| FROM APP TO ZACHARY: An iPhone mastermind whose design company is in Portland. |
IMAGE: Adam Tow
Need to know what liquor store is open late? There’s an app for that.
Dude, where’s my car? Use the app that retraces your steps. Got to train your dog? There’s a whistle app.
The wonderland of the iPhone App (Apple-speak for application) Store is as great as the commercials say—it’s filled with programs designed to make your life easier, entertain you and impress your friends.
But how about the masterminds making all these wonders available at your fingertips?
Meet Raven Zachary, president of Portland iPhone design company Small Society. Zachary, 36, and his 10-person staff have big plans for the small screen and have developed more than 20 apps (mostly free to downloaders) for everyone from Soulja Boy to President Obama.
The company’s latest app, a store locator and recipe book for Whole Foods Market, launched last month on the same day Apple debuted its newest iPhone operating system, 3.0—making Zachary’s the first app specifically designed for the newest technology.
Zachary tore himself away from his downtown office to talk to WW about Apple’s future, key chains and fart apps.
WW: How did you get into the business of designing iPhone apps?
Raven Zachary: I’ve always been an Apple fan since I was a child. I was at Macworld when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in January 2007 and was so excited about the opportunities with the platform. I was happily employed as an industry analyst at the time, but I was so passionate about the iPhone that I spent that year trying to [create] a career change around it. So, I helped a friend’s company develop their app. I had so much fun; I said, “I want to do this for a living.” So I resigned from my job [and] jumped in with two feet. A week later, through a set of coincidences, I was contacted by the Obama campaign to build their iPhone application. I assembled a team and launched it in October. We had a tremendous success with that application. Then people started coming to me, saying, “I see what you did with Obama. Can you help me with my app?”
Do you think you helped Obama win?
No, although people thank me all the time for that. We had over half a million active users of the application. Close to 50,000 phone calls were made. One of the major features of the app was to call your friends, and we would sort the contacts in your phone by key battleground states. It would tell you, “Call these people and advocate.” This kind of micro-volunteering concept, where you could make a few phone calls while you’re waiting in the dentist’s office, I think is going to be very pervasive in [future elections].
What do you do with your old iPhones when the new ones come out?
I always keep them. I have a stack because I need one of everything for testing. So I need to have all three iPhones, and both kinds of iPod touches. But I actually need more than that, because once you upgrade you can’t go back down and I need to have a phone [to test all operating systems]. I’m the guy on Craigslist that is going to buy all your old phones.
What does the iPhone not do that you wish it would?
[Shakes keychain.] This. I want to get rid of this. To me, the person that can get rid of these is the next billionaire. I think it’s time we all did away with physical, metallic keys and moved toward ubiquitous electronic locks with card access or, better yet, an iPhone app. I would love to get rid of my keychain. Perhaps next year [the phone can be] docked to a keyboard so I could take notes, or maybe even act like a projector.
What’s an app you think every Portlander should have?
Shazam. Everyone loves it. You can sample a piece of music at a movie or in a bar and it tells you what it is. That’s a huge revolutionary change in how we use our technology. I think the Facebook app changes how I keep in contact with people. What’s amazing about the fact there are 50,000 apps is that there’s something for different types of people. If you’re a golfer, there’s a bunch of different apps just for golfing. It’s a platform that’s very diverse.
What’s the worst app you’ve seen?
There was one called “I am Rich,” which was $999.99 and all it would do was show a red ruby on your screen. So like eight people in the world bought this app as a status symbol, and then Apple had it pulled because it was just kind of a joke. Any of the fart apps are really dumb. Everyone loves the fart apps, but I’m just not into that.