Dublin student gets a tasty slice of Apple's pie


TWENTY-YEAR-OLD Dublin student Steven Troughton-Smith has emerged as Ireland’s most successful software developer for Apple’s iPhone, generating revenues of up to $1,000 a day.

The first-year student of Digital Media Engineering at Dublin City University has developed Lights Off, a simple puzzle game, which sold almost 700 copies last Friday, just five days after it was released. Troughton-Smith estimates that if the sales of Lights Off and the other iPhone applications he has developed keep up, he could be grossing €9,000 a month.

Since it was launched last July, Apple’s App Store, an area of its iTunes service where free and paid-for applications for iPhones and iPod Touch multimedia players can be downloaded, has generated more than 500 million downloads of the approximately 15,000 titles available.

Although Apple takes one-third of all revenues generated, this has not deterred independent programmers from signing up. Many, like self-taught Troughton-Smith who lives in Killiney, Co Dublin, are long-time Apple fans who are generating a significant income by developing for the phone which has sold more than 10 million units since its 2007 launch.

“I’ve thought about working for Apple, but I’m not sure yet,” he says. “I’m seeing how it works out for me on my own at the moment.”

Although the App Store has developed a reputation as being home to frivolous programs for teenagers, such as the notorious iFart, Troughton-Smith’s experience suggests there is a direct correlation between the amount of time spent developing a title and its sales.

He says Speed, a simple program which uses the iPhone’s GPS capability to tell you how fast you are travelling, “took an hour to figure out” and has generated revenues of almost $3,000. In contrast he spent 175 days on Lights Off, a total rewrite of a game written by developer Lucas Newman, who subsequently was hired by Apple. It generated profits of $2,200 in the first five days of its release.

Apple’s charts of best-selling iPhone applications suggest that sales of Lights Off will begin to drop off after a few weeks, but he already has ideas for a few more titles, including a client for the social web service of the moment – Twitter.

Troughton-Smith has benefited from Apple using the icon for his Speed application in a montage that is being used in TV, web and print advertising that also features established brands such as Amazon, the New York Times, eBay and AOL Instant Messenger.

He admits that although it can be hard sometimes to get assistance from Apple, that changes once you are on its radar.

He’s also impressed that $85 billion Apple is willing to give a chance to bedroom developers.

“In Ireland there is not much of a marketplace for independent developers, but in the US they are willing to take risks,” says Troughton-Smith. “For €89 I can sell to every iPhone and iPod Touch in the world.”

 Apple reinvents the software industry: next Monday in Innovationmagazine