"Once I saw that the iPhone 4 was going to have an LED flash on it...a light bulb turned on in my head....how's that for cheesy?"
Mike D'Ulisse and his brother Matt have a knack for creating gold out of the most simple ideas. They've done fairly well with other strong apps such as Pocket Labeler, Ransom Letters, and Star Blaster (previously called iPhaser), but their new Flashlight app has turned out to be the biggest app yet.
My question was, how do you hit it big with an app that anyone and everyone can/will recreate?
"I figured that every developer out there was thinking the same thing...it almost didn't seem worth the time, so I brought it up to my brother and business partner, but he wasn't exactly on board because we are in the middle of a different project and we don't like putting things aside to work on new ideas til the current idea (app) is on the store. So as the release of iPhone 4 approached I started pushing to do it, and we finally decided we would make the app."
Being the Chief Marketing Officer of the company, Mike knew that he had to get the ball rolling if the app were to have a chance with publicity. It's not exactly the easiest thing in the world to get a flashlight app publicized, so timing is everything. He had already gotten press coverage from some prominent app news sites, something that is almost necessary for a successful app, but it was what happened after the submission of the app is what separates Mike of More Blu Sky from the typical flashlight developer.
Aside from guzzling a pot of coffee a day and only sleeping 4 hours a night, Mike works two other jobs and somehow fits in a (very understanding) girlfriend. I asked him how he did it, and he replied with one word, "passion". Apparently it's this passion that gets things done, and getting things done is what he did.
"After submitting, I was told that flashlight apps were being turned away. I'm not one to accept no as no, so I decided to email Phil Shiller because I had seen that he helped developers out before." "He assured me that the would take it up with the review team... but of course that wasn't good enough for me, so I bugged Apple a bit with a few phone calls, a few emails. I even sent them a video from WWDC that told developers to get creative with the LED flash. Suffice to say...I was a real pain in the butt"
Because of all the hellraising, MacRumors.com wrote up an article that got some attention... while also making him out to be the hero of the flashlight app developers. In Mike's own form of modesty, he said, "Well, when someone makes some noise, people tend to listen. And when they listen, sometimes they reevaluate stances on things. Can I take all the credit? No, it would have been discussed internally at Apple."
With all the publicity generated from various sources, the app was in the top 30 of utilities in the first 30 minutes and "within 45 minutes it was in the top 100 in the whole store."
Again though, how does a person decide to buy one flashlight app over another? Flashlight - For iPhone 4 was the top flashlight app at launch even though another flashlight app was being featured by Apple. It just didn't make sense to me.
"I suspect that might have something to do with the fact that the (competitors) icon doesn't scream LED Flashlight to customers." "It's not just another flashlight app and the icon had to say that."
He went on, quite possibly driven by the end of a days worth of caffeine. "Duplicating the camera icon is very popular with camera apps so I didn't want to focus on the camera lens ..but I wanted to show it. The main focus is the LED, but is still has to look like the back of an iPhone. I spent maybe an hour on it. I'm a bit obsessive when it comes to icons but we didn't have time for 10 revisions of he icon so it had to be a winner the first round."
"I think we did good."
Was there any other reason for the apps success, other than the icon?
"It's built how I feel Apple would have built it if they were in the flashlight app making business." "The graphics just feel right on the app. it's almost like holding a real flashlight in your hand, and the UI is very clean"
It became very clear to me that More Blu Sky is successful because the team slaves over the most minute details. It's a common trait that is found in successful development teams, from the team at tap tap tap all the way to Bolt Creative, creators of the meticulous Pocket God. Get the details right and people tend to notice.
"Look at things from the users perspective and build apps around their perception of an average user. That's how Apple does it."
When asked about the future of Flashlight - For iPhone 4, Mike went on and said "we are working on SOS right now and we are looking at Morse Code...but we are also in the middle a development cycle for another app, so we are going to try and finish that app and continue to support Flashlight - For iPhone 4 for as long as people are still interested in buying it. I get emails all the time about features that people want. I would love for it to turn into a flashlight app with 10-15 different features. I have ideas in my head and I even have a rework of the UI that I would love to execute if the feature list grew."
He never stops. It must be the passion... or the coffee.
If you want to get your hands on Flashlight - For iPhone 4, Michael is giving out promo codes to the first 60 people that send him a request. Send the emails to mbskypromo at gmail dot com. Let him know of any new features you'd like to see too... he'd probably appreciate the input.