September 20, 2014

Developer's Spotlight: Launcher Pro's Federico Carnales

Like many of you, I am a huge fan of Launcher Pro and Launcher Pro Plus. Swiping between screens is a real breeze, fast and fluid. Overall, it makes the stock launcher really seem like a joke.   This excellent piece of software fills in the missing holes of the standard Android launcher and much more.  Launcher Pro is available for Android 2.0 and above and can be found in the Android Market.

Luckily, Android Guys managed to grab some time with Launcher Pro’s developer recently and find out more about the man behind application. It was a great experience to meet the person behind one of my favorite apps. Read on for the interview!

Android Guys: What was your inspiration for Launcher Pro and Launcher Pro Plus?

Federico: My main inspiration was HTC Sense. Ever since I saw the demo videos of it, which was before owning my first Android phone, I knew I wanted to have it.

The problem was, when Android phones arrived here in Argentina, none of them had HTC Sense. I felt there was a huge market void, for people who wanted to have a Sense-like experience but didn’t have an HTC phone. So I set out to fill that void. The initial plan was to just take the stock Android launcher, add a couple of extra features, then create widgets to replace most of those in Sense.

With the huge amount of feature requests by users, that “couple of extra features” turned into a whole bunch of features, which delayed the creation of the widgets. About two months ago ago I finally decided to start coding the widgets, and the response so far has been great.

Android Guys: Why Android? Why not develop for iOS?

Federico: For one simple reason; I don’t like to have any one company deciding what I can develop and what I can’t. With Apple it’s like a gamble; you put in a lot of your time creating an app that will benefit a lot of users, and then Apple decides if your app will ever see the light of day. Since you can’t distribute your apps independently (aside from markets for jailbroken devices), Apple can at any time and for any reason, effectively put you out of business. That creates a hostile environment that I didn’t want to be a part of, so Android was the clear way to go.

Android Guys: What is the process you go through when developing? Why did you develop this app?

Federico: Tough one. I don’t really have a set process for developing, I just look at my “todo” list, pick one item, and work on it until it’s finished. When trying to decide what to pick form the list, I always think to myself things like “Will this benefit a majority of the users?”, “Will this have any impact on the app’s performance?”, “Will this use too many resources?”, “Will this potentially break other features?”, etc. That really helps prioritize the list and decide what should be worked on and what should be left for later on.

Android Guys: What is the future of Launcher Pro on Android? Any other apps in the pipeline?

Federico: A lot of Android tablets are being (or about to be) released, so we might see a version of LauncherPro tailored for tablets to make use of the extra screen real estate. Aside from that, more LauncherPro widgets and more features is all I have planned for now.

As for other apps, that’s definitely something I’d like to do, but I need more time for that. My main focus now is LauncherPro and I devote all my time to it. I want it to become the one app that every Android user should install as soon as they get a new phone.

Android Guys: How do you code for different phones? What is your process?

Federico: Luckily, Android is pretty good at adapting to different screen sizes and resolutions if you code your app right. The only problem is when manufacturers add their own skins and remove parts of stock Android. Case in point, the Droid X (2.1) is missing the QuickContact popup, so the People widget in LauncherPro Plus can’t use it, and there’s pretty much nothing I can do. Another example is that HTC Sense phones don’t add bookmark thumbnails into the database (like stock Android does) which means we cannot use them, so I had to code my own thumbnail generator for LP+.

Android Guys: Why should we buy the Plus version of Launcher Pro?

Federico: Three reasons come to mind:

1) You like the LauncherPro Plus features (LP widgets, resizing of widgets, and more to come soon) and want to use them.
2) You don’t have a use for the Plus features, but do use LauncherPro as your default launcher. The revenues from the Plus version pay my rent and expenses, which means I can continue developing it full time. You can consider your $2.99 a donation to support an app that you use every day (and it’s probably the most used app on your phone).
3) You are feeling generous and want to support Android developers, and dispel the notion that Android users are cheapskates who don’t buy apps.

Android Guys: What phone do you use right now?

Federico: A Nexus One. I also have a Motorola Milestone that use for testing every release of LauncherPro to make sure it still runs nice and fast in less powerful hardware (not that the Milestone/Droid is underpowered, but there is a very visible speed difference with the Nexus One)

Android Guys: Why do you think your application useful?

Federico: In Android, the launcher is usually the most used app in your phone. LauncherPro improves upon the stock launcher in lots of ways, which gives you a better overall experience with your Android phone.

Android Guys: Have you faced any issues while developing? What do you think of the tools Google provides to develop?

Federico: A few. Google doesn’t release new Android versions to developers before unleashing them onto the public, and the source code is not released until weeks after it’s been out in consumer’s devices. That means us developers have to scramble to update our apps to make them work with the new version, often without proper documentation about the changes, which makes it that much more difficult.

The API documentation could use a lot of work too. Many parts of the API are poorly documented, or not documented at all.

Android Guys: Where do you think Android is going?

Federico: World domination? It’s amazing how big Android has gotten, and how fast it’s growing. Not that I’m surprised, it’s an awesome operating system with a lot of freedom to create great apps. I think we’ll start seeing Android in a lot more devices. Phones, tablets, music players, eBook readers, set-top boxes, DVRs, TVs, printers, you name it. The low power requirements and ever-increasing app catalog make it a perfect fit for a lot of consumer devices.

For those who just finished reading this, check out Launcher Pro in the market . The Plus version is really worth it.  Overally, damn good application and a damn clever developer.  I should mention before this finishes, that the Plus version must be bought through www.launcherpro.com as it is not in the market as a standalone app. Thanks folks!

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