. For example we collected suggestions on what filters to include in FX Photo Studio from all continents and it is absolutely amazing how tastes differ.
What's your website address? www.macphun.com – corporate home page, which is now in the process of remaking, but you can get an idea about what applications we have developed. Also we have www.fxphotostudioapp.com, www.perfectphotoapp.com, www.silentfilmdirector.com and www.cartoonaticapp.com for our most loved apps.
What's your Twitter name? Mostly I use @fxphotostudio where I share news about our photo applications, iPhoneography and all fun things. You can say it is both personal and business; I am not a type of person to keep several accounts for different purposes. Don’t have that much time. Also there is @silentfilmdir, where we tweet about things related to video with iPhone and iPod touch.
What apps do you make? We have a photo processing application FX Photo Studio for iPhone and FX Phone Studio HD for iPad. There is a version for iOS and newly released version for Mac OS, which is called FX Photo Studio PRO. Then we have Silent Film Director for iOS. This app lets you create awesome retro movies. Photo editor for iPhone Perfect Photo and photo editor for iPad PhotoPal. Also fresh and free video app Cartoonatic for shooting animated videos. This is by far my favorite app. I am a big A-HA fan and this app lets you create music video which will look almost like that famous “Take on me” clip. We have developed more apps, but these are the titles which people and us love and use most.
What apps, other than your own, are currently among your favorites? As a photo and video fanboy I really love Instagram for sharing and innovations, QuickPix for speed, Super 8 for style and LensFlare for almost everything about it. Also I am greatly enjoying the app, called SkyView, it lets you see some mind blowing things around you. And I play Infinity Blade quite often: have spent lots of money on in-app purchases, so I am not surprised they are among top grossing apps. Wondering if guys from Chair Entertainment Group ever purchased in-apps in FX Photo Studio☺
How long have you been a developer? How long have you been an iOS developer? Almost from the day Steve Jobs went on stage and showed iPhone to the world. We were sure and we still are that this big little (or little big) device changed everything. Right now I don’t do much of development and mostly take care of marketing and corporate relations.
Do you develop for any other platform in addition to iOS? If so, which one(s)? We have recently released FX Photo Studio for Mac and therefore made our way into software business. Enjoying it, getting good feedback from Mac users, learning things… Not a secret we are looking at other platforms, including Android, Bada, Symbian, etc. Looks promising and challenging; we will introduce our apps to those markets pretty soon. And since we have developed FX Photo Studio PRO for Mac, why not making a version for Windows as well. All users should have equal opportunities, shouldn’t they?
What primary computer setup do you use for your iOS development? I have MacBook Pro with latest software just to be on top of things. iPad 2 arrived recently. Plus the one and only iPhone 4. Just enough not to miss important things and make sure no one important misses you. If you visit our offices, you will find about a dozen of different iPhones for testing, same with iPads and a variety of different Macs. We even have those toy-looking iBooks. Not to mention few Android and smartphones to know what’s new among Android apps.
What mobile devices, other than iOS, do you currently use? None at the moment, but thinking of getting few Samsung and Nokia devices to test some of the apps they offer. I am a big Apple fan, can’t imagine what can make me move to other device, though I tried many.
What's your favorite thing about developing for iOS? First thing that comes to mind is that practically anyone can learn how to do this. But the most favorite thing is no doubt a possibility to meet new people. You won’t believe how many people inspire me and they are all connected with Apple (I mean the brand, not necessarily Apple Inc). I have been working in different markets, but for some reason people who are connected with Apple are the friendliest, smartest and most innovative I ever met. Glad to be among them.
What's your least favorite thing about developing for iOS? That practically everyone does it and the number is growing, thus you see lots of apps, which I wish I’ve never seen in my life. They are that bad.
What feature would you most like Apple to add to the iOS SDK? Frankly speaking, I am ok even with current features. I mean lots of people were fine without web search until Google came and now they can’t live without it. I am pretty fine with current iOS SDK, but am sure that next version will bring something I won’t be able to live without as time passes. This is what I like most about everything Apple makes.
What feature would you most like Apple to add to the App Store? It could be cool to let developers contact users who leave comments about apps. Quite often you get some feedback and you know you have to reply to it with a suggestion or additional question and you just can’t do that. Would be cool to let developers leave comments, which are highlighted with a different color, so people know that a developer left it. A developer will be given a limited number of such comments (2-5 per app), not to turn the feedback section into chat room, but reply to a particular comment or discussion.
Also I really love the idea of showing people up to 300 top apps, not TOP 50 only. FX Photo Studio is in TOP 50 and our other apps are among category tops, so we should not worry, but I know how many awesome apps were left unnoticeable just because the users could not see them. And the last, but not least, Apple should do something with iPad App Store, the navigation is quite confusing. Or is it just me?
What do you do when you're not coding iOS apps? I learn how to drive a small single engine plane (not mine☺), take pictures with iPhone, try to get in touch with tech bloggers to let them have our apps, beta test apps by other developers, watch Lie to Me and (most of the time) plan the birth of our first kid with my awesome wife.
What should we look for from you next? Definitely more apps and updates. MacPhun stays in this business. First of all new versions of FX Photo Studio both for iOS and Mac OS. We are now looking for iPhoneographers and Photographers who will help us to develop new filters and frames. So, if you are one of those people, or know anyone, feel free to contact me for details. Also, new features for Silent Film Director App. The app has almost 300 000 users now, so it would be good to give this army of retro fans something new to play with. And so on and so forth.