iPhone Development Environment = Recipe for Success?

On July 2, 2008

What’s On iPhone wrote a "pre-review" on GroceryZen yesterday.  We liked what we saw and we are looking forward to using the app when it’s officially released.

Tonight, we had a chance to talk with Greg Bernhardt, one of the two developers behind GroceryZen. The interview was a great chance to to learn a little more about GroceryZen and some of the directions it will be taking in the future, as well as a chance to get some insight into the process of developing for the iPhone.

Turns out that like many of us, Greg has a depth of experience developing for, and using, Treo’s and Windows Mobile devices. (It may explain why Elana, still going through Treo-withdrawal after years making and keeping lists on her Treo, was so taken with the application.)  

Read-on for our interview with Greg PLUS an "exclusive" update on the application.

What gave you the idea to create GroceryZen?
I had a PalmPilot that I had for 10 years or so before the iPhone, and I had used different grocery applications, I kept that Palm for those, so I based my application around the features I saw there. This application is built for groceries- it’s designed for the "ambicious cook".  It is for someone who is trying to decide what they want to make, and it makes it easier to track those ingredients.
Future versions may even have a social component where people can share recipes with others on face book, my space, etc.

Did you write any iPhone apps before you wrote GroceryZen?
No.  This is the first one.

Have you written code for any other platform?
I’m a developer by trade. I wrote for Palm, and Windows.

How would you describe yourself in terms of technical expertise in general?
Developer by trade, currently I do GUI design.

How does the iPhone development environment compare to that platform?
I’m more used to PC development, and this is my first exposure to Apple.  But I’m very impressed by the system.  On the simulator you can’t use the camera, and the accelerometer, I’m a little annoyed by Apple and the beta program since you dont get access to those things.  But the tools and environment are awesome.
My partner and I work for a large software company, but Apple’s free tools are 10 times better than the ones we use at work.

What was the learning curve like?
Before the iPhone came out, I did some basic Mac development, I use C, C++, Java, I’ve never used Objective C before, but the Docs were great, lots of code samples, and a very good experience.  Next time I would be able to develop a new app much faster.
Development for Palm was like camping in a tent in the forest, this is like being in an RV, you’ve got everything you need right in the tool.  It’s really easy to make a beautiful user experience.

What advice would you give someone who is considering writing an iPhone application (in terms of things you’ve learned about their development environment)?
Think seriously about the design before doing a lot of work on it, use the iPhone to decide what type of applications are appropriate on it.  Think about the iPhone and the options it provides you. We designed the complete User Interface before we wrote a line a code, to make sure it was right.

How long did it take you to design the current version of Grocery Zen?
Original design took a week, and we’ve been adding to it steadily over the last few months.

Do you have plans on developing more applications after Grocery Zen?
Fitness and meal tracking system. People would enter bits of data and then the application would track peoples progress.

When do you think you’ll have it available?
Couple weeks after the 11th we should have it available to everyone since we need to put it out in beta first.

Greg was good enough to give What’s On iPhone its first Exclusive!

He told us that the initial release of the software will also include the ability to
"create ingredient lists for your own recipes, and add notes, which
you can use to remind you where the recipe is, or even include the
cooking instructions if you don’t mind spilling eggs on your iPhone.
You can tap on "add all" to add all the ingredients in a recipe to
your list."

In addition to giving us the verbal "scoop" on the new functions,
Greg sent us an exclusive screenshot of GroceryZen‘s new recipe
feature.  Here it is:

Our thanks to Greg for taking the time to speak with us- We look forward to a full review of GroceryZen soon.