I’m not sure if you noticed, but last week Apple launched iOS 7. It was a big deal. We launched Pocket Casts 4 at the same time, it was also a big deal. Today we launched version 4.1 which includes all the features that didn’t quite make it into 4.0, as well as updates based on your feedback and of course the usual raft of bug fixes. We’re very excited about the future of Pocket Casts and we have some big plans for the future. Today though we’d like to recap how the launch went.
After waking up at 2.30am in Australia to push the release button, we were pleasantly surprised by Apple having picked our app to feature in quite a number of spots.
First and foremost a massive banner in the news category, and also in the ‘Designed for iOS 7′ section:
When we threw out all our old version 3 code, and started a new Xcode project at the beginning of 2013 we spent a lot of time on design and workflow. When Apple announced iOS 7 at WWDC in June, we changed course again. Our aim was always to build a podcast listening app that was easy to use, fitted in perfectly with iOS and looked amazing. Clearly Apple feels we nailed it and we couldn’t think of better approval than that.
Next up the reviews started to roll in, here’s a few quotes we’ve picked out:
“I’ve thoroughly been enjoying Pocket Casts 4, and it’s booted Instacast off of my home screen. I’m in love with the natural iOS 7 design, subtle custom colors, transparencies, and intuitive interface. Plus, the syncing is easy and fast. This is what an iOS 7 podcast client should be, and I’m glad Shifty Jelly made it.”
“I’ve been trying out Pocket Casts 4 for a while now, and it does a great job providing robust, power user features in a way that stays incredibly clean and clear”
“This isn’t just a reskinning of an old app. It is an app that truly understands and lives on iOS 7. Everything in the app has been redone to look pixel perfect on your iPhone or iPad…”
“I’ve switched to Pocket Casts 4 as my podcast client of choice…Besides design choices and animations, the app’s navigation, sync, automatic downloads, and filters work better for me and for the way I like to listen to podcasts.”
“Pocket Casts 4 represents what iOS 7 is all about. If you love podcasts, this is a must download”
“This app really looks native to iOS 7 without just being derivative of what Apple is doing”
“I find Pocket Casts 4 the be the best overall podcast management app for iOS, and a perfect way to usher in the dawn of a revisioned iOS.”
We also rated a mention on The Verge and even a shout out on Reddit, for a dialogue I wrote at 2am. In short thanks to your amazing support, we had our best app launch in the history of Shifty Jelly. We made it into the Top 50 paid apps in the US, and were at #2 in our category as well. As small independent developers with little to no marketing budget, we can’t tell you how great that feels.
For those of you that have followed us for a while though, you’ll know that we’re not going to retire on our amazing launch and take the rest of the year off. We’re already planning future updates for the app as well as some new and innovative things in the world of podcasting that no one else has done before. We’re not ready to talk about that today, but rest assured we still have more things in the pipeline that should blow your collective minds. So strap yourselves in, and enjoy the Shifty Jelly Experience (Patent Pending). Also if you got all the way way here and haven’t bought the app yet, shame on you, go buy it right now on the App Store.
Over the past few months, we’ve been working hard on the biggest update to Pocket Casts for iOS that we’ve ever done. We’re excited to finally be