Need extra motivation for getting out of bed? There’s an app for that

06/24/2015 5:47 PM |
Jack Higgins’ Pollen App is his second sold in Apple’s App Store. Higgins is a student at Shoreham-Wading River High School. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

Jack Higgins’ Pollen App is his second sold in Apple’s App Store. Higgins is a student at Shoreham-Wading River High School. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

A few years ago, Jack Higgins’ friends bet him five dollars that he couldn’t build a computer in his middle school locker. Jack proved them wrong, building a computer in two empty lockers at Albert G. Prodell Middle School.

Now, that expertise has helped him earn a lot more than one Abraham Lincoln.

The Shoreham teen currently has two apps for sale in the Apple App Store, plus another in the works that could add an entirely new meaning to the expression “you snooze, you lose.” 

This latest app, called Wake, is an alarm clock with a twist. It requires the user to actually get out of bed — or be charged a fine.

The app requires users to walk 25 steps when the alarm sounds. If they don’t, a fine of their choosing gets charged to the debit or credit account they link to the app. Jack, 16, said he plans to donate half the profits to different medical research groups.

“My little brother and everyone else I know hates getting up in the morning,” Jack said. “I don’t have a problem with it, but everyone else does, so it kind of provides a sense of motivation to get up in the morning.”

Jack has already spent weeks working on the app. By comparison, one he created about a month ago called Pollen App — which currently has more than 2,000 downloads — took him one weekend to complete. That app, which is free, determines the level of pollen in the air.

“It’s pretty great because he’ll come home from school and be like, ‘I had 100 downloads today!’ ” said Jack’s mother, Jennifer, who is listed as the app’s seller in the App Store.

Jack’s other app currently for sale is called Ghosts Guide & Utility for Call of Duty, which costs 99 cents. Jack said Apple takes 30 percent each time the app is purchased and he receives the remaining 70 percent.

After observing the early successes of these apps, Jack recently began doing client work and creating apps for other people.

Clients reach out to Jack on his website [http://jackhiggins.me/], describing what they want in the app and the price they’re willing to pay. He then creates the app for them and it is eventually submitted to the App Store.

Jack already has a name in mind for his business: Restless Apps.

“I’m making it because I started doing client work for other people and I have to sign contracts and stuff, so it’ll be a way to protect my mom and dad so they don’t have to sign everything,” Jack said. “If I get sued only the company gets sued, not my mom and dad.”

Jack Higgins works on an app on his ‘super computer' at his home. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

Jack Higgins works on an app on his ‘super computer’ at his home. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

Jack said he’s already made a total of $5,000 from working with clients on apps.

As ambitious as it all sounds, creating apps is a natural progression for Jack, who has been interested in computers from a young age. His mother remembers his interest developing around age 7, when he watched his neighbor install a router for fun.

“Well, I always liked to build stuff when I was little, like I always had plastic tools and stuff,” Jack said.

At 12, Jack began building computers and now has a “super computer” he built featuring three monitors in his bedroom.

His mom also recalled Jack asking for computer parts as Christmas gifts.

“It was great because it would take him all Christmas vacation to figure out how to do it,” she said. “And then it started … he got good and within an hour he would be done. That would be it and he would be like, ‘Oh, that’s all I got for Christmas?’ ”

Jack’s passion and expertise enabled him to attend Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco from June 8-12. He was one of 350 college and high school students offered the opportunity to attend for free.

The event application required Jack to do what he does best—create an app that told Apple about himself, including where he’s from, what he enjoys doing and how long he’s been working with computers. His app included a map with animations that phased text in and out, he said.

“I spoke to the lady that graded [the app submissions] and she said they like apps that are simple, get to the point and are well-designed,” Jack said.

At the conference, Jack met Apple CEO Tim Cook and senior vice president Bob Mansfield. He hopes to one day work for the company.

“It’s always something that I really liked and it’s been a hobby for so long now that I just enjoy doing it all the time,” he said. “Now that I can actually make money off it, it’s just an added bonus.”

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