Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Young And The Restless: A Profile of iPhone Developer Koh Jing Yu

Koh Jing Yu is one busy iPhone developer. He has three apps in the app store, does contract work for companies overseas, and is in the middle of a 30-days, 30-apps project where he develops an app a day and shares the source code to help other developers learn about iPhone programming. Not bad for a 14-year-old who picked up iPhone development just four months ago.

This Secondary Two student of Dunman High School was introduced to sofware development after learning Flash at the school's Infocomms Club. From Flash, he moved on to the iPhone.  

Said Jing Yu: "I started programming iPhone games because of the great hardware available, accelerometer, microphone, multitouch, etc, and I love how the games available on the App Store made use of them. I was inspired to make my own, and started during the June holidays.

"I learnt a lot from "Beginning iPhone Development" published by Apress, and written by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche. I also learnt a lot from iCodeBlog, and online video tutorials."

From left to right: Jing Yu's father, Dr Koh Hock Kiat, Jing Yu, his younger brother Jing Xuan and mother Ong Geok Chwee on holiday in Australia.

His first app was a game called Bacteria Bash, which he struggled with because there were a lot of bugs and crashes. He overcame them by reading online guides, googling about them, and getting help from people at the iPhoneDevSDK Forum.

Thanks to that experience, he had an easier time with his next effort. "My second app, Cheese Collect, had better organized code, and I also learnt a lot of new things to use. I also learnt about debugging code, a very long process, but it's worth it."

What's remarkable is that Jing Yu does not outsource anything. His apps have a unique graphics style that he is entirely responsible for. "Code, graphics, music, sound effect, I do everything myself. I use Adobe Flash and Adobe Photoshop for it, and it's really easy to do, especially if you know your way around."

He has not earned enough to buy a Ferrari yet, nor, it must be said, would he be allowed to drive one for a few years, but he's quite happy with the response to his apps. "Most reactions have been positive, and I've gotten quite good reviews from the iTunes Store, as well as positive feedback from the TouchArcade thread. I'm earning quite some money from Cheese Collect. It was featured by Apple a while back in ‘New and Noteworthy’ a while back, and sales rocketed."

Thanks to these apps, he is now doing some contract work for people in France, the UK and the US too. But, as with all good developers, it's not just about the money, which is why he embarked on his 30-days, 30-apps project.

"’30 Days Of iPhone Programming’ is mostly to help others get used to the language, Objective-C. It includes a lot of things I struggled with when I just started and things I wished I knew when I started. I hope to help others with my source code. I also love programming, so it's sort of fun to build 30 apps and help others.”

It will come as no surprise that his parents have been behind him all the way (his father is a professor at the Nanyang Technological University while his mother is a director at SingTel.) “My parents have been great, and really supportive,” he said. “They support me when I ask for books as resources, and even ask if I have any classes I want to attend during the upcoming December school holidays.”

"I am amazed by how Jing Yu taught himself to develop applications and his passion in creating his own applications,” said Ong Geok Chwee, who is the proud mother of Jing Yu, and who is also the Director of Business Development and Segment Marketing at SingTel. “Developing and publishing his own application is like operating a small business where he starts thinking about marketing and creating awareness of his applications.

“I truly understand the meaning of "The World is Flat" through seeing how developers and publishers from France, UK and US engaging him to do project work via email correspondence. It is amazing!"

World domination will have to wait though as Jing Yu still has a few years to go before he is done with school. He hopes to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wants to go into software development as a career.

Find out more about Jing Yu from his blog, or follow him on Twitter.

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