This is not going to be your usual technical tutorial post or anything related to programming (to an extent)…

A few months ago I released my first ever application for Android devices, horrifically titled “The Rugby League App” – original, huh? The idea was born from frustration of trying to get hold of a comprehensive, easy-to-use and visually appealing app dedicated to my favourite sport of Rugby League. It’s a well known fact that Rugby League doesn’t draw the supporters that Rugby Union would or Football or Tennis or almost any other sport for that matter, it has always been considered a northern game full of brutes. I’ve been going to Rugby League games since I was as young as I can remember and have always loved the sport, not only watching but playing it.

When I first picked up an Android device several years ago there was no apps whatsoever on the market that catered for Rugby League fans, more recently there are quite a few apps available, none of which seemed to me to be user friendly, clean and easy to use especially compared against their football counterparts. This is where my app came in, after releasing The RL App to a grand total of 379 devices with mixed success I decided to up my game – I brought in a good friend and colleague of mine James Butler who helped me rebrand and refresh the image of my app and at the same time I shut down “The Rugby League App” renamed it to “Rugby League Hub” and we went to work on the design. James designed the cool looking visuals that pull the user in such as the icons, splash screens etc whereas I went to work on the user interface of the app. I continued on and built up a great looking and easy-to-use app which got its first release on the 20th January 2014 – in preparation for the 2014 seasons.

After overhauling the UI I went to work on pulling in more information, and more, and more – RLHub now supports 3 UK leagues: Super League, Championship and Championship 1 – this wasn’t enough, I knew there was a massive set of fans based in New Zealand and Australia – primarily fans of the NRL Premiership so I went to work pulling in and compiling NRL data from various sources too. The app now has information and the ability to customise your experience to your own team – out of a massive selection of 53 Rugby League teams world wide. The aim is to expand on this eventually after some more research.

Since the first release on the 20th January 2014 I’ve had a total of 733 installs – not a massive amount but more than enough to require a bit more processing power. Every hour my server polls its way through 53 separate news sources, compiling data for each team and serving it back to the app user on-demand. On an average day I process around 80 new articles from the various sources with a total of 5359 currently processed news articles. A few more statistics about RLHub:

  • Since the 20th January 2014 the app screens have been hit over 7000 times
  • The busiest day for the app so far was Friday 7th February 2014 which saw 1253 hits in one day
  • 5359 articles from 53 sources have been compiled over the last 6 – 12 months
  • The most popular team so far is Leeds Rhinos, swiftly followed by Wigan Warriors (although Leeds Rhinos is the default team, so this is slightly biased… Sorry non-Rhinos fans)

The development process for this app was a massive learning curve, I’ve spent countless hours and late nights making the experience of RLHub as sweet as I possibly can and as much of an enjoyable experience that is possible for end users this leads me to my next point.

Paid vs Free apps

Both “The Rugby League App” and “Rugby League Hub” were released completely free to every country in the world, the reason being is it’s something I thoroughly enjoy doing and is my little project that keeps me occupied in my downtime, however as demand is growing for the app so is the resource usage and time consumption.

Today I released version 2.3.1 of RLHub – this app is a step away from the past in the sense of it’s now ad-supported by Google AdMob. Google AdMob is a fantastic little resource for app developers to be able to get a return on their investment and help to pay back on the server and computing costs required to run such a comprehensive application. I also released a second version of RLHub for users that hate apps with intrusive adverts called “RLHub Pro” – RLHub Pro is the exact same app you come to expect from the past versions with one key difference, no ads… The other difference between the 2 is the cost, I released RLHub Pro with a small price tag of £0.75. That 75 pence gives access to the pro version of RLHub for life, there will be no charging for updates or upgrades or new features once you have purchased the app, it’s yours.

To summarise, RLHub has really been an eye-opener in many senses for me… I got an introduction to the world of Android programming, released what has so far been a very successful and widely praised app and it keeps me occupied with my second favourite thing after web/development – Rugby League. The other major understanding I got was why other people do use ads (other than to rake in money!) they help us keep the application running and supported and developed well in to the future with new features, information and more… It has been a great ride so far, I can only hope it continues and supporters of the app will understand why I made this decision and hopefully support me in the future to provide them with one of, if not the greatest and most comprehensive Rugby League app available.

I’m now looking in to iOS support for RLHub which should open me up to lots more people interested in this great sport.

You can follow RLHub on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rl_hub and you can download the app for free by going to: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.co.rlhub.app&hl=en_GB

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.