Available from the Apple iTunes App Store, Records 1.0 is the first iPhone application from Finnish developers Parasol. It brings the power of Discogs, the huge online user-built database of just about everything you need to know about a particular record, to the small screen without needing to squint to read those recording details. A work of love for the four man team based in Turku, Finland, Macworld caught up with Johan Halin, developer of Records and Ab Parasol Oy member, to discover more about the application and the developer's future plans.
Q. So why build your first application around Discogs?
Because it's something I really wanted myself. I shop for used records a lot at flea markets and other places that don't have any means of listening to the records before buying them. So I've always used Discogs as a resource for finding out a bit more about a record. The thing is, the stores I frequent don't have 3G or even EDGE so Discogs is quite slow and a bit tricky to navigate in Safari, which gave me the idea for Records.
Q. Did you have to seek the websites permission?
No. All the data on Discogs is available via a Public Domain license. The Discogs API does have some limits on usage, but Records users shouldn't have any trouble keeping within the limits.
Q. Did you worry that amongst the thousands of applications someone might have the same idea?
I didn't worry too much. There are loads of Twitter etc clients, and several of those seem to be doing just fine. To be honest, I waited for someone else to develop a similar app first so that I wouldn't have to. However, there was too much waiting, so I did my own app.
Q. How difficult was it to get things looking clean and concise?
The display of search results went through the most revisions. First, Records showed practically everything there was to show in the results, but that looked absolutely insane. So, gradually it changed into what it is now. As for the release details view, the table view seemed like a natural fit for displaying the details. Of course, things might still change. It's only a 1.0 after all.
Q. How did you decide to set the price for Records?
I feel $0.99 is undervaluing any application, but anything more than $1.99 seems a bit steep for what Records does right now. This also means that the price may go up at some point as Records gains more features. You could see it as an extended introductory price.
Q. Now how do you go about promoting Records?
Currently I try to reach out to existing Discogs users and other music shoppers through forums and the like. Records is probably a bit of a niche app for most media outlets, so that limits its mainstream appeal a bit.
Q. And how was the App Store approval process?
I had no problems with the approval process. The time for approval was almost exactly as Apple said it would be. Of course, the rating had to be 17+ as one can find quite a bit of naughty results on Discogs.
Computer Love: Records searches the Discogs database.
Q. How do you know when to release an application?
I don't. :) I'm still quite new to this whole app development biz, so I released version 1.0 when it "felt finished", which in this case meant that it did what it was supposed to do, and didn't have any weird bugs. Of course, some bugs made it into the final version, and are fixed in 1.0.1 which is waiting for approval now.
Q. And what can we see in version 1.1?
The much-requested artist and label pages will be the major new thing in 1.1. Those will take some time to implement so I don't think there will be any other major new features yet.
Q. Finally what can we expect in the near future from Ab Parasol Oy?
More iPhone and Mac apps, although we don't have anything specific to announce yet. We also do some client work on web projects.
(Available from the Apple iTunes App Store Records 1.0 costs £1.19 and requires the iPhone 3.0 Software Update or later.)