Saturday, January 11, 2014

Virgin Usage Meter - An end is a new beginning

The Virgin Usage Meter has always been my favourite app, it taught me a lot about Android Development, but even more so about people. Virgin Usage Meter started out as a small app I wrote for myself which was never intended for release, in fact it wasn't until I saw a thread on Whirlpool requesting somebody write one, 3 months later, that I started to entertain the idea of releasing the app. After a few beta tests by the kind people in the Whirlpool thread I released the app which, for an app on the play store at that time, became a quick success. Within the first few days I had 1000 active users shooting past my very low expectations and steady growth over three years saw me topping 92000. Even more remarkable was that the app never dropped lower than a 4.5 star rating, and had a 5 star rating for the first 18 months.

So what did it teach me about people? It taught me that a very small minority of people expect that every developer owes them 24/7 support, instant fixes and can be incredibly condescending and rude. Luckily and more importantly it taught me that a large majority of people are encouraging, extremely accommodating, will step in to defend you against the above small minority. Even with all the time I spent developing the app, it was the users who shaped it into the app it eventually turned out to be.

Retiring the app wasn't as tough a decision as I thought it might have been. Three years is a long time for a single person to maintain a hobby app, and VMA's constant plan and website changes meant a lot of late night bug fixes and updates. I also started to receive a larger proportion of demanding emails, of which many grew abusive and threatening if I didn't respond within a few hours. So when Virgin approached me to sell the app to them and help rebuild it into an official app with official APIs, I saw a win/win scenario for myself and users and jumped at the opportunity.

I am really very pleased with how My Account turned out, there's a lot of my app lurking in there but with the new API's it's much more reliable and the new polish has made it much easier to use better to look at. It's still early days for My Account and I know Virgin have some great ideas for the future, and I'm happy to still be a part of an app that helped to carve out my career as an Android developer.

Virgin Mobile Australia - My Account

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