Pocket Weather is a bit of an institution in Australian weather apps. It was one of the first apps on the scene when the App Store first launched, since then we’ve grown it to what we think is the one of the best weather apps in the world. It features live weather data from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology pinpointed to your exact location, rain radar maps, a dynamic ui & comprehensive tide data. The current version of Pocket Weather has enjoyed a long innings in the high end of the App Store’s Top Paid charts. It’s a crowd favourite; Australians love it, and so do we.
What’s happening with Pocket Weather?
Since it’s been a long time between drinks for Pocket Weather customers, we thought we’d share what we’ve been up to.
Apple released iOS 7 almost two months ago, and with it came some sweeping changes to how we see and use our iOS devices. Changes in iOS change the way apps like Pocket Weather work. Unfortunately, the current version of Pocket Weather has taken a performance hit under iOS 7 – there’s a long delay when tapping a location, before you see the data.
Pocket Weather’s stunning interface features photorealistic textures and lighting. iOS 7 has shifted the expectations of design, so we’ll need to update accordingly.
There’s a new major version of Pocket Weather on the way
We think it’s the best one yet.
Here are just some of the things coming in the next version:
- It fixes the performance issue in iOS 7
- It has been redesigned to suit iOS 7’s user interface
- We’ve paid a lot of attention to weather on iPad
- It’s better
- It’ll be a free update
We’re working full time and will get it to you as soon as we can. We use Pocket Weather every day, we love it and we haven’t forgotten it.
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. We intend to keep the weather servers that these are connected to running for at least another year, probably much longer. We have no way to update the app itself though, so should it break in future versions of iOS then there’s not a lot we can do about that.
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!
We’re stoked to announce that our shiny new Pocket Weather HD 2.0 update has been approved by Apple. What’s new? Retina graphics. That’s what.
Pocket Weather HD looks absolutely stunning on the new iPad’s retina display. The high resolution Sky and Dark themes look so good, you’ll want to show off the weather to your friends.
… And show it off to your friends you should, because Pocket Weather HD only utilises trusted weather data from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
Pocket Weather HD is still the best way to check Australia’s weather conditions on your iPad. This version contains all the best features from the iPhone, enhanced and tweaked to look great on your iPad.
Get it from the app store today!
In our previous post we lost our minds and decided to make Pocket Weather World and Pocket Weather World HD free for a day (normally USD$1.99) . How did it go? Well we’re glad you asked…
In terms of raw download numbers: 32,978 new Pocket Weather World users, and 23,104 HD, for a total of 56,082 new users!
I freely admit, we didn’t expect that many before the sale! I guessed 26,000, Philip 8000 (yeah, who da man!). We didn’t bother to try and optimise our server because our Australian one already supports 400,000+ users, so we figured we could add thousands of people without breaking a sweat. Boy were we wrong:
It turns out there’s one key difference in Pocket Weather World, in that searches for new locations used to take 600ms. No big deal you say, that’s reasonably snappy! True, until 50,000 new people download your app and all go to search at once! Needless to say we went into a mad scramble, and 2 hours later we got that search query down to 6ms (props to Philip on that one). Still the fact remains, thousands of new customers had just been exposed to an app that didn’t work.
By the time the sale was over, the server was under control, and we even added more memory to it just for good measure, but the damage had been done. A lot of 1 star reviews, and a lot of people that now associate ‘Shifty Jelly’ with ‘stuff that doesn’t work’.
So with that in mind, let’s get to the juicy bits, after all at least half of those new people got a working app, not a broken one. So when the sale ended did they tell all their friends? Did sales skyrocket? Pocket Weather World averages about $20 a day in sales, it shot up to $427 on the first day, and we got all giddy with excitement, but it rapidly dropped off in the following two days. Our hope is that people who heard about the sale, missed out, and then bought it anyway, but it could also have been people that thought it was free, ignored the button, and just clicked buy. We haven’t received any complaint emails, but you just never know.
Pocket Weather World HD is similar, except it averages closer to $10 a day on the app store, and it’s post sale sales were much more measured.
So what did we learn from all this?
- If you make a paid app free, expect a lot of downloads!
- If you’re app has a server component to it, be sure to test the hell out of it first, and not just assume it will be ok.
- Free app sales will get you a lot of eyeballs, but who knows if they are the right ones, or if there’s any long term affect from doing it.
Today we’re proud to announce our latest app Pocket Casts, for Android:
Which begs the obvious question: Have we gone mad, two Android apps in the space of a month? Have we abandoned iOS for greener pastures? The simple answer to which would be: no, we’ve always been mad, but we’re still committed to iOS development.
