Call it a match made in heaven. Heaven, of course, being Google.
New Jersey resident Jon C. Hodgson was looking for a romantic way to propose to his girlfriend of over two years. But as Hodgson explains, "Lots of people have done writing in the sky or the jumbotron at the sports game." He wanted to do something different—something unique and surprising—and began hatching a plan that would soon encompass all the charactistics of overly sentimental Google commercials, which have become all too common on the airwaves (Parisian Love, Dear Sophie). Yet Hodgson wasn't looking for a sponsorship deal—like any hopeless romantic brought up listening to Shaggy singles, he was just looking to marry the love of his life in a memorable way. (This story's on the house, Larry Page.)
For Hodgson, the plan came down to a smartphone—an Android smartphone to be sure. At the time, Meghan had grown quite fond of her phone, and Hodgson, a computer engineer by trade, thought it might be the right medium for the perfect proposal. "She has an HTC Incredible, as do I—we have matching his and hers," he says. "I was thinking: What can I do to distract her, to lower her guard, and then completely surprise her with a proposal? Typically things people are obsessed about are distracting, and for Meghan then, two distractions were certainly the new Harry Potter movie and her new Android phone."
Well, Hodgson realized, there's an app for that. Or at least there should be. His idea was simple: With the new Harry Potter movie on the verge of release, he'd build an app disguised as a promotion for the film that asked fans to answer a couple trivia questions to win free tickets to the opening night showing. Rest assured, one of these trivia questions would be the mother of all questions. The Question, in Father-of-the-Bride speak.
But wait, there's a problem: Hodgson didn't know how to develop an Android app. (Rising action!) "How the heck was I going to build this thing?" he recalls thinking. "I tried a couple of other rapid development tools, but they really had too much of a learning curve to let me do it in the time-frame I had in mind." That is, until a friend recommended App Inventor, a tool for amateur Android devs created by Google Labs.
"It allowed me, with no java knowledge, to quickly get this thing whipped up," Hodgson says. He built an official-looking homescreen with legal terms and conditions, a five-question Harry Potter quiz, and searched the web for appropriate images to complete the app. (We assume on Google Images.)
When it came for the big night, Hodgson took Meghan to dinner, where he presented her with the app. She bought it hook, line, and sinker. Then she came to the final question: Will you marry me? "She was truly startled," Hodgson recalls. "She just kind of looked at me and said, 'Really?' When she finally got her senses back she said, 'Yes!'"
And they all lived happily ever after. As for the app, Hodgson said he considered putting it in the Android Marketplace, but decided against it, and instead uploaded the story and app images on his website. "If you made a generic app for this, it would ruin its novelty," he says. "I didn't do this for profit—other than the fact that I did put some ads on [my website] once the page started to get so many hits! I made a little money on it, not a whole lot—enough to pay for the dinner we had that night!" (Yes, Google Ads!)
Oh, and as for Jon and Meghan? They have a tentative date for the wedding set down the road.
Here's hoping Google is willing to foot the bill when the time comes.
[Image: Flickr user Malakh Kelevra]