Either by hard work, good luck, great marketing or likely a combination of all three, Rob Shoesmith has caught the public imagination in recent months. The iPhone developer has appeared on TV, radio, online and in print thanks in part to his day job. Shoesmith, 27, of Whitley is a binman by day and budding developer by night.
With help from MEDL Mobile, a company that builds iPhone applications and encourages development with an App Incubator scheme, he has seen his first application not only launch with a fanfare on the Apple iTunes App Store but become something of a overnight hit.
His application, Problem Halved, has been high on the iTunes downloads charts and received positive feedback from users. The application aims to allow people from around the world to give suggestions to help solve problems. Users can post a problem or answer a problem, or do both, as the application suggests a problem shared is a problem halved.
Macworld caught back up with Shoesmith, fresh from an appearance on Sky News, to discover how things have been going.
Q. How did you feel when Problem Halved finally hit the iTunes store?
We had a slight delay with Apple due to us having to resubmit some information. It was on a Saturday night and I was round my grandmother’s house and received an email to say it would be in the app store within a few hours. I waited and waited!
I stayed up until about 2 am and it still wasn’t there. I woke up in the morning and searched my iPhone for Problem Halved and there it was. It was a great feeling knowing that Problem Halved was available to others to help solve their problems.
Rob Shoesmith meets Jason Bradbury from fives popular The Gadget Show.
Q. Generally, what’s the reception been like for Problem Halved?
The reaction so far has been very positive. I have made some great friends on Twitter and all of them were very pleased with the app. Various app review sites loved it. More functionality will be released soon in version 1.2 which I feel users will really like.
Q. Do you have any idea how many people are interacting with Problem Halved?
There are more than a thousand problems and solutions posted in the database already. Not bad considering the app has only been on sale for around a week. With more being added every day. And as the app grows, we will be adding more tools to make it easier and easier to search for problems, find problems that relate to you, and so on.
We are also working on social networking tools that will incorporate larger networks such as Facebook and Twitter to increase the app's ability to connect problems with solutions.
Q. Problem Halved is 59p and MEDL Mobile takes 75 per cent of profits, are you likely to make money from the application?
Top apps on the App Store earn in excess of $10,000/£6,000 per day - even at the 99 cent or the 59p price point. There's no guarantee that this app will make it to that level, but the team is doing everything possible to help this app reach as many people as possible and make it a winner.
Q. How did you and MEDL Mobile determine how much Problem Halved was worth?
We wanted to offer it at a low price initially so that we could quickly create a broad base of users. The more people using this app, the more powerful - and valuable - it becomes for the user. As more functionality is added we will also consider raising the price.
Q. Do you intend to develop new apps sooner than later and if so are they along the same lines?
MEDL Mobile is committed to working with me for the long haul. We're not sure what the next app will be - but we know that we've got a future together.
Q. Tell us why Problem Halved is worth downloading?
Firstly, we all know that the process of sharing your problem with a friend is often a big part of making yourself feel better. I believe that summing up the confidence to share your problem with the world is a major first step in addressing it. Maybe more than half. It feels good to use the app and share your problem.
Secondly, anyone who's offered advice to a friend, no matter how bad it is, knows that it feels good to give advice. It's nice to know that someone wants your opinion. I think this action is self-validating and therefore, has value. It feels good to use the app and offer solutions.
Thirdly, the problems being posted and the solutions being offered are amazing. I've read about a 17-year old Asian teen who needed help coming out to his parents, and I read a few solutions that I thought were very insightful. I personally asked the app for help sleeping because I have trouble falling asleep at night. I was blown away when I checked back the next day and had several really good suggestions.
Q. Why do you think your story above others has been a hit with the BBC, Sky News etc?
The whole point of Problem Halved is to help people. Everyone in life has problems. I think they like the fact that the application can help solve other people’s problems. I also think they liked the fact that I’m a bin man. Many people stereotype bin men as being thick uneducated people. I felt they thought a bin man developing Iphone applications was a unique story.
Q. Is this a classic rags to riches story brought up to date?
Maybe. Only time will tell but I’m so determined to try and make this work and provide a better life for myself and my partner.
Ideally I’m looking to get in this business full time. There’s a possibility of working for MEDL mobile full time, which would be fantastic. Six months ago I would have never believed all that has happened would have been possible.
Who knows what the future will bring. Maybe a full time job with MEDL or maybe Shoesmith software?
Only time will tell.
Available from the Apple iTunes App Store, Problem Halved costs 59p and requires the iPhone 3.0 Software Update or later.
MEDL Mobile is still seeking ideas for new iPhone applications in return for a substantial slice, 75 per cent, of any profits.
Which applications get the green light depends on five factors, says MEDL Mobile – originality, functionality, simplicity, revenue, opportunity and fun. More information on how to submit ideas can be found here.