I get asked this question a lot. It's a very reasonable question. After all, I have an iPhone app, so why shouldn't there be an Android app?

As much as I love my smartphone (OK, OK, it's an iPhone), I kind of wish they'd never been invented. And this isn't a new feeling - it actually started more than a decade ago...

Perhaps a little background will help. I'm an optometrist, for anyone who didn't know that. While I was in optometry school a funny thing happened: A little thing called the internet started getting popular. I thought it was fascinating, and I wanted to be part of it. I started reading beginner HTML books, then programming books, database books, whatever I felt would help me make the website I had in my head. 

At the time my wife was working as an OD in a retail setting, and I was working in a clinic. I had a lot of free time on my nights and weekends, and they were all spent developing the first version of EyeDock.

Eventually I started showing people my little creation, and the feedback I received was very rewarding. However, it wasn't long before I received an email asking "where's the Palm version?" Whoa! Palm version? I'd never considered that, but it sounded cool. However, I didn't have a Palm pilot, didn't know how to program for it, but most importantly, I had so much more I wanted to do on the website.

As more time past, the question changed. "Are you planning on making a Windows phone version?" "When is the BlackBerry version coming out?"

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In 2007 the iPhone came out, and it was amazing. A year later I decided it was time to get my first smartphone, and I decided it was time to make my first iPhone app. I bought a book about programming in Objective-C, read the first four chapters, and . . . was really, really confused. By this time I'd learned Javascript, PHP, Actionscript (Flash), MYSQL, dabbled in Visual BASIC. Objective-C was a whole other animal. I knew I could figure it out. After all, I've learned a lot of difficult concepts in that I initially thought were insurmountable during my collegiate career.

In 2008, my life was starting to change in many ways. Most importantly, we had a son who quickly became the light of my life. Of course, spending my entire evenings and weekend maintaining a website and developing an iPhone app wasn't going to happen anymore. Still, I kept plugging away and, it took me about 18 months, but I finally published my iPhone app in iTunes. I was very proud of it: It was the most difficult programming task I'd undertaken.

While I was working on the iPhone app I started hearing rumors of a Google phone. Android was released, and the initial reviews were that it had potential but was laggy, didn't have the apps, and lacked the fit and finish of the iPhone. We all know what happened from there. Android got better fast. It became the number one mobile platform.

By this time, I was feeling like the time I'd spent on the iPhone app had caused me to neglect the web site for far too long. In addition, the upkeep had drastically increased. I had to maintain a database for the Web site and a slightly different one for the iPhone (some day I'd like to consolidate them - wish I'd figured out a way to do that the first time around). I had support emails because passwords with certain special characters didn't work on the app for some reason. Apple introduced a new version of iOS that totally broke how I was uploading my databases. That one happened around the time my second son was born - talk about stress!

So, where's the Android app? There really deserves to be one, I know. I'd really love to make one. I think it would be easier to create than the iPhone app: I sorta have this mobile thing figured out now, and if I could learn Objective-C I'm pretty sure I could learn Java. 

So why isn't there one? Well, it's certainly not because I have a prejudice against Android. I'm amazed at the the passion people have for their phones. You're either an iPhone fanboy or a h8ter. I can't think of anything like it. Maybe Ford vs. Chevy trucks? Nah, not even close.

As you might have guessed from the novel that this blog post has become, the issue is time. I spend my life as a father (of three great little boys now). I spend days as an optometrist. At night, after the kids get to bed, I do programming, data entry, and answer support emails. I've also done things with nearly every vacation day I've taken since 2002.

After doing this for so long I've worked out a lot of efficiencies that allow me to make great use of my time. It's helped me keep quite productive as my free time has declined. However, the thought of learning a yet another programming language and developing another app that will only further subdivide my time is, well, very intimidating.

As a consequence, I've spent the last year concentrating on the website. Soon I'll be releasing some new features that I'm very excited about. I'm also trying to make it more mobile accessible and have been slowly removing things like Flash. I'm hoping I can make EyeDock very functional on iPhones, Blackberries, Android phones, the new Windows phones, and whatever comes next.

I can't put into words how thankful I've been for our users over the years. EyeDock is my baby, and my #1 goal has always been to make a great resource for eye care professionals. I love building things, especially things for my fellow optometrists. That would have never been possible for all this time without the support of the people using the site.

- Todd

PS I think there may be one other question that may need to be addressed. Why can't I hire someone to make an Android app?

First of all, I've had some troubles contracting out EyeDock work in the past. As an OD, I know exactly how I want things to work. I've had a really hard time communicating this to non-OD programmers (let's call them eye-muggles). It's usually ended up being a mess, and I've either had to 1) spend an ungodly amount of time explaining how I want things to work or 2) I've just ended up doing it myself anyway.

Secondly, I actually did contact a large company that  does app development. They actually spent a lot of time trying to talk me out of an Android app - too many different screen sizes, too much fragmentation, etc. When I persisted they quoted a fee that I was, to put it mildly, unprepared for. The website does pay its bills, but being an optometrist is primarily how I make my living. EyeDock is my passion, but I have to make practical decisions.

Posted
AuthorTodd Zarwell