Young developers pioneering mobile apps development
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Young developers pioneering mobile apps development

Duncan Borg, left, and Clive Ciappara, the winners of the app development competition organised by Vodafone Malta and Microsoft, with screenshots of the respective winning apps (inset).

Duncan Borg, left, and Clive Ciappara, the winners of the app development competition organised by Vodafone Malta and Microsoft, with screenshots of the respective winning apps (inset).

It’s exciting times for the development of apps for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and this is an area with potential growth as an industry in Malta, according to the winners of a competition for the best mobile app.

There is a small audience for the app market but I think that with time it will keep on growing

Clive Ciappara and Duncan Borg have just been announced the winners of a local competition organised by Vodafone Malta and Microsoft Malta to promote innovation in ICT, especially in the growing market of mobile devices.

Mr Ciappara developed a finance app while Mr Borg developed a 3rd person shooter video game for Microsoft Windows Phone 7 mobile platform. These will be available for free to an international audience in the Microsoft app market.

“These last few months I’ve been receiving more requests to develop mobile applications as companies are seeing the potential of mobile apps to increase their business,” Mr Ciappara, 26, told i-Tech after being announced one of the two winners of the competition.

“With the increase of smartphones, the market for apps is growing in Malta, with Maltese developers increasingly submitting apps to different platforms available. App developers can easily start creating their own apps, all they need is a computer and the development tools which most of them are also provided free of charge,” added the systems applications developer who had to learn how to code for Windows Phone from scratch.

Mr Borg, 21, who won the popular vote on Facebook, agrees there is potential but it’s still early days.

“At this moment in time there is a small audience for the app market, but I think that with time it will keep on growing gradually. App developing currently relies on individuals willing to develop on their own, rather than companies which emphasise app development, since not much importance is given to this area right now.”

Mr Ciappara’s Expense Box is an app that will help Windows Phone users track personal or group expenses. It can be used either when going shopping, organising an event, a school reunion, go on a trip abroad, or simply going for a night out. For group expenses you just add your friends and the payments done by each. At the end of the event or trip, Expense Box will automatically calculate the exact amount of money each has to pay to balance out each other, thus reducing a lot of headaches. He intends to continue updating Expense Box with new features including synchronisation with an online website to store all your expenses in the cloud.

Users can download the app Expense Box free of charge from the Windows Phone Marketplace by searching for “Expense Box” or else log on to www.expensebox.net and click the “Get App” button.

One could expect Mr Borg’s Space Conqueror to appeal to a good number of users and garner the Facebook vote, since it’s a based on the decades-old successful formula of arcade shooting. The player controls a spaceship and has to defeat a number enemy spaceship troops and advance to defeat the boss spaceship. The game is level-based. On levels 1 and 2 enemy troops have to be destroyed and the final level (level 3) the player encounters the boss. Jürgen Camilleri and Matthew Debattista were on the development team too. At the moment the game is only available online at http://www.space-conqueror.comyr.com/

Though the two winners concur that it was fun to develop the apps, this new form of software development presents its own set of challenges. “There are a lot of challenges which you have to keep in mind even before starting developing a mobile app,” explained Mr Ciappara.

“Amongst others, the platform on which the app is to be developed and what devices will be compatible must be selected. You must keep things as minimal and simple as possible taking in consideration that only small screen is available, while buttons and other controls have to be big enough as to be touch friendly.

“It’s a satisfaction to have people using your app, giving you feedback (even from foreign countries), rating and reviewing your application, and watching the number of downloads increase day by day. It gives you a great sense of achievement.”

Mr Borg agrees that “the biggest challenges were to keep the game design simple and to optimise the game’s performance since mobile phones have limited resources.”

Announcements of the release of apps for mobile devices developed in Malta or by Maltese developers have become quite common in recent months, especially for the Apple iPhone and Android-based devices.

Vioside, a local software development company, has just announced the availability of Malta’s Cooking Secrets, a new app for the Apple iPhone which brings recipes of timeless and cultural Maltese meals, soups, sauces and sweets.

“All prepared by the team with the help of talented housewives, these recipes have been simplified and broken down into easy steps for anyone around the globe to try out! Get your copy from the App Store and start cooking!” Vioside said.

The app is available from the iTunes store. There is also a YouTube video at http://youtu.be/Q9vILut0Vm0?hd=1

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