In my post last week about customising your Nokia Lumia’s dialler, I made the innocent point that it was not the most obvious part of the smartphone that you could produce apps for.
As I asked at the time, how can you improve on a numerical keypad?
My attitude sums up why there are bright young things out there creating apps and changing the world, while I am merely writing about how brilliant they are!
One of those bright young things is Cara Zheng, 25, of Guangzhou, China, who is part of a three-strong team who look after the highly-rated RapDialer app.
Cara, who works full-time as an accountant, has been involved with RapDialer since December 2011, when it was still just an idea inside the head of the chief designer James Yi.
Just a couple of months later it was available to download on the Windows Phone Marketplace, and Cara has been helping out ever since looking after operations, testing, customer service and much more. The third member of the team is designer Joe Zou.
Rapidly approaching its first anniversary, the app now has thousands of users in over 68 countries and is available in 12 languages – with three more to follow shortly.
I was particularly struck by how the team invites suggestions from users and asks volunteers to help them make RapDialer available in their local languages.
In an interview with Conversations, Cara spoke about the importance of user feedback, why Windows Phone 8 is a great opportunity for them and what’s to come in RapDialer v3.0.
How did RapDialer begin?
When James had his first Windows Phone, he found it inconvenient because of the lack of a smart dialler. He was also unsatisfied with well-known dialler apps in iOS and Android.
Then he was inspired by the Windows Phone user interface and tried to make a powerful but simple and clear smart dialler with a new experience. The enthusiastic response from users proves it’s viable.
How important is the feedback from your users?
At the very beginning, when Windows Phone was still in its early stages, feedback focused on those things that we could not do because of Windows Phone restrictions.
However, with the gradual improvement and development of RapDialer, old users are maintained and new users come in. They start to offer new ideas they hope to have, and tell us how they feel when new features are added.
Three people in the RapDialer team cannot discover all the bugs, but users help us to discover and revise them. So users’ feedback is like a mirror; reflecting our good and bad points.
Can you give some examples of suggestions from users that you have then added as a new feature on RapDialer?
We summarise suggestions from users and pick up the urgent and valuable ones. For example, users who are used to Blackberry phones, asked to have the 1-99 speed dial feature and some users asked for full-text search, so they could select items to display or be searched. These features were added and had a good response.
Is using volunteers to help with translations a good way of working?
We have users from 68 countries and many warm-hearted users ask to be allowed to translate RapDialer into their mother language, simply because they use it every day and like it very much.
Most of them are fluent in English and are able to understand our app’s idea. Most importantly, many of them are developers, students, teachers, or have app translation experiences.
This is an advantage in both costs saving and helping us broaden international markets.
Any disadvantages of working with volunteers?
The first version translation work is usually done with high quality but since our app is always developing and new features are added continually, the first translator may not be able to follow translation work promptly.
We may need to wait for a long time until they give feedback or ask another translator to do it. Overall, volunteers’ help is still a good way of working.
What progress has been made on the Windows Phone 8 version of RapDialer?
We spent lots of time finding a way to compile the same codes to WP7 and WP8 .xap files at the same time and we need to make adjustments on different behaviours in WP7 and WP8 for the same API.
We value intellectual property protection of our app but unfortunately, no free or cheap but reliable WP8 Code Obfuscation Tool is available, which temporarily stops us from publishing the WP8 version.
Also, we are in great need for WP8 devices to test, but currently they are expensive and not so easily obtained in China.
Are you excited by the opportunities that WP8 offers?
Yes, we believe customer growth will boom in the WP8 era, which is the greatest opportunity to us.
What does the future hold for RapDialer?
In v3.0, we will go further, to give RapDialer more the feel of being a toolkit instead of a simple dialler. For example, cool and quick switching between T9 keypad and QWERTY is coming, as well as function expansion in SMS.
Since we are also busy in our jobs at the end of the year, v3.0 expects to be published in the first half of 2013.