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Singapore-based developer one of 10 Apple Design Awards winners

Currency converter app Elk bags South-east Asia's first win at Apple Design Awards

Singapore developer Clean Shaven Apps has emerged as one of the winners of the Apple Design Awards for its currency converter app Elk on the tech giant's mobile operating systems.

It is the first time a Singapore-based developer won the awards by the iPhone maker. It is also a first win for South-east Asia.

Clean Shaven Apps was one of the 10 winners at this year's awards at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California.

The Straits Times understands that Elk's thoughtful design and efficient experience on the Apple Watch were key factors in the win.

Clean Shaven Apps was founded by Malaysia-born permanent resident Muh Hon Cheng, 36, and Singaporean Lin Junjie, 31, in 2015.

Mr Lin is known for the Due reminder app, while Mr Muh is behind the SG NextBus app.

Mr Muh, who collected the award at WWDC, was surprised but delighted with the win.

"Every time I go to (the awards), I hope they would call my name," said Mr Muh, who has attended the annual WWDC since 2010.

Mr Lin, who could not attend the event, said via e-mail: "It is surreal that a modest team of two, working out of a study room in a Housing Board flat, can be recognised at the highest level alongside top developers and designers from the US and Europe."

Launched in April, the Elk - Travel Currency Converter, as it is called in the Apple App Store, shows the conversions for the user's home currency and a currency of interest.

The conversions can be compared side by side across 10 values for each currency on the iPhone version of the app.

Users can swipe to quickly change the currency values.

"We wanted to reduce input via keyboard," said Mr Muh.

Elk also uses a mobile device's current time zone to infer the currency that a person may be using, so he need not manually select specific currencies to convert.

For the Apple Watch version, users can tap, swipe and rotate the smart watch's digital crown to convert currencies.

It took about 3½ months to develop the app.

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The idea originated from Mr Lin's habit of creating a wallpaper on his phone with a list of 10 values each for two currencies whenever he travels.

Elk can be download for a 14-day free trial from the App Store, after which it costs $5.98 to unlock all currencies.

It can still be used for free after the trial period, but users will have access to six popular currencies, such as the US dollar, euro and Japanese yen, only.

Financially, Elk is not doing so well. One in 100 users have paid for the app so far.

"In the 54 days since Elk was available on the App Store, we have about 73,000 downloads but less than $3,000 in profit," said Mr Lin.

While Clean Shaven Apps is not sure if the award would help make Elk more popular, the developer hopes Apple will feature the app prominently in the weeks and months to come.

"We hope it will be a long-term feature that will benefit us," said Mr Muh.

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