From Wiki Competition to Windows Phone Store Success: Sebastiano Galazzo’s 4Blend HDR
May 15, 2014 Comments
4Blend HDR is one of Windows Phone’s best and most innovative imaging apps. Having tallied nearly 400,000 downloads in three months with the original, developer Sebastiano Galazzo last month released 4Blend 2.0. Not bad for an app that began life in a Wiki contest.
Being a professional software developer and passionate amateur photographer, Sebastiano had been toying with an idea for an imaging app before a Nokia Developer contest spurred him into action. “When I won the contest (‘Nokia Imaging Wiki Competition 2013 Q3’) I thought it was a good idea to transform the prototype to an app to publish on the Store,” he explained.
From there, Sebastiano leveraged additional contests and DVLUP opportunities to aid him through the process of writing and optimizing his code. “Without these competitions the app would never have been born,” Galazzo recalled. “Good job keeping developers engaged in creating apps!
HDR comes to Windows Phone
HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a technique that allows photographers to catch a greater dynamic range of light by taking three images at once: one under-exposed, one at normal exposure and one over-exposed. Blending the three images yields a single composite picture in which dark areas are brighter and the bright areas are darker.
4Blend HDR takes this process even further. Where other HDR apps apply filters at the end of the compositing process only, Sebastiano’s application applies filters to each individual image before blending them together. The result is a more natural-looking image than what other HDR apps can produce. And unlike many HDR apps, Sebastiano designed 4Blend for both high-end devices like the 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 and its entry-level counterparts including the Lumia 520.
SDKs, Meaningful Rewards, and Community Support
Building an app like 4Blend from scratch is not an easy task, let alone for a single developer working alone. According to Sebastiano, 4Blend’s success would not have been possible without the Nokia Imaging SDK, and ongoing support and guidance from the developer community.
“The Imaging SDK was absolutely crucial to the development of 4Blend HDR,” said Sebastiano. 4Blend version 2 leverages the SDK for new features including bokeh and an interactive foreground segmenter. But the SDK was vital to the initial build for other reasons, too. “As an independent developer, the ability to apply filters was the most important feature of the SDK for me,” he recalled. “It allowed me to put my focus on other areas of development within the app and build my own algorithms, saving me a huge amount of time. Without the Imaging SDK, the app would likely never have been completed.”
Once 4Blend came together, another Nokia offering helped Sebastiano reach his audience: DVLUP.
“The DVLUP program uses a gamification model that rewards developers based on their activity,” he explained. “For example, you earn points for updating your app. You can redeem points for devices or developer tools, but more importantly, you can use the points to build your own marketing campaigns to give your app more visibility in the app store. These campaigns are a huge opportunity for us that do not exist on any other platform.”
“Nokia Developer has a strong reputation for helping developers succeed,” he continued. “The community gave me the support, guidance and opportunities to create a successful app. I’ve developed for other platforms and the process took nearly five times as long. Developers should develop for Windows Phone not only because it’s intuitive, but also because of the tools it provides to help you succeed, including innovative SDKs, better opportunities in terms of visibility in the store via DVLUP and a very high level of monetization.”
Sebastiano also has some words of advice regarding monetization: Localize your apps. “I localized my app in Vietnamese. Vietnam is a country that didn’t generate revenue for me, but I did see a lot of downloads and articles and interest about the app there,” he explained. “Localizing the app even for countries that do not yield revenues allowed me to push 4Blend HDR worldwide, generating global interest.” That global interest in turn led to greater revenues overall.