Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ticket to Ride: An Interview with Shen Weijia of the Singapore Bus Guide

Most people give Singapore’s public transport the thumbs up. Between the MRT and the buses, there are very few places you can’t get to by public transport. However, Singapore’s bus network is so comprehensive that the problem is sometimes trying to figure out which bus to take. That’s where the Singapore Bus Guide comes in.

Selling for US$0.99 on the Singapore App Store, this app tells you what route the different bus services take. It’s one of two bus guides on the App Store, the other being SG Buses.

Software engineer Shen Weijia, 27, developed the Singapore Bus Guide because he saw a need for an app like it. “I found it very inconvenient to be at a bus stop without any route information.” With an iPhone app like the Singapore Bus Guide, you don't need to bring along a thick printed bus guide with you anymore, he notes.

He spent a few months learning to program for the iPhone and eventually put it up on the App Store in early September. It was probably the first Singapore-specific app on the App Store.

Being a first, Singapore Bus Guide quickly climbed up the local charts and the app actually clinched the number one spot briefly. The app is still on the top 10 list of paid apps at the time of writing, and is currently holding spot number three, ahead of Koi Pond and Asphalt 4.

I interviewed this laconic engineer, China-born engineer by email about his app and his plans for the future.

Why did you start developing for the iPhone?
I own an iPhone. The iPhone programming language is Objective-C, which is the same language I use for my work. The most important thing is that I like my iPhone and I want to be an iPhone developer.

How long did it take for you to develop the Singapore Bus Guide?
Several months, I needed to try different types of user interface and keep up with Apple's updated SDK.

What was the hardest part about the development work?
The hardest part was to design the software architecture and implement it.

Singapore Bus Guide was the top paid app on the Singapore App store for a while. How did that feel?
It feels great.

Are you planning to quit your job to develop iPhone apps full time?

I noticed that SG Buses is now available on the App Store. Are you planning to develop Singapore Bus Guide to compete with SG Buses?
SG Buses is also a good app. I will update Singapore Bus Guide in the future to make it better.

How long have you been using a Mac?
I have used Macs for two years. I now use the Mac for software development for medical image processing.

What do you think of the iPhone?
It is revolutionary product. It is a mini-notebook that can make calls. Its most important feature is that it can integrate so many features intuitively and beautifully.

What are your favourite apps on the iPhone?
PapiJump. Simple but very addictive.

What do you think about the current controversy regarding Apple's control over apps sold in the App store?
They need to give developers clearer guidelines.

External links

- See screenshots and learn more about the app here.

- Go to Singapore Bus Guide located here on the App Store.

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