We wouldn’t normally link to podcasts we’re on, but for the first time in history all 3 of us are on the same one. Iterate 43 featuring the Shifty Jelly Team is well worth a listen, especially if you want to destroy any preconceptions about how awesome we are
(and yes, we really should update that share page!)
The long wait is finally over, today we bring you Pocket Casts 4 for Android, a free update to all our Google Play customers. We can’t tell you how happy it makes us to finally release this version to you all. It’s been at least 6 months in the making, thousands of hours worth of blood, sweat and occasionally even tears. So let’s talk a bit about what’s new.
Syncing and Backup
This has to be the biggest and best feature of version 4 by far. Basically you can (optionally of course) set up an account and store all your podcast subscriptions, playlists & playback progress in the cloud. What this enables you to do is seamlessly sync your progress with your other android devices, and as we update Pocket Casts on iOS and other places you’ll be able to sync to those as well. Even better is that this makes moving to a new device, flashing a new ROM or just starting fresh super easy. Just log back in and Pocket Casts will set you up exactly where you left off, including hooking up any downloaded files you might have on your phone/SD Card from before as well. During development I’d estimate between us we uninstalled/reinstalled the app about 100 times, and this feature worked flawlessly!
Powerful smart playlists
Another amazing feature of version 4 is being able to easily build lists of the kind of episodes you want to listen to or download. You can filter by an episodes playing status, whether it’s audio or video, whether it’s from a particular podcast, its download status and whether you’ve starred it or not. This lets you easily build a playlist of what you want to listen to which you can then sort how you like, and also choose to have the phone auto-download for you. It’s a game changer and I personally can’t go back to the old version because of this feature alone.
Built in variable speed playback
I can’t tell you how painful this was to build (hands up if you love native C++ code?), but the end resulting is amazing. No more expensive, crashy plugins to download to get variable speed playback in Pocket Casts. We’re the first podcasting app on Android to do this, and the difference it makes is huge. You can go all the way from 0.5x to 3.0x. My personal favourite is setting it to 0.5x, aka ‘Drunk Mode’ and listening to your favourite podcast host slur through all their words.
Stunning phone and tablet interface
We heard you loud and clear. Our previous iteration was a messy port of an iOS app built for Android 2.2. Times have changed, and so has our stunning new Holo style interface that works seamlessly on both phones and tablets.
Control your podcasts from the Notification Center, lock screen, headphones, bluetooth, etc. Basically your favourite app is only ever a tap or two away.
There are of course, many more features large and small, but for those you should really just go and grab the app, or find out more on our website! Happy podcasting to you all, from the team here at Shifty Jelly!
A few people were bemused by our decision to release Pocket Casts 4 first on Android. I suspect a few of them even think we may have lost our marbles. I thought I’d take a few minutes to outline exactly why we did what we did.
We’re a small team of only 2 developers and a designer. We realised late last year as we were working on a simultaneous release of Android and iOS that if we were going to have any hope of shipping either of them, we’d really have to choose one to do first. The take-away from this is simple: if we were bigger (say double our current size) we would have just done both.
Pocket Casts on Android has outsold the iOS version historically at about 5:1. That means for every 1 iOS version we’ve sold, 5 were sold on Android. The Android version also costs $1 more, so we’re making more per transaction as well. The reasons for this are a blog post on their own, but it’s a fact.
On Android there is no native podcasting solution, and we see a massive potential to fill that space. There are other apps out there, but we feel we have what it takes to become the dominant podcasting app on that platform.
Team rivalries should be left on a sports field. There’s no reason not to launch on Android first or iOS first in 2013. Both are massively viable platforms full of users who want to pay for great apps. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. The choice of platform all comes down to where your users are, and which one makes more sense for the kind of app you’re launching. It’s no longer a clear-cut ‘always iOS first’ world.
Let’s be honest, 2 years ago Android really sucked. The OS was a mess, the store was a mess, the SDK was a mess and the hardware was a mess. Today all that has changed, and it’s an amazing platform. That said overall the app quality on iOS is still far higher than Android, as developers catch up with all these new changes. There’s a point coming soon when Android will be full of high-quality apps, but there’s a gap in the market right now for small developers like us who are passionate about design to create something a cut above the rest. In short it’s currently easier for a good app to stand out on Android than it is on iOS.
