During my high school days, I have developed multiple Android mobile apps. Those were happy days, back in time when I had a lot of free time to learn, explore and play on those side project mobile apps.
From this point of view, some of those apps were successful and some of them were not. Fun fact is that one of them had nearly 300k downloads in total.
During those days, I had a lot of fun experience and fun time while working on them. I got an idea to write this blog post, about those days and my development in high school, because... last weekend I decided to unpublish and archive them all.
I wanted to close that chapter of my life in this way. I develop them 6-7 years ago, learned new things, had fun, made some decent monetization AdSense money from them. More than enough for me as a high school student at that moment... and now after all of that, it was a time to unpublish them and archive that chapter of my life, to seal it with this blog post and words, which I am sharing with you now.
If you are interested in how my journey with those high school side projects begin?... and you have 10 min of your free time?
Ok, let's start from the beginning...
It was 2012, and it was a cold winter in my country. I still remember the big snow that surprised us all, and as far as I can remember the whole Balkan area had a similar situation with the snow. I was interested in learning and watching the Android/Java tutorials. I had enough time because there was a big school break at that time due to a snow emergency situation. I was truly happy because there was no school at all in that period of time.
I remember this because my father and brother were cleaning the roads and area around our home, and they were calling me to help them with it. But I was too occupied by downloading different tutorial series from YouTube, and most of the were on how to make Android app with Java from the zero, from scratch. I was a 100% beginner at that point in time.
More precisely, until those days I did not write any line of code in Java language.
Before that winter I had a couple of years of experience playing with C++ and making simple console examples. C++ is the first programming language which I used to write first "Hello World!". But that winter I decided that I want to learn how to make Android apps. I wanted to deep dive into the magical world of mobile applications and nice GUIs.
Another reason was that I wanted to test them and run them on my new smartphone. I got that smartphone around the New Year's Eve, and it was a great budget phone at that time. It was Samsung Galaxy S5830 (aka Galaxy Ace), more details.
I still remember all the steps that you needed to do in order to set up the Eclipse IDE to start building the Android apps inside of it.
All the way from the first tutorial I fell in love with it. The thing I really liked was that I can make an Android app, deploy it on my device and show it to my family and friends. I was really proud of every example and demo which I made.
The current version of the Android OS on my smartphone was Android 2.3 (Gingerbread).
So, someday or even now I can say that I developed the apps for Android 2.3 back in time. 😂
Android Gingerbread looked something like this (I found this screenshot on the web):
... and this is how I looked back in 2013, a photo was taken in front of my high school in Mostar.
High school days continued after the big snow, and I continued to learn and to explore Java and Android SDK through the months that were coming, but in a slower pace, because I had other duties, tasks, exams and other high school projects.
Enjoyment of learning and building simple examples with a new language is best described in the next story. I was in class with my friend, and I told him that I can't wait to go back home because I found a new complete tutorial series on Java/Android topics. I am sure he looked at me with some kind of weird face on, but can't remember to be honest. 🤣
First commercial app.
Anyway, it was 2013 and started to work on my first commercial app, and it was a radio station app. I was building small samples whenever I learned something new. At that time my cousin had a radio station so I decided to build an app with audio streaming feature and some other related information about his radio station.
It was very simple but fully working mobile app with main purpose and feature. With that feature, the user could listen to the radio station in foreground or background mode. In that case, for that app behaviour and feature, I needed to start exploring and experimenting with Android Service(s).
This is how the app looked back in 2013/2014. To be honest it was a really nice-looking app for that period of time. Considering that I was only one person to do design and whole UI/UX part. Not sure what do you think, but I was really happy with the result in the end.
The app was ready for release but there was a small issue, I was under 18 and I did not have a bank account and debit card, so I waited for summer months when my birthday is. The idea was to get the personal id, bank account and to finally sign up/register on Google Play (Developer) Console and start publishing the apps on which I was working in that time.
In the autumn od 2013, the first commercial app was released and it was used by 5k to 10k of users. In the end, it had over 10k downloads in total, I think.
It was a great experience and I was truly happy to have the main role in creating some kind of product which was used by a huge number of (happy) users.
First popular mobile app on my own.
As I already mentioned, in the summer of 2013 I was 18 (finally) and I could register on my own at Google Play as a developer and publisher. I wanted to have some official name and not just my name. So, I decided to have some kind of non-official online/internet company which will represent me and my work online.
It was called AV Development... yeah I know not so much creative. Logo of that "company" was really basic and meaning behind the name is pretty much self-explaining. 😂
But it was important for me to have some kind of official presentation and not just "Almir Vuk". The logo and "company" was proof that appearance on Google Play was important to me at that moment of time. I even bought the domain and had a whole website about my mobile apps and services which I provided at that moment.
So... AV Development was my first internet "company" without any legal papers, it was some kind of different name for me and my high school projects which I wanted to own.
This was a short introduction to the main topic of this blog post and that is a mobile app which I was building and publishing under this name on Google Play.
... and the story beings like this...
While I was working on the radio station app, some weird idea was going through my head. Can't remember how I came up with it, how that idea got in my head... but I wanted to make some simple app with a list of all (or most popular) names in Balkan area. List of names contained the names from all the ethnicities and religions.
The idea of the app was to tell you what kind of meaning your name has. I knew that in the Balkan area people like to know those kinds of stuff... and for example, my name has Arabic/Orient origins and it means "the commander, the prince" in the Arabic language.
