While Neowin has not yet developed its own offical app for Windows Phone 8, one of our community members has taken the initiative and created an app that lets WP8-based smartphone owners check out news and other content on the site. His name is Bill Hast, also known by his Neowin forum name "bhast2" and his unofficial Neowin app went live in the Windows Phone Store earlier this month.
We contacted Mr. Hast and got him to tell us more about the app, including his own experience in making it which should be of interest to anyone else who might be considering jumping on the Windows Phone 8 bandwagon.
First, how long have you been a reader and community member for Neowin?
I have been a member since December 2009. But I have been a reader since about 2007.
How did you come up with the idea of creating a Neowin news reader app for Windows Phone 8?
I came up with the idea because I wanted a way to be able to view the news from the site without having to go through the browser. That way it could save me time with just a single click to get the tech news in a hurry if you know what I mean.
Did you have any prior programming knowledge before making the app?
How hard was it to make the app?
Let's say it was a bit different than what I am use. First what I did was look at a sample code from the Dev center from Microsoft to see if there was something on pulling an RSS feed from a website. After I found that info, I started seeing what resources I needed to pull info from Neowin. After making the main news page I found that I didn't like the way it was showing from feedburn; it looked different than what I was hoping for. Feedburn would only show the minimal amount of the post. So I added the feed into igoogle to get a different RSS URLl, took that URL from igoogle and expanded it to show the full article from the news post. I had to do this for each feed; make a page for each feed. Than I had to make a sub page for the posts to open up into to show the full article. After that it was putting some UI elements into it. I added Panorama between pages. It is a really long list as to what I did and I can't point out every detail. But I worked on it for about 2 weeks.
What sort of features have you put in the Neowin app?
So far the features in the app include a live tile (sort of). You can pin an article to start menu to read later or again whatever the case may be. There is text to speech. There is go to source. There is a lockscreen background (Just to test it out). You can share Neowin topics aka articles to Facebook and Twitter. There is a link to the Neowin Facebook and Twitter accounts for quick viewing. I believe that is it so far.
What's the response been like since you released the app?
As it just went live on October 2nd on the App Store, I haven't gotten any numbers yet. But on the forums it seems Neowin users are happy about it and are requesting features already, which is great. I am going to do my best to make this app rich in features to make even the newest Neowin user happy to be a WP8 user.
What new features do you plan to add to the app in future editions?
New features!! Oh boy this is a long list. I will just start with what is the most important at this moment that I think and I feel that most people will want in a app like this:
1. This is at the top of my list. Add the forums to the app. For people to truly enjoy this app they will have to be able to view the forums. I have been in contact with Steven Parker about adding this feature and it looks like it will happen.
2. For users to be able to log in and out of the site.
3. View, Post Comments in the forums and in the News feed.
4. Settings page so users can change different settings on the app.
5. Search page. So users can search the forums
6. Messages- inbox outbox and all that good stuff
7. Page that shows recent post in the forum.
8. Have more a Metro look for all images aka icons for the app and redo the splash screen to go with WP8 more.
That is just my top 8 but there are minor changes and features that are on the list but these to me seem most important like I stated earlier.
Finally is there anything else you wish to say about the unofficial Neowin WP8 app?
First and foremost this app will never cost money; it will always be free to the user. I want users to give feedback, negative or positive, because I want to make this app as best as it can be. I will do what I can to included all feature requests but I can't promise anything.
We want to thank Bill for answering our questions!