My work on “London Bus Buddy” began in an interesting way. Over the summer of 2010, I took Stanford University’s iTunes U course on iPhone programming. One night towards the end of summer, I was returning home late on the bus. As I started brainstorming ideas for useful iPhone apps, I realized that I had long missed my stop. “Wouldn’t it be useful,” I thought to myself, “if there was a free bus app that reminded you when you were nearing your stop?”
With this one small idea, Bus Buddy was born. Of course, an alarm app on its own wasn’t challenging enough to program in my opinion, nor was it very useful. As the school year began, I started adding features like journey planning (using the A* path-finding algorithm) and the ability to locate nearby stops. At the end of December 2010, Bus Buddy was released into the wild whirlwind that is the iOS marketplace.
To say the least, I have been overwhelmed by the response. If I had known a free bus app would be so widely downloaded, I certainly would have worked to add additional features. Fortunately, through sporadic updates, I have been able to make the fixes and tweaks I needed. If you read through the blog, you’ll see how much the app has evolved!
For the moment, I plan on keeping Bus Buddy free indefinitely. Why? Because paid iPhone apps can be thought of (economically) as artificially scarce resources – they are excludable but non-rival in consumption. By putting a price tag on the app, I would gain more revenue at the cost of attracting far fewer customers. This in turn would create substantial deadweight loss for society. I don’t really want the revenue for myself in any case.
At the same time, I wanted to lend some support to Muskaan, an Indian charity that educates underprivileged children in Bhopal. By placing ads and gaining ad revenue through clicks and views, I have managed to raise more than $3500 to support the NGO, all while ensuring the app remained free.
Since Christmas 2010, the app has gone quite a long way. As of February 3, 2012, it has racked up more than 100,000 downloads. Since I cannot release updates very frequently (due to my studies), I am glad to have had a (mostly) patient user base that has supported my growth. Thank you all for your constructive suggestions.
If you have any comments or want to contact me, you can e-mail me (email@example.com) or comment on my blog posts!Laksh Bhasin Some guy from London, currently living in Pasadena