So there you go, a short and sweet explanation of why we did what we did. Once version 4.0 is out on Android (countdown available here), we’ll be working on the iOS one next. We won’t be starting from scratch since a few months of development has already gone into that version, but there’s still a lot to be done. If you’re fascinated by the Android vs iOS development process, there’s a great interview with me available here.
For the past six months we’ve been working on something really big and, judging by the constant emails and tweets we get, it’s no secret what that something is. Today we’d like to talk a little about the upcoming release of Pocket Casts 4, on Android.
So what’s new in Pocket Casts 4?
- Completely redesigned, completely awesome, modern Android user interface.
- Tablet support. We’ve targeted Nexus 7 and 10, and it looks great on others too.
- Cross-device syncing of your subscriptions, playlists and play states on every Android device you own. We *love* this feature.
- Remote backup. You can now drop your phone in a toilet and not lose your podcasts. Buying a new phone and setting it up has never been easier.
- Actual smart dynamic playlists. Want a list of every unplayed, downloaded podcast? Right here. How about a list of video episodes that you haven’t downloaded yet? Easy. Manual playlists are here as well for the super picky among you.
- A lot more. But we’re not telling the rest until we release it.
We’re going to be shipping it on Wednesday the 27th of February and it will be a free update if you own version 3 on Google Play.
Version 4 for iOS will be out later this year (Hey! We’re a team of just three people. Give us a break!), and yes you’ll be able to sync between iOS and Android, finally bringing peace to the OS wars!
We think its the most powerful and beautiful way to listen to podcasts on any platform. We know you’ll love it and we can’t wait to get it into your hands.
In the top-left corner of every iOS device there is a space for service providers to proudly showcase their branding. Pop a sim into your iDevice and once connected, you’ll notice the name of your service provider appear between your reception bars and network type (•, 3G, LTE, wifi). Once you’ve gotten past the informative value of such branding, the novelty wears off rather quickly. It isn’t uncommon for a carrier to make a mess of their name (YES OPTUS, VodaAU), which can severely uglify your phone -forever-. A fair question to ask is: have you ever forgotten which service provider you’re subscribed to? No, neither have we.
- No jailbreak required
- CarrierEditor comes with a bunch of pre-made replacement logos, including BATMAN.
- It’s FREE (but you should send a big thanks tweet to @uhelios on twitter)
We liked this so much, that we had our Shifty Labs™ team draw up some Jelly-eyed logo replacements.
To get the Shifty Jelly carrier logo, DOWNLOAD IT FROM HERE.
Ho Ho Ho. Hello all. Pocket Weather for iPhone and iPad has been updated to version 3.4. You can get it from the app store right now.
What’s new? We bring you tide data for 2013, fixes for locations outside Australia and quite a few other tweaks based on feedback you’ve given to us. We also have a poem for you titled ‘Twas the Night before App Store Closure’ …enjoy your holidays!
Twas a few weeks before Christmas when all through the office
Not a developer was stirring, not even a novice.
The code was checked into source control with great care,
In hopes 2013 tides soon would be there.
The developers were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of bug fixes danced in their heads.
And our Jelly in his water and I in my shorts,
Had just knocked off work for some xmas cavorts.
When out of nowhere there arose such a clatter,
I sprang out of my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the iPhone I flew like a flash,
Tapped open the Pocket Weather and gave it a bash.
The sun on the breast of the fake pixel rain,
Gave way to the data which invaded my brain.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But an obvious bug which had slipped out my rear.
With a click of my mouse, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment they’d give me some shtick.
More rapid than eagles the bugs they came in,
So I whistled, and shouted, and made such a din.
“Now Xcode! now, iOS! now, BOM and Tide data!”
On, Keyboard! On, Mouse! on, on Objective-C and Core Data.
To the summit where all bugs go to die!
Now dash away, Dash away, fly fly fly!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the App Store submission page I flew,
With compiler full of code, and old Cupertino’s blessing too.
And then in a twinkling, I heard just nearby
The yelling of our designer, with a voice oh so high.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down past my chair he came with a bound.
He was dressed like a Hipster, from his head to his toe,
And his clothes all flowed around him unlike a typical joe.
A bundle of pens he had in his pockets,
And he looked all suave, like he was a maker of rockets.
His eyes how they glowed! his pimples how merry!
His photoshop smelled of roses, his pixels like a cherry!
He yelled for a while, and made wild hand gestures
Until I bent to his will to rid myself of his pester.
The cord of a mouse he held tight in his teeth,
And to my bewilderment it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a frown on his face, that made him look mad,
He shook when he laughed, it made me all sad.
