How my simple iPhone app made it to the top of the App Store

In: Applications|iPhone|Personal

22 Sep 2009

Slightly more than a month back I wrote this little iPhone app (App Store link), almost a toy app really, to check the usage of my data plan with my local telco (Singtel). I wanted to scratch an itch and I also really didn’t want to exceed my data plan – the fees are excessive.

Anyway, I submitted it to the iPhone App Store for approval as a free app and named it Singtel Data Usage. No points for creativity with the name but I thought it’d be nice to know exactly what the app did from just reading its name. After one keyword rejection (which was unfounded but I wasn’t going to argue with the app reviewers), it finally got approved a few days ago.

Singtel Data Usage iPhone app screenshot

Yeah that’s what it looks like. I stole part of the design from another iPhone app – can anyone guess which one? I think I spent 80% of development time changing the design over and over again, tweaking font sizes, and agonizing over which icons to use.

Thanks to folks on Twitter (I’m @chuyeow – do follow me if you’re reading my blog), word got around and by the 3rd day of it being approved, my app was the Top Free app on the Singapore App Store. Going to take a time out for the vanity shot:

A similar app, iBBOM, was approved around the same time but I believe I got a head start because of all the awesome people on Twitter who retweeted my tweet and the kind folks who gave glowing reviews on the App Store (thanks especially to Andy Croll for the 1st review). iBBOM actually looks much better than my app (I can’t help tweeting about it) and works perfectly (only thing I don’t like are the ads). I believe I couldn’t have gotten to the top of the App Store without the guys and gals who spread the word on Twitter.

On to the not so fun part of this post. Yet another similar app, SG BBOM, was pulled from the App Store by Singtel (the telco) recently so I’m expecting to hear from Singtel really soon. We shall see.

In the meantime, if you own an iPhone and have a Singtel data plan, do check out my app (App Store link) and give an honest review on the App Store. If you’ve already downloaded it, I’d like to know what you think in a review as well. Thanks!

16 Responses to How my simple iPhone app made it to the top of the App Store



September 22nd, 2009 at 10pm

It is a great app. I used it the moment I saw in the Top 20 list. And never look back. It is a fantastic app :)



September 23rd, 2009 at 9am

Congrats! Now you have a great platform to launch subsequent apps :-)



September 23rd, 2009 at 12pm

Hi, I downloaded the app, but it doesn’t work. I keep getting an error message stating that my NRIC/Mobile Number is incorrect. Tried several times but no avail. Any fix for this?


Chu Yeow

September 23rd, 2009 at 1pm

@TC_H: Thanks for reporting the problem. I’m really glad you wrote in so that we can solve it.

We’ve solved the problem over email but here’s what happened for future readers of this blog post.

Turns out TC_H was a corporate plan user and had to use his Business Registration Number (BRN) instead of NRIC. The format of the BRN looks something like “123456789A”.


Vaibhav Narayan

September 25th, 2009 at 5pm


Even with the update 1.1, I am unable to use the app as my BRN number is in the format A123456789 and not 123456789A because of which the app does not accept the string of BRN number. The singtel BBOM website does accept my BRN in the A123456789 format.

I would suggest that you place a check for that string array to count the input characters to be 10 instead of checking which character is an alphabet. Later if the data retrieval fails, then you can pop a message to the user to check the input credentials. That way your app is more likely to be future ready :)



Chu Yeow

September 25th, 2009 at 5pm

@Vaibhav Thanks for the suggestion, I saw a similar review in the App Store about BRN (maybe it’s yours?)

I’ll update the app to be more flexible with BRNs. Some users mentioned that they have BRNs like “123456789A-0001”. I’ll be removing the validation on the ID field so that it will be more future-proof like you suggested.




September 25th, 2009 at 9pm

Hey I saw this app too. I have an iPod Touch so this isn’t useful for me. If not I would have gotten it. Looks good.



October 8th, 2009 at 4am

Hi!! (:

I’m having the same problem where they tell me my NRIC number is wrong and that is a total lie!! ):

Please help me solve it cause i’m not on a business plan?



October 8th, 2009 at 5pm

hi! i tried logging in but it says that i have entered incorrect ID and mobile number! Please help! i tried several times and I am not using a corporate line.



October 18th, 2009 at 3pm

Try writing a iPod Touch equivalent of the Singtel Internet SMS..That will be really useful for iPod Touch users.



November 19th, 2009 at 12am

Can you make a simplified version p.s. EZ- Form



December 3rd, 2009 at 1pm

Stumbled upon your blog by accident, but then realized that I already use your app. Thanks for a great application! This is an example of an app that does only one thing, but does it well. I love it.



December 24th, 2009 at 10am

Great app! one of the first few I downloaded. Just a few glitches – have to keep refreshing cos sometimes it shows as not recognising the NRIC/mobile number when it’s the same information stored in the phone.

Anyone doing one for Singtel’s internet SMS?


En Wee

December 30th, 2009 at 11pm

Pal, this will be the first app i download when i get an iPhone, that is, once i figure a use for it and can get over destroying the camera.

Just curious, any correlation with number of downloads now that data plans are upped to 12GB?

i know nothing abt the iPhone environment but can the app also be something like a background service and pop up a warning to the user once data usage hits some user predefined value? If only the telcos also allow us to query our voice and sms usage.


Chu Yeow

December 31st, 2009 at 10am

Ouch, if you have to destroy the camera I recommend buying a cheap 3G (not 3GS) model. You’ll have to bear with the slowness compared to the 3GS though.

As for finding a use for it, it’s great for times when you need Internet access and there’re many nice apps.

I haven’t been checking the number of downloads recently because it has dropped off the top 25 for quite awhile. With 12GB plans I don’t see a need for myself to use my app anymore either.

As for the pop-up warning, yeah it can be done via push notifications – something I’ve thought of adding before but not so much now.


En Wee

January 20th, 2010 at 11pm

Would have got the 3GS, phone UI response is so important since it affects every app and every time i use the phone. but well, the good offer was on a WM6 HTC phone and i think i need 800×480 for pdf documents. yes its 5MP camera that i’d have to destroy. with 12GB can prob prob come out of my internet cave be online all the time and discover whats twitter and RSS now. have stopped using FF, it started to get slow esp the predictive URL dunno why. my new ‘computing platform’ now is a touch screen laptop running windows7 64bit and 100% chrome browser. are we still friends? :)

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