And I knew people wanted to know those meanings, meanings of their name, names from their family and friends. There were few sites and books which provided that kind of data, but I was not able to connect to them and parse the data, or I did not have enough knowledge to do that. So, I decided to keep all the data in some kind of local database form. It took me a few days to gather all the data and to store it in a database.
The app had two main activities/pages, one was a list of the names, in alphabet order with the search feature on the top. The tap event on one of the names would navigate you to another activity where details of the name and full meaning was shown.
As I already said, it was a very simple app, very simple idea. I still remember my parents told me that idea is too simple and that there will be no people who wanted to use that kind of an app. But in some weird way, I had some other thoughts about it. I believed it could have a nice result in the end.
I made a simple logo for it and choose the purple color with white fonts as the main design strategy.
This is how the app looked.
and the logo was also pretty much simple also.
I was over 18, I had just opened a bank account and that was important because with that I could sign up for Google AdSense (Ad Mob) and the next step was to include those ads (banners and interstitial) in the mobile app. 😁
I was close to finishing the app. Just needed to do final changes, logo edits, and the app was ready for a publish. I have published the app to the Google Play store sometime in November - 2013. After I released it, I did a standard share via social media on Facebook and Instagram.
I was looking at the stats every day and, in a few days, ... I started to notice small growth in the number of downloads. The numbers were around 100, next day around 200, next day 400, next day 600 etc. The Google Play Console is showing you the number of active installs for a day before...
In a period of time, in twenty days, it was over 10 000 downloads.
One of the most popular local news portal, called Dnevni Avaz, made small a post/story about the app and numbers continued to grow even more.
Translation: "Značenje imena" (name of the app) is one of the most popular Android apps in BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
The title of the news portal was true, at that moment my app was in the top 10 in Google Play category in Education category.
Also, noticed that my money balance on Google AdSense dashboard was also growing and I was more than happy to start earning some more than decent money as a high school student.
The number of downloads continued to grow; it was around 50 000 around New Year's Eve. And finally, the 100 000 downloads number was reached in the middle of February.
Translation: "More than 100.000 users downloaded the app from Almir Vuk".
During those times I was even on TV a couple of times, had few interviews for tv stations and other relevant news portals.
Yeah, those were interesting times. 😂
Later that year app was download more than 200k times, and till 2018/2019 when the old system of counting was still active in Google Play Console it reached the number of nearly 300k.
But due to the counting system on Google Play... 5k, 10k, 100k, 500k, 1M, on Google Play public page till yesterday it was this number.
... and it also had over 4k reviews and ratings.
It was a great experience.
At the end all I can say is that I am very proud of that app, even it was a small app, simple idea with an only local database as a storage, it found it's own user base with that huge number for the local market.
Who knows, maybe this is an example that sometimes for success you don't need to target the global market, and if you ask me, in my case that was true.
I was working on that small app in the summer days, at school break in my free time. I worked on it at my room and I got that idea randomly from somewhere, in some weird way dots just connected. Took me some time to gather all the data and to prepare all the visual parts of it.
In the end, users loved it, I was happy... and it brought me some TV fame also. 😂
I made a few thousand euros from AdSense revenue over a couple of active years when the app was popular and had a huge amount of active users.
Yesterday I checked AdSense stats for the exact and full amount and the reaction was this kind smile. 😁
In the meantime, besides that app; I made some other apps as well, some of them were commercial also and some of them were my own projects and hobby apps just like that app which had a huge amount of downloads.
I also went to a couple of school/university competitions with some other projects and apps.
Can't really remember the exact numbers but few of them had also over 10k - 50k total downloads and they also contained some ad banners as well... so that helped also.
Closing this chapter.
Last weekend I decided to cancel my AdSense account and unpublished all those high school Android apps.
To be honest! It was a happy period of my life, I learned a lot of stuff, made some decent amount of money. But I don't really have time for those maintenances, and those apps are looking pretty funny and too simple from this time distance.
With this blog post, I wanted to share a little short story about my high school days and projects on which I worked, the projects which were important for me in the past.
It was sixteen of them. Every one of them was my own kind of playground for learning and testing new and interesting stuff which I explored through the time.
The reasons why I wanted to write this blog post.
- To have something which I will read in 2030 or later and which will put the smile on my face
- To share an interesting story with you, who is reading this
- To remember (while writing this) the happy days which I had in a high school
- To share it with my dear friends which were part of this great journey, they were those who were testing the apps, proposing the features, giving the five-star ratings, sharing them on social media... This is also for you! ❤
- To close this chapter and move on, on more interesting and more advanced topics in my life
The Android and Java are the past for me, currently, I am in a happy relationship with Xamarin/Xamarin.Forms, as you may know... Also currently, I am a Microsoft MVP and I am developing the software with .NET and C# from 2016.
If you are interested in that story, how I became .NET oriented developer let me know and I will write about that also.
This was a fun experience to remember all the things in a timeline approach, it brings me back a lot of nice memories from high school and early university days.
From the times when I was thinking about starting my own company. I can say that I was a student with a head full of different kind of dreams than today. But all of these stories from the past shaped me and had a huge impact on how I think and how I feel today.
This side projects, independent project call them however you like, provided me with a way to play with code, publish it, interact with all kind of different users via email or Facebook... and earn some decent amount of money.
I was in high school and the money from Ads was great for that period of my life. I can say that I was financially independent of my parents and that was a huge deal for me... also, and I had 5 minutes of fame of popular TV stations. 🤣
That's it, that was my story about high school developer days, projects and other parts of that life.
Till the next time, I wish you all the best and thank you for taking the time to read this story.