Music and design icon Björk spent two years creating her 11th record, Biophilia, as an “app album” — songs in app form, games, and educational content that can get users involved so they’re not just passively listening.
- Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin
- Icelandic singer Björk.
Though critically acclaimed, there was one major problem with the Biophilia app–Björk fans using Android mobile devices couldn’t experience it. Until today.
The artist finally released an Android version of Biophilia (for $12.99 in the U.S. Google Play store) Wednesday, two years after its iOS release. So what took so long?
According to Max Weisel, one of the developers of the original Biophilia app for iOS, “Porting Biophilia to a new platform was a daunting task,” because it is a “large suite,” not just a simple, casual game.
The app makes music physical and accessible to kids and fans, by mapping basic musicology on a touchscreen, Björk told Venture Capital Dispatch. “Rhythm, scales, counterpoint, chords, arpeggios and such–I felt in my own music school this was too academic, like reading a book about how to ride a bicycle, instead of doing it. Music is to be felt and experienced.”
In 2011, developers advised the artist that the cost to convert her app-album to Android and Windows operating systems would be about 375,000 U.K. pounds, or enough to commission eight programmers for five months. She started acrowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise the money, but cancelled it after 10 days and a sluggish reception there.
Still, she felt it was “absolutely vital to make it available for all smartphones, because of the educational aspects of Biophilia.” Her app helps teach “basic musicology and science,” where “art programs have been cut down,” she said. Many schools that use Biophilia and its extra, free curriculum for educators don’t have access to iPads, she noted.
Enter Apportable Inc., a San Francisco startup that automates the process of turning an iOS app into an Android app. One of the company’s engineers, Zac Bowling, reached out to Mr. Weisel to see if Apportable could help. Using Apportable, Mr. Weisel says, he was able to “translate” one of the song-apps on Biophilia to Android, in less than an hour with minimal effort.
Here’s how Apportable makes converting apps a faster and less costly process, according to the startup’s chief executive, Collin Jackson: “We package a mini version of [Apple’s] iOS in with an Android installer, so an application thinks it is running on iOS but is really running on Android instead.”
- Courtesy of Apportable Inc.
- From left to right, Collin Jackson and Ian Fischer of Apportable Inc.
This week Apportable announced it had raised $2.4 million in seed funding from Google Ventures, with participation by individual angel investors including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and several others, as Dow Jones VentureWire previously reported.
The CEO says that more than half of the apps made using its technology ranked in the Top 500 paid apps on Google Play, a dominant Android app store in North America.
For the near term, Apportable plans to focus just on automating the conversion of an iOS app to Android. It could move into conversion of apps between other platforms in the future, the CEO said.
An investor in Apportable, Alexis Ohanian, believes Apportable will help bring about “software parity” in the mobile industry.
“We haven’t seen the same quality in Android app stores that we have seen in the Apple App Store so far,” he said. “That’s because a lot of startups and studios don’t have the resources to think about multiple platforms from the start. But if you look at the install numbers, there’s no denying how important Android users are.”
Björk has no plans to start a tech company, or fund tech startups herself. “Creating Biophilia has been plenty,” she said.