Feature Stories

Making iPhone Apps at NJIT: Meet Tyler Auten

Tyler Auten: NJIT iPhone Application Developer

Three months into his iPhone Application Development class, Tyler Auten did something that impressed his instructor and, perhaps more importantly, made himself some money.  

He created two iPhone applications (apps) that Apple approved and released for sale on its online App store.  And Tyler, an NJIT senior, is already making what he describes as 'side money' from the sale of his apps (Apple keeps 30 percent of each app sale or download; the developer keeps the rest). 

Both of Tyler's iPhone apps are simple and quirky. One, called Kids Be Gone, emits high-frequency tones that children can hear -- to their great annoyance ' but middle-aged adults cannot ' to their relief. The tones also cause dogs of all ages to prick up their ears. 

And those who download Tyler's second app, Party Music Strobe, can set a strobe light to pulsate to the beat of whatever song it is they listen to. Users can vary the length and the frequency of the strobe light. Right now, his apps are priced cheaply, under a dollar. 

But Tyler is eagerly programming more apps (some of which he can't talk about for fear that other developers will 'borrow' his ideas) that he hopes Apple will accept.  One he willing to talk about is a child-naming app that helps expecting parents find names for their babies.  And his ultimate app goal is to design a social network for the iPhone. If he did that, and if the network became a "killer" app, his "side income" from app sales could mushroom into a gold rush.  Recently, some app developers have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few months from sales of their games.

Tyler is excited about his new-found entrepreneurial efforts as an iPhone app developer. And he's happy and grateful that he signed up for the iPhone Application Development course, a class that taught him everything he needed to know to make a successful iPhone app.

"When I walked into the first class in January," Tyler says, 'I had no experience in programming iPhone apps.  But as the course progressed I used the programming skills I learned to build the apps that I am currently selling on the iTunes App Store.  It's a great class, one that teaches you skills you can immediately use to become an entrepreneur."

The iPhone Apps class, which began in January, is the brainchild of Jim Robertson, the lead instructor for the class and director of NJIT's University Web Services.  NJIT was one of the first universities in the nation, along with Stanford, to offer an iPhone application development course, Robertson said.  

The upper-level course started off with Robertson leading the students through case studies of successful applications. Successful app developers also visited the class to discuss app development with the students.  These days, as the semester winds down, the students spend most of their class time in a Mac lab refining their own apps.

At the start of the semester, each student in the class was given an iPod Touch, which does most everything the iPhone does except make phone calls. The students were also registered as iPhone software developers. To create their apps, they use Objective-C, the coding language, and iPhone SDK, the development platform.

Though the first iPhone came out in the summer of 2007, it wasn't until July 2008 that people could buy applications created by outsiders, which Apple introduced in a new online market: the App Store. With the opening of that store, Apple kick-started a whole new market for iPhone app development, said Robertson.

"And we at NJIT wanted to tap into the excitement of that market and give our students a chance to creatively express their coding and designing skills," Robertson said. "That's why we started this class."

NJIT values innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurship, said Robertson, and those are just the things students are learning in the iPhone app class.

"I'm thrilled that Tyler used the iPhone course to jumpstart his apps career and I hope," added Robertson with a smile, "that he makes a million dollars from his apps."

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)