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Zenbu on iPhones September 2009

September 3, 2009

Version 2.27 of the Zenbu iPhone app is out today, almost 1 year after it first went live. Thousands of New Zealanders have downloaded the app and use it as a mobile reference directroy on a regular basis. The app is entirely offline so we don’t have any statistics but anecdotal evidence suggests it is well used and appreciated.

Even a few foreigners have used the app; we got a glowing reference from a German tourist who raved about having Zenbu on his iPhone during his stay here (and the cheap Zenbu wifi available nationwide).

Back in February I was contacted by a student in the final semester of his degree course in Computer Engineering at Manukau Institute of Technology. He asked if he could use the Zenbu database for a “location awareness” software project, sketches below, a search app similar to the Zenbu iPhone app. Zenbu data is Creative Commons Attribution Licensed so of course I said yes. I was even able to help Jay along with some of my experiences learned in developing the original app.

Find!NZ idea sketch

In April Jay released Find!NZ on the Apple App Store. After 3 days it was top of the Free Navigation category. It is still top of the Navigation category over 4 months later! Jay has told me the app has had over 20,000 downloads in that time which is amazing. Between the Zenbu app and the Find!NZ app, Zenbu data must be on almost every iPhone in NZ. Wow.

Last week I finally got to meet Jay and I gratefully accepted his offer to buy me lunch. It turns out that Jay was contacted by an impressed user of Find!NZ and offered a full time job as an iPhone app developer which I think is really cool. Jay may not remember but in his original email to me he wrote

I actually have no intention to be a permanent iPhone App developer.

But Jay does have a family and bills to pay so he is now gainfully employed as an iPhone developer. Congratulations Jay.

Find!NZ is now up to its third or fourth version and it is pretty shit hot. Jay was a Graphic Designer in a past life and that shows through in the beautiful icons throughout the app, the fact that he is now an iPhone developer wizard certainly adds a lot of polish to the app too. Whether you have the Zenbu app or not, I highly recommend checking Find!NZ out.

Jay and I talked about a bunch of possible future developments (just imagine two iPhone nerds bubbling over the potential)  and I plan to work with him to fine tune Zenbu usage on the iPhone. One of Jay’s requests was for more Public Toilets on Zenbu! Councils often have lists of these so everybody do Jay a favour and look on your local council website for a list of toilet locations. If you send them through in a spreadsheet to we’ll get them loaded up on the site for Jay and all the iPhone users.

(I wonder if this story will encourage other developers to develop applications using Zenbu data. Mobile apps for Symbian and Blackberry would be prime candidates. It might not make you rich but the fame could take you places!)


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