Minu: A Beautiful Timer

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Simple in design and gorgeous in construction, users have embraced Minu as it’s climbed to the Top 10 among Utility apps in Germany, Poland and Austria. Minu was created by PXL:Artificer Studios in Tokyo and is a cross-platform mobile app, developed with Corona SDK.

Please tell us about your studio, PXL:Artificer.

PXL:Artificer is a one-man operation. I’m taking care of basically everything, from designing the graphics, coding, and creating sound effects to support and promotion. So far I’ve only developed utilities, and I see them more like portable, fictional “gadgets” than traditional apps. I build them as if they were real world physical objects. I imagine the different materials used, the kind of feedback buttons necessary, and all of the tiny mechanisms inside. Every small detail has to be coherent and logical.

What’s your development background?

I moved from Italy to Tokyo six years ago to work as programmer and UI designer for an educational software company. Before that, I worked with Flash on websites and online games and also did graphic design and DTP.

Three years ago I left my full-time job to start my business. One year later, I discovered Corona SDK and jumped on the app development bandwagon. I still occasionally do web design and desktop publishing, but at present I’m focused on app development.

Why did you decide to use Corona SDK to develop Minu?

When I made the decision to develop for smartphones, my first choice was to use Flash (since I already knew ActionScript). Unfortunately, once I tested a simple app on a device, I found out the performance was terrible and I realized that I couldn’t release anything nice with it.

Then I found Corona SDK, and I gave it a try. Coming from ActionScript, Lua was pretty easy to grasp and, more importantly, the performance was great.

I briefly considered Xcode, but I see myself more as a graphic designer and the complexity of coding in Obj-C was overwhelming. I was also interested in releasing my apps on Android as well as iOS so Corona SDK was the perfect solution.

What other tools have you used in the past, or still use, to develop your apps?

Until a few years ago, I used Flash for basically everything. These days it’s only collecting dust in a folder and the heart of my app development business is Corona SDK. I’m using a small iPhone-size notepad to sketch ideas, Balsamiq to create a mockup of the app, Illustrator and Photoshop to design the graphics, and the excellent xScope to preview the design directly on my device.

What was the inspiration behind Minu?

I love cooking and I tried many timer apps to help me in the kitchen. Yet I was not satisfied with any in the App Store. Some timer apps are very functional but lack a good design. Others have a million options, slowing down the user experience. I wanted something incredibly simple to use, well-designed and featuring a minimalist interface. That’s why I began developing Minu.

Can you please share the functionality of Minu?

Setting any time in Minu requires just two taps. There are no options to set: just rotate the ring on the screen like you would with an iPod Classic click wheel, and press start!

It’s also very easy to keep track of the percentage of time elapsed with the on-screen progress indicator. Minu doubles as a stopwatch; if you close the app, it continues keeping the time in the background and alerts you through local notifications. You can also select different skins with custom alarm sounds.

How long did it take to develop the app?

It took me about one month to develop Minu. I completed the main functions in a little more than a week, then dedicated the rest of the time to polishing the app. I’m very satisfied with how Minu is doing so far. It has been very well-received in the App Store, has received some nice reviews, and it also won a Mobile of the Day award on FWA.

What other apps have you built with the Corona SDK?

I’ve been using Corona SDK for about two years and so far I’ve developed PipClock, a Post-apocalyptic weather app that’s also been featured on TouchArcade, Kotaku and many other websites. Additionally, I’ve developed Zombie Tools for Guns & Gardens, a set of fictional tools to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, and Alchemy Guide, a Skyrim companion app.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Ruben!

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