The longer answer is that currently we have two programmers at Shifty Jelly: Philip and Russell. Out of those two only one coded all our iOS apps, Russell. Philip focussed on the server side of things, which pretty much all of our apps rely on, and which has always been a full time job on it’s own. Since resigning from our full time jobs in September of 2010 Philip has been optimising the heck out of our servers, to ensure that each day he has less and less maintenance that he has to do on them. This frees him up to do some front-end development, which is something he’s always wanted to do. Combine that with his 10 years of experience in Java, and Androids rise in the mobile world, and you have a pretty good match. If you’ll endulge us a second, let’s rephrase it as a computer hardware analogy: in essence we’re a dual core machine, capable of working on iOS apps on one core, and Android apps on the other, while taking advantage of our design co-processor across both.
In many ways the Android side of things is still an experiment, a way of putting a toe into the water to see what happens. So far we’re pleased with the results, but it’s early days. We’re going to be writing a series of blog posts over the next few weeks about the experience, should be quite interesting!
So what can you expect from the Shifties over the next few months? Here’s our current plan:
- New version of Pocket Weather AU for iPhone (hopefully released to Apple today)
- New versions of Pocket Casts for iOS and Android (hint: we’re building a platform here, not a podcasting app as such…there’s a LOT more in the pipeline for Pocket Casts)
- New version of Pocket Weather AU HD for iPad
- New versions of our world weather apps
- New versions of Pocket Weather AU for Android to slowly build up the feature list to match the iPhones
- What, that’s not enough for you?
So let’s put aside the iPhone vs Android war, it’s pointless, both platforms have their merits and neither one is really superior to the other. It all depends on your preference, and having a choice is a good thing as far as we’re concerned. But more importantly, you can enjoy the benefits of Shifty Jelly on both…now isn’t that a load off your minds? Now go be good little boys and girls and buy up all our apps so we can eat for another week! No really…I’m hungry…
Up until recently we’ve had a todo list much longer than any human arms I’ve ever seen. Every week would see us complete one item only to add two more. Todo lists you see, often follow a very accelerated version of Moore’s Law. But we’ve got a secret weapon now: the time to do things (having gone out on our own almost a month ago) and the motivation to (in a very small way) set the world on fire.
So today we’d like to show off something that’s been on our todo list since we first released Pocket Weather AU HD for the iPad. Version 1.2 to be precise.
Yes indeedy, you can get your tides, state warnings, detailed forecasts, icons in landscape view and so much more in this new version.
At this point we’re providing an intermission for those who don’t care how this stuff is built. Don’t feel bad, the lights are on, we’ll clean up all the popcorn you’ve managed to spill everywhere. Last chance!
Now let’s talk about just why this release took so long. We promised that when we went into this full time we’d no longer accept compromise, and we meant it. This version was ‘ready to go to Apple’ 3 weeks ago. In the past it would have been myself, at 1am on my couch looking at things and going ‘close enough’ and pressing the submit to iTunes button. When you’re tired anything that’s working starts to look good. Since then we’ve rewritten the warnings feature twice, the tides three times and played with two different ways of showing you detailed forecasts.
After each re-write I’d hand the iPad over to Phil and ask him for feedback. Phil was brutal about everything he didn’t like, which initially made me very defensive, but I’d go and do it because I knew he was right. It was jarring, I wasn’t used to reworking features that worked, and were bug free, with the sole justification being ‘we can do better’. It was also hard to break out of the “we don’t have time for that” mould from our former lives as out of hours developers. After each iteration though we both knew we’d created a better product. Things you’ll never see like that the initial tides screen having left and right buttons (instead of swipe). Then there was the original detailed forecast design that had the day panels sliding left and right to show more or less content. Don’t even get us started the original warnings screen which had resizable panels of all things. In some cases we re-wrote it because we knew we’d taken shortcuts, other times (like with the slidey detailed forecast panels) we realised we’d gone too far the other way and made something a lot fancier and less intuitive than it could have been. In the end we finally had a version that Phil & I approved of, and one which was much better for the process we’d gone through.
There’s three obvious lessons from all of the above:
- Getting things right often means getting things wrong, but being willing to change them.
- When people look at a final product and estimate the effort required, they’ve left out the biggest component, all the rework and tweaking that led to that final version (common example from stack overflow).
- Pocket Weather AU HD is awesome…have you bought it yet?!