IT could be challenging for an expatriate to use a Chinese maps app, while the most popular English ones, such as Google Maps or Apple Maps, might not be up-to-date enough for users in China. So why not build a bilingual maps app? That’s what inspired Jason Stine to create his own maps app four months ago.
“I feel I’m the first person with this idea, and I’m the only person who knew how to realize it,” said Stine, 29, who has lived in Shenzhen for three years.
Stine studied computer science and Chinese at California Polytechnic State University of San Luis Obispo before coming to China in 2011. By combining AutoNavi’s Amap — a popular Chinese maps app — with the translation software that he developed in college, Stine created an up-to-date maps app with both Chinese and English.
Thanks to AutoNavi’s API that allows developers to use its mapping service for free, Stine’s maps app can work exactly like Amap so that users can search for locations, view real-time traffic and road conditions and get public transport guides and driving directions with estimated costs, including expressway tolls.
Stine uploaded his maps app to the Baidu App Engine — a server that hosts Web applications — March 31 so that users could access it with a Web browser. Many of his friends, especially the foreigners, have praised his creative idea and given him feedback and advice.
His WeChat post introducing the maps app has been viewed over 2,000 times as of yesterday. He is also collecting opinions and saving screenshots of people’s comments.
Some have said that Stine could make the webpage look better or create an APK file for Android users, while others have showed interest in listing their businesses on his app.
Stine said that the next plan is to find a profitable way to keep his app running. “One problem I have is that I don’t know how to make money with it,” he said. “It would be nice to find an investor who can invest in me, and we can create a team and make it truly a professional app.”
He said that he might turn the maps app into a mini-app on WeChat and add more functions to it when he gets more money. “Mini-apps are good because you don’t have to download and install an app and take up more space on your phone. As long as you have WeChat, you can run the app,” he said.
After spending four months creating the app, Stine said that he wouldn’t like to be a full-time programmer. He describes himself as a people person who enjoys going to different places and meeting people instead of being stuck in an office without much freedom. “It goes against my personality,” he said.
He believes that it would be too time-consuming and costly to get a patent for his idea, although he knows it means somebody might be able to steal the idea from him.
“Creating my own app and having thousands of people praise me for it looks really good on any resume or any project portfolio,” Stine said. “I’m proud of what I can get from it.”