Scaling from Side Project to 200,000+ Downloads with Xamarin and Microsoft Azure

Courtney Witmer

As mobile technology evolves, developers everywhere are building new, innovative apps that capture our interest and improve our lives, from creating unique social media communities to developing digital assistants and bots.

With over 200,000 downloads and 4+ stars, Foundbite strikes the right balance of practical and engaging, with apps that allow users to add sound to static images, creating “foundbites” that bring experiences, events, and places to life for their friends, followers, and fans.

James Mundy, Foundbite Founder and Lead Developer, shares how he got started with mobile development and how he was able to use his C# skills to get Foundbite into the hands of Android, iOS, and Windows users everywhere.

Tell us a little bit about your company and role. Have you always been a developer?

I started developing Foundbite while studying Physics at university in 2012. Now, we’re a London-based team of three building an app that allows you to share and explore sounds from around the world.

I started building the app as a side project. I was able to secure some funding from Microsoft and Nokia to bring it to Windows Phone first, so the very first version of our app was built in C#. Since I’d written several Windows Phone apps before this, it was a good fit.

Tell us about your app / what prompted you to build it.

The idea behind Foundbite is to allow people to share and explore the sounds of the world around them from their phone. With Foundbite, users record five seconds to five minutes of sound, add photos to give the sound context, and tag it with a location.

Users can share their creations with friends (through Facebook and Twitter) and the public Foundbite community. We also have an interactive global map that allows users to search, find, and listen to sounds from places all over the world, getting a real feeling for what it’s like to be there.

What is the most compelling or exciting aspect of your app?

The feature that resonates most with our users is its truly global nature—we’ve had uploads from the UK, US, Taiwan, Iran, China, and more—and the ability to explore a map, find a place you’re interested in or haven’t heard of before, and then listen to the sounds that another user has recorded. Recording the sound of a place really does ignite your imagination and give you a feel for what it’s like to be there.

Some Foundbite examples include: the Tennis World Tour Finals at O2 Arena, a bullet train passing in Taiwan, and the crowd cheering at the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium, plus many more on the website.

How long did it take to ship your app, from design to deploy?

Thanks to Xamarin, our whole code base is shared at around 60% across Windows, iOS, and Android platforms. This makes maintaining code and diagnosing bugs far easier, but the main advantage is that we’ve been able to deploy three highly rated apps to three different platforms with a team of just two full time developers.

We use Microsoft Azure for our backend, so we have a full Microsoft and .NET Stack. We use Azure Notification Hubs, Azure Search, Redis, Azure SQL, Azure App Service, so we also have code shared between our app client projects and our server side code, which is ideal!

How long would it have taken you without Xamarin?

It would have taken us significantly longer to develop the apps. We had experience with C# already, and would have had to learn Objective C/Swift and Java and have been replicating a lot of code in these other languages that we had already written in C# for the Windows app.

Even though we were building the apps in C#, there was still a lot of learning to do regarding how to use the iOS and Android platform APIs and getting to grips with the nuances of each platform. Overall, the APIs were well documented, and there’s a very active Xamarin Forums and StackOverflow community to turn to for help. Even without that, it’s very easy to adapt samples written in Swift/Objective C to C#.

Are you using mobile DevOps / CI?

We’re starting to use Xamarin Test Cloud and TFS build server to improve our internal processes and improve the quality and reliability of the builds we push out to our users.

What’s your team planning to build next?

We’ve got lots more features planned, like the ability to combine several Foundbites into a collection to document a trip or event even better. Thanks (again) to Xamarin, we hope to roll this out to our users nearly simultaneously across all platforms.

What advice do you have for developers who are just starting out or investigating mobile development? Any best resources?

I’d recommend starting simple and using GitHub to find other mobile (Xamarin or otherwise) projects that developers have done and open sourced. I found this to be particularly useful in working out how apps were built and how to solve problems as I built my own app.

What would you say to a developer or enterprise just starting mobile development?

I’d definitely advise starting off with Xamarin—there’s less repeated code, you can have a more versatile, smaller team with the potential for everyone to be able to work on each platform, and a quicker development cycle, which are all advantageous for any company, whether big or small.

Using Xamarin as an early stage company has enabled us to write less, better code with a smaller team to reach more customers quicker.

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