Senior develops iPhone apps

Pat O'Keefe
Pat O'Keefe

Have you ever turned your iPod on shuffle and thought, “I haven’t heard this song in forever?”

UM snior Pat O’Keefe is making sure that never happens again with his iPhone application, Forgotten Favorites, released last month to Apple’s App Store.

Born of O’Keefe’s desire to “reinvent the way” users browse their music, Forgotten Favorites analyzes an iTunes library and determines what songs and albums haven’t been played recently.

Priced at $1.99, it presents the neglected music on an iPhone as a page of album icons or a playlist of songs that can be selected. iPhone users can modify the settings to favor the music they love most or the music they’ve ignored in the past.

“I think it’s fantastic. It creates epic playlists,” O’Keefe said, proud of his application, which he said took about a month to create.

O’Keefe, an electrical engineering major and self-proclaimed “unapologetic nerd,” collaborated on Forgotten Favorites with UM alum Reid Draper and his roommate Eric Humphrey, a music engineering grad student.

“I’m very proud of the work we did developing the application,” said Humphrey. “It was a lot of work. A lot. I can’t stress how diligently we worked on the project. But it was always enjoyable.”

This is not the first app O’Keefe has created or the most successful.

When Apple began allowing outside developers to create applications for the iPhone in January 2008, O’Keefe jumped at the opportunity.

After buying the software and analyzing the sample code, O’Keefe created Voice Record, one of the first 500 applications produced for the iPhone.

Released in June 2008 and also priced at $1.99, the Voice Record app, which records the voice of the phone user and allows the recording to be transferred to the user’s computer, proved to be extremely lucrative.

At one time, it appeared on Apple’s top 25 paid applications, a list O’Keefe deems “the holy grail.”

“I got so lucky,” said O’Keefe, 35,000 downloads later. He explained that though many phones at the time had some type of voice recording device already built into them, the iPhone had yet to develop one.

Bill Vilberg, instructor of the university’s “iPhone Development Meet-ups,” learned of O’Keefe’s app acceptance at one of last year’s meetings. He does not attribute O’Keefe’s success to luck, however, but rather to his “strong programming abilities.”

“Anyone that gets to the point of creating an application and getting it accepted by the App Store has my deepest respect,” Vilberg said.

Apple now offers a more advanced voice recording application for free, rendering O’Keefe’s app obsolete, yet O’Keefe is surprised to find that Voice Record is still selling.

Though Apple receives 30 percent of the profits, O’Keefe said with a laugh, “It’s a fantastic deal for developers. No one’s complaining about 70 percent.”

Bound for graduate school in the spring, O’Keefe would like to continue working with “accessible technology” because he finds it rewarding, but he does not intend to work for Apple anytime soon.

“I personally am going to move away from iPhone development,” O’Keefe said.

He believes the competition is simply too steep. With more than 30,000 applications now listed on Apple’s App Store, O’Keefe described Forgotten Favorites as merely “a needle in the haystack.” He has not earned nearly what he did with Voice Record. O’Keefe has concluded that iPhone development is no longer an appropriate medium “if you are in it to make money.”

Instead, he plans on getting involved with Google phones (T-Mobile’s my Touch 3G, for example), which he thinks will grow rapidly.

“The iPhone as a development platform is very much at a crossroads,” Humphrey said. “So is the Android environment [Google phones]. One’s booming and overcrowded. The other is untested and absolutely teeming with potential.”