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This Singaporean Duo Just Won The Apple Design Awards For Their Brilliant, Yet Simple Currency App

The Apple Design Awards is an important part of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), where it recognises developers and their apps.

Developers from Singapore attending the Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) are not uncommon, and many have made annual trips to San Francisco (or San Jose currently) to attend the many talks and workshops.

But for so long, no Singaporean has made it on the list of winners – until today. (This also marks the first time that a winner came from Southeast Asia.)

Singapore App Elk Wins Apple Design Award At WWDC

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

An app that has bagged itself the coveted Apple Design Award is called Elk. Available since 10 April this year, it is, at its core, a currency conversion app.

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As you’ve guessed it by now, it’s created by a team of two Singaporeans – Hon Cheng Muh and Jun Jie (JJ) Lin, and together they make up Clean Shaven Apps.

If their names sound familiar, that’s because individually, they’ve been the brains behind some notable apps.

Flying the Singapore flag at WWDC, Image Credit: Vulcan Post

For Hon Cheng, you might have used his SG NextBus in your daily commute around Singapore, and he is also currently one of Apple’s Red Dot Heroes as part of the opening of Apple Orchard Road.

You might also have used JJ’s app called Due. With it, you can list down your to-do lists and set reminders for your appointments.

Hon Cheng was in attendance at WWDC to accept the marvellously heavy metallic cube with a glowing Apple logo on behalf of the team, as JJ wasn’t able to personally come down to San Jose.

We were there as he received the award, and managed to speak to him about their win.

What’s Elk?

Elk is simply a currency conversion app, and it does its job well without shoving too much information in your face.

One thing that any potential users of Elk need to know, though, is that it’s not designed to give you accurate conversions – it’s supposed to be used as a simple reference if you’re buying something overseas.

Elk iPhone Screenshot

To put it simply, what users will get is a table showing the conversions of 2 currencies – the one from the user’s country and the one of the country he/she is in.

The figures start from 1 to 10, and after which, they jump in numerals of 10. You can still view values in between – simply tap on a number and a drop down list of it.

Browsing through the different values is simple too – swipe left to increase the numbers (up to 100 billion), and swipe back left to decrease the values until you reach 1.

Also, the best thing about Elk is that you don’t have to manually switch between currencies when you travel.

That’s because the app, through integration with iOS, automatically detects where you are in the world and shows you that country’s currency against your home currency.

Elk Apple Watch Screenshot

While it was launched as an iPhone app, it works best as an Apple Watch app. This is due to the immense convenience that it offers from the wrist. You can use the app on-the-fly ability to gauge purchases.

The app works offline too, so even if you were bargain hunting in a small town without wifi, you can still have an estimate of your purchases.

But when the app do get internet connection, the currency rates will be automatically updated.

The Guys Behind Elk

Hon Cheng (sitting) and JJ (standing) / Image Credit: Clean Shaven Apps

Hon Cheng and JJ definitely belong to a growing group of developers who never really had a background in IT or coding. Hon Cheng had a Biology background while JJ did Communications, specialising in Journalism and Media.

They both met at an Apple conference in Singapore where they were the speakers talking about about their apps SG Nextbus and Due, and after 2 years of friendship, they decided to form a partnership.

Image Credit: Vulcan Post

In the company, JJ is responsible for conceptualisation, designing the user interface, and making sure everything feels natural while Hon Cheng will try to make things happen on the backend.

But at the end of the day, both of them are still coders.

Together, they hold the belief that they will only make apps that they themselves will use, and to “scratch a personal itch”.

Moving Forward

Hon Cheng (right) after receiving the award / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

They hope their win at the Apple Design Awards would inspire others in Singapore to pursue their own dreams and make things that they believe in.

JJ shares that for indie developers like themselves, there is a continuous struggle for them to sustain themselves financially, especially when most consumers have come to expect apps for free.

That, and the fact that it is getting harder to get noticed among the sea of apps available today.

Even so, having the freedom to work on things that they like and believe in is something they sacrifice for a high-paying but meaningless job.

Image Credit: Elk

We would like to congratulate Hon Cheng and JJ once again for their Apple Design Awards win, and for taking their time to speak with us!

If you would like to try out Elk the next time you’re on a holiday, it ‘s available now through the App Store.

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