Getting App Savvy With Ken Yarmosh

November 4, 2010

2:09 pm

We recently published a guest post about building mobile applications by Ken Yarmosh, proprietor of a boutique mobile agency based in the Washington, D.C. area. Ken is also the author of  the new book, App Savvy, published by O’Reilly, so we decided to ask him a few questions about the book, his journey and the future of mobile apps.

Tech Cocktail (TC): In the past year or so you’ve really made a name for yourself in the world of iPhone app development. Can you tell our audience a little about how you got started and how you differentiated yourself in such a growing field?

Ken Yarmosh (KY): My interests are usually aligned with new technological frontiers. Over the last several years, mobile has evolved quite a bit with the introduction of apps and so, my focus began shifting from the Web to mobile native applications.

Having an extensive background in both building desktop and Web-based software, as well as working with many startups, provided me a unique lens to approach the space. I saw early on that I could apply this experience to creating apps. By approaching them from a product strategy perspective, I’ve been grateful to have been afforded successes in a competitive environment.

TC:  You recently authored the book App Savvy all about iPad and iPhone apps. How did you get involved with O’Reilly Media?

KY: While writing about apps and mobile-related topics often on my blog (, I realized there was a much bigger opportunity because no one else was focusing on the strategy and marketing aspects the way I was.

So, I decided to pursue a book. O’Reilly was on the top on my list but I did not have any relationship with them. I literally followed their extensive proposal guidelines and sent in a book proposal. I was a little bullish and didn’t even pitch it to others. I sent in the book proposal just before the holidays last December and heard back from them in early January, indicating an interest to move forward.

TC:  That was bold – but it worked! So, who is your book geared towards, who will get the most out of it and how should people use it?

KY: Writing App Savvy was a challenge because it is meant to be useful for a broad audience, including entrepreneurs, product and project managers, marketers, designers, developers, and even just for people with ideas. My approach to making it a great resource for everyone was to keep it practical. So, even when there is conceptual information, I show how that concept is applied in the App Store through real-world use cases.

I wrote App Savvy so that readers can use it from idea to App Store sale, while at the same time being able to refer to it for a particular topic. This second goal is particularly important for those who may already have an app or are just stuck. For example, discussing how to differentiate an app from others is addressed in one of the early chapters, while improving an app before it is submitted to the App Store is covered in the middle of the book.

TC:  Can you tell us about any current projects you are working on or future plans?

KY: In order to stay sharp, I don’t just think and write about building apps. I continue to work with clients (everything mobile, not just Apple’s iOS) and create my own apps. The latter item is important because it gives me the greatest opportunity to experiment and tinker without impacting anyone except myself.

I am working on my next app right now, which is called Rise Alarm. It may seem silly to be building an alarm clock app, with Apple providing its own option and with literally hundreds of them on the App Store. That’s a large part of why I am doing it. My goal is to further explore what it takes to succeed in a crowded market. It’s been a really fun project so far and I’m pretty excited by the response to the initial sneak preview on the Rise Alarm teaser site (

TC:  Rise Alarm looks great! Aside from mobile devices and apps, tell us one or two other things about yourself so people can get to know you a bit.

KY: While enjoying the opportunity to discuss all things apps, another reason App Savvy is exciting to me is because I see it as the start of what I hope will be a longer writing career as an author. Although I’ll be focusing on technology-related topics for the next couple of books, I expect to expand beyond “how to” books over time. Ultimately, I want to reach a much more mainstream audience. Since most of my large, extended family is not technical at all, I’ve promised them that one of the next several books they buy can be used for more than just a sleep aide.

TC:  What do you think the hottest app of 2010 was?

KY: Like movies, it’s hard to judge apps without qualifying their categories or genres. On the game front, Angry Birds is tops for me and that’s likely true for 5 million others. While personally not a a user of Flipboard, to me it epitomes the big trend in 2010, which is media consumption on a tablet device (for now, the iPad).

TC:  What do you think we’ll see in 2011 in terms of hot apps or new trends in the mobile world?

KY: Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is going to become the third player in the mobile app space. Our experience is that WP7 is in many ways already ahead of Android in the experience it has to offer consumers. And there are boatloads of Microsoft developers who have felt left out and are excited about the opportunity finally “go mobile.”

Another major trend to watch is if there will be a true competitor to the iPad. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has received early praise and there are thirty plus Android tablets launching going into 2011. Right now tablet computing is defined by the iPad. While that may remain the case for consumers, what I expect to see is a movement towards Android tablets for the creation of enterprise and service-oriented apps that also demand some amount of OS and hardware customization.

Thank you, Ken, and best of luck with App Savvy!

Ken Yarmosh is the proprietor of a boutique mobile agency based in the Washington, D.C. area and the author of App Savvy (O’Reilly). Join Ken on December 8th for his next Get App Savvy workshop. Tech Cocktail readers can take off $100 with promo code: TECHCOCKTAIL.

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Jen Consalvo is the Cofounder and COO of Tech.Co. She previously worked in product development for almost 13 years at AOL for audiences of millions. Follow her on Twitter at: @noreaster.

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