• Video Review: CarTunes for iOS

    I'm trying something a little different his week and doing a video review of CarTunes for iOS. With an app like CarTunes, which centres around multitouch music controls, I could (and tried to) write 1500 words about it and still not come close to conveying how easy and fun it is to use. Showing you is much, much easier.

    As I said, this is something new for me, so I'd appreciate any feedback on the video review itself as well. Also, please forgive my shitty taste in music

    For those of you who're after a bit of a read, I've got a little something extra. I sat down with Ryan Oksenhorn, the creator of CarTunes, via email and asked him about the origins of the app as well as where he sees it going next:

    Alec: How did you get your start in iOS development? Is it something you're pursuing as a career or something you do on the side?

    Ryan: I've wanted to make apps since the first jailbreak apps appeared, months before Apple's App Store launched. It wasn't until a year later that I began programming in college and picked up iOS development as a hobby. I developed CarTunes for the past two years while finishing my degree. Now, I work full time at Romotive, building apps for Romo, the smartphone robot. CarTunes is now my night job.

    Alec: From the apps you've released on the App Store, it looks like you got your start in iPad development. Did CarTunes start as an iPad app and move down to the iPhone or was it always envisioned as an iPhone app?

    Ryan: I started app development on the iPhone, and earned enough for an iPad from my first toy app. But CarTunes was initially an iPhone app. I conceptualized it months before I could code it, and built the first version for iPhone in December 2010. It wasn't until this past summer that I launched CarTunes for iPad.

    Alec: The CarTunes interface is, frankly, one of my favourite interfaces on iOS probably because it's quite a radical departure from the look of most iOS apps. In fact, it almost feels like it would be more at home on a Nexus 4 with the clean lines and complete lack of stitched leather. Where did the inspiration for the interface come from?

    Ryan: It's funny that you mention leather, because version 1 had black leather with glossy dark mahogany to mimic the interior of a nice car. But as the app evolved, I focused on responsiveness of the interface and emphasis of the music.

    Alec: The album art colour matching is one of my personal favourite details and one of the key differentiators of the CarTunes interface. What did you think when you saw album art colour matching take centre stage in iTunes 11?

    Ryan: Album artwork can have gorgeous color, and I like how iTunes puts more emphasis on them music.

    Alec: Gestures like next, previous, holding down and moving up and down to change volume are incredibly intuitive. How did you come up with the less obvious ones, like pinch to see the album for the current song and the two finger taps and swipes for repeat and shuffle? Have you got any plans to expand the gesture support by adding taps as an alternative to swipes or allowing users to customise gestures?

    Ryan: I use CarTunes. I use it a lot, in fact. So initially, some gestures weren't great. But from my own intuition, I've refined them to be as natural and appropriate as possible. Gestures were fully customizable at one point. Again, I removed this for simplicity and by making the interface react differently to each gesture.

    Alec: Where did the idea for swipe down to tweet come from? Was it something that you wanted to include from day one or did it grow out of the user base taking screenshots and sharing them?

    Ryan: Pull-to-tweet was an accident, actually. For months, I'd been wanting to add social support and quickly settled on hiding the controls under the top of the "Now Playing" screen, revealed by pulling down. I was half way through implementing a design that called for a Tweet button to be revealed when the screen was pulled down. Except a small coding error caused the pull-to-tweet "feature" to accidentally occur; pulling down then releasing once the Tweet button was fully visible pulled up the "Tweet Composer." I immediately loved the obviousness and never looked back.

    Alec: CarTunes has had support for playing podcasts from the built in library for a while. Since the introduction of the less than exciting Podcasts app from Apple, a lot of people are switching to apps like DownCast, PocketCasts and InstaCast. Have you considered adding native podcast downloading to CarTunes itself or striking up a partnership with one of the other Podcast catching apps?

    Ryan: No, CarTunes will always remain focused on playing music better than any other app. Anything that doesn't advance toward that doesn't belong in CarTunes.

    Alec: Are you considering expanding to the likes of Android, Windows Phone or, dare I say it, BlackBerry 10?

    Ryan: No. I'm not convinced I'd be able to provide the attention or quality to another platform. Especially these platforms.

    Alec: With that in mind where do you see CarTunes going from here? Have you got any plans for apps after CarTunes?

    Ryan: Other than a few last hanging fruits, CarTunes won't change much. It will continue to improve in speed and stability, but users know what they're getting.

    Alec: Is there anything on the horizon that you can tell us about to wet our appetites for the next release of CarTunes?

    Ryan: Search, for sure. More categories of media on the top bar (genres, audiobooks, etc.) will come soon.

    This really is one of my favourite apps and I'd like to thank Ryan again for his time. You can find CarTunes on Facebook (where you can see the evolution of the UI from the leather dashboard version that Ryan mentioned in the interview up to it's current minimalist version) and Twitter. Be sure to check out the #NowPlaying hashtag to see what other users are listening to. The app is universal and available on the App Store for AU$5.49.

    Alec has short stumpy fingers and is easily irritated by small buttons placed in ridiculous locations, hence his love of large multitouch displays and apps that make good use of them. You can normally find him lurking on the forums (formerly thatfilthyspringbok, currently alfrsr) or follow him on Twitter, Google+ or on his blog, Inane Geekery

    His opinions are all his own and do not reflect those of MacTalk or his employer.
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