Startup Stories: @kehers talks Twhii, Twitter client for Java phones

Editor’s Note: According to a post-chat with Opeyemi Obembe, he did mention Twhii is a spin off product from DevEdgeLabs (defunct), but it – Twhii – could go ahead to break out and become a startup on it’s own. ‘Depends on adoption though’ – he says. Whether a product or a startup, it’s an interesting and impressive piece of work. So enjoy what @amorebise has put together for you.

If you are a smart phone user, chances are that you are spoilt for choices when it comes to choosing a Twitter client, but it isn’t like that for everyone. For the millions of people in the world using “feature phones” it would amaze you at their limited options, most of which suck badly.

Twhii is a Twitter client for Java phones developed by Opeyemi Obembe (@kehers), a Nigerian Tech Entrepreneur. I was able to get Opeyemi to share some insights behind the makings of Twhii, what follows is an excerpt from our conversation.

 

  • Why did you build Twhii, and why did you settle for this name?

I always run on a java phone either as a first or second phone and as a twitter lover, I’m always on it via the mobile site. Unfortunately, the twitter mobile site has its deficiencies and I had to look out for alternatives. As a hacker and having toyed with the twitter API, writing a simple JavaME twitter client was on my mind but from past experience (the ever changing API and the whole features needed for a full client), I decided against it. Dabr was a good mobile web alternative. Simple and lightweight but lacked auto-refresh and the responsiveness of a native client. My only alternative was Snaptu. I downloaded it and used it for a day or two, then fell out of love with it. That was when I was like f* it, I’m writing my own client.

The name Twhii is just a pronunciation of the excerpt twi (from twitter).

 

  • How long did it take to move from idea to first released version?

The first working Twhii prototype took around a week with inspirations from Dabr (simplicity) and metroTwit (UI). It is 100% self hand-coded (no frameworks) except for the JSON, OAuth and (laterGzip libraries.

 

  • How did you go about publicising Twhii?

At first, Twhii was to be my personal twitter client so I wasn’t serious about publicity. I just mentioned it on my blog once, got some mentions, a couple of twitter friends tried it and then I got some reviews. The first real publicity however came when it got into the nairatweets store where it got a few hundred downloads. Besides this, I have not been really publicizing the app as it is still in beta (not stable yet). Somehow though, people are spreading the love and enjoying it. At the moment, Twhii has just 213 registered users and 112 active accounts (since we changed authentication model).

 

  • Where exactly is Twhii headed?

For now, the primary focus is getting the app stable and compatible across all JavaME platforms. From experience, I know how important monetization is to products and for Twhii (when it is time) that will be freemium – free version (with ads) and premium version (with more features) for a very little amount. On if I will be developing Twhii for other OS, I seriously doubt. Twhii came to fill the void in Java phones. There are however good clients on other OS.

 

My major take away from this is that like most successful startups, Opeyemi built a product he needed, pushed it out as soon as he could (one week!) and he iterated from there.

You can download Twhii here and feel free to buzz Opeyemi on Twitter: @kehers.

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