When the work was all done, he sprang to his fixie,
And away he flew like a terrified pixie.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he rode out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”
After a quick eight day wait at the hands of Apple’s review team, the best Pocket Weather we’ve shipped yet is now available for your iPhone and iPad.
Among the many fixes, we’ve redesigned the full-screen rain radar, cleaned up the card designs, touched up some of the weather icons, changed the background weather conditions to look nicer for the summer, made the weather icon bigger on iPhone 5, + a heap more. (read below for the full update notes)
You can grab it from the app store. If you really like it, please submit a five star review!
We’re proud to announce the release of Pocket Weather Australia v3.1 for iPad and iPhone today. Here’s just a taste of what’s in the new version:
- Night time icons! We swear some of you are vampires, afraid of the sun in the night sky, so we’ve fixed that.
- Performance tweaks. Men are generally obsessed with performance of all sorts, and man oh man have we worked hard on tweaking ours. We also improved it in Pocket Weather.
- Radar fixes, lots of them.
- Rain predictions! We’re just beginning our journey into the prediction path but if you live in NSW, VIC, SA or TAS enjoy knowing when it’s going to rain, 7 days in advance!
- iPad now shows sunrise and sunset as well as the recorded overnight low and actual high.
- New setting on iPhone: open to top location.
- 300 other bug fixes, yes, this is SPARTA!
- 250 visual tweaks. For the Where’s Wally lovers in our audience, feel free to look for them
So what’s next? Well we’re already hard at work on version 3.2 which among other things might support a certain device Apple is rumoured to be releasing at about 3am tomorrow morning
We’re also eagerly waiting on the Bureau of Meteorology to release their new data into WA, QLD and the NT so we can show you all what you’ve been missing. We’ve heard rumours that this rollout starts in October. So as we say here in Shifty Jelly land “Enjoy the ride, there’s a lot more to come”.
So you’re a full-time independent developer, and you’ve had an app in the store for four years, for which you’ve released regular free updates. Revenue for the app has dried up, because everyone who has ever bought a copy can’t buy it again. You have ongoing costs; servers to run, mouths to feed. You decide it’s time to be ‘greedy’ and ask your customers for more money. This is exactly where we at Shifty Jelly found ourselves with our flagship product ‘Pocket Weather AU’. First released in 2008, it’s been the lifeblood of our company, oustripping the earnings of all our other apps by a large amount. It’s basically keeping the lights on here at the 3 man Shifty Jelly Office.
At this point you have two choices: release new features via an in-app purchase, or create an entirely new app to sell. To us, an in-app purchase was not really feasible because we wanted to start again on the application, hooking it up to a brand new server, use brand new code, write brand new controls and frameworks for it. Offering this update as an in-app purchase would mean trying to ship the old code and old image assets along side the new code and new images. If you’re not a developer, you’ll have to trust us when we tell you this is nigh-on impossible.
So we were left with only one choice: release a paid update, as a brand new app. The problem is Apple don’t give you a way to do this, and if I’m being cynical I’d say they don’t want you to do this. Their goal is to sell iPhones, and I think that deep down they know that if people feel apps are free or cheap and updated forever, Apple will sell more iPhones.
So what do you do? Well here’s what we did, hopefully you can learn from it.
- We created our new application and submitted that to Apple for approval, setting the release date to the future so it wouldn’t go live in the store until we were ready.
- Once it was approved we removed our old app from sale and left things for a few hours. This is because the App Store takes a while for changes like that to propagate.
- When we were ready to release the new one, we set the release date to now. Again we didn’t promote it straight away giving it a few hours to propagate through the store. Even when you see it in the store, you still might not be able to download it, we’d recommend 4 hours minimum here. Even after 4 hours a small amount of people still couldn’t download the app, but eventually that sorted itself out.
Now we had to figure out phase 2 of our master plan, how to tell people beyond those who read our blog and follow us on Twitter? In the past it appears like you may have been able to update apps that are not for sale in any country (see this blog post, which has since been updated after the author and I chatted on twitter). Unfortunately this is no longer the case. So let me explain how we found this out, and what other tests we did. In our case we had 2 existing free versions (one for iPad and iPhone) that we could play with (both removed from sale about a week before our new app went live), so here’s what we did:
- Created an update for these apps, linking to the new paid version and also telling our customers there was an update.
- Released the update to Apple which they approved.
- We waited 2 days to see if it became available as an update to people’s phones. 2 days later it still hadn’t.
- Then we tried putting the free Apps back in the store (by ticking the countries in iTunes Connect) and bam, an hour later they became available as updates.
- To test another theory, we un-ticked the countries again the next day, and an hour later the update once again disappeared.
The simple conclusion: The ONLY way to update apps not for sale in the App Store, is to put them back into the App Store until everyone that wants to update to them has. The one minor exception to this is that when a customer tries to re-download an app from their ‘Purchased’ section, they will get the most up to date version, regardless of whether you’ve put it back in the store or not. It should be noted that the ‘Purchased’ section of the App Store is horribly broken. The search feature in it simply doesn’t work. If you’ve bought 500 apps like I have, scrolling through it while it lags, jitters, and keeps jumping back to the top will make you want to poke your eyes out.
Update: A helpful developer on Twitter pointed out that you can actually still link to apps in the purchased section, like this (this confused us at first, because it only works on the device, not on a desktop):
So yes, paid updates are possible, but you’ll have to work hard to get it to happen, and there’s no such thing as a perfect transition. As a developer I can’t tell you how much I’d like Apple to support this, because if they did it would be better for us and users alike. Imagine having your favourite app release a massive update, offer you an upgrade price, and you having the option to accept or decline. Imagine if you decline still getting bug fixes for your current app, and one day rewarding the developer by buying the app.
So finally to show that I’m young and hip, here is my TL;DR:
- There’s no way to release a paid update on the iOS App Store, you have to release a new app.
- You can’t pull the old app from the store, and provide future updates for it. If you want to update it, the old version must also be in the store, and remain in the store.
- Apple will probably never support this, and it’s time as developers we stopped this crazy ‘race to the bottom free updates for ever’ mentality, and start restoring the notion that developers also need to get paid, and there’s no inherent weirdness or shame in that.
Pocket Weather Au, our very first serious app in the Apple App Store was released in September of 2008. Since then it’s been an amazing journey for us and we’re really glad that you came along for the ride. We went straight to the #1 spot in the store, and stayed there for well over 3 weeks. The thank you and suggestions have flooded our inbox ever since. Overall we couldn’t be more proud of what we built back then, and the many, many updates we’ve issued for it since (25 updates, over 4 years: view graphical history).
The astute among you will note that in January of this year the updates stopped. That was when we decided, after 4 years and so much hard work that poor old Pocket Weather Au was starting to look a bit tired. We have learnt an amazing amount since 2008, about development, weather and had so many great suggestions from you, our fans and customers.
So today we present to you, Pocket Weather Australia, version 3.0!
Now we know some of you well, and instead of reading the rest you’re just looking for the buy link, HERE YOU GO!
Finally, we’d like to answer a few common questions that our current customers will no doubt have:
Is this a free update?
No, it’s a brand new app that costs $1.99 and runs on your iPhone and iPad. We’ve released 4 years worth of free updates to the previous version, and when making such a drastic change we decided to build a brand new application. One of the main reasons for this was to not force an entirely new app onto people who might not want it.
I’ve been waiting for ages to give you guys more money, why only $1.99?
We get offers all the time from people wanting to donate to us, or get us to charge more for our applications. We feel that for now $1.99 is fair price for an app you use everyday, and we don’t take additional donations. If you really feel strongly about giving us more money, convince a friend or family member to buy our application instead
I like the current version, do I have to update?
No. The current versions of Pocket Weather Au and Pocket Weather Au HD will run happily just as they always have. We also have a mechanism for releasing bug fixes to these versions, should they break somehow in the future. We intend to keep the weather servers that these are connected to running for at least another year. That said the new version is truly amazing, and we’d love it if you tried it out
I bought your app just recently…
We removed our old app for sale before posting this one, so there should be very, very few of you that fall into this category. If however you did buy our app within the last few weeks, and feel like you’ve been wronged, please email us, we’ll look after you
I have an Android phone, don’t you guys love us?
Of course we do, Pocket Weather Australia 3 is also available from Google Play here.
We are very proud and excited here in the office today, and we hope you are too. Our goal (we always set one of these before releasing a new app) is to reach the #1 spot in the App Store. We’re not bothered by whether that’s for 2 seconds or 2 years…we just want to show Apple, Australia and everyone that apps still matter, and it’s not all about games! So come on Australia, get into the Olympic spirit, and let’s get Pocket Weather Australia to that #1 gold medal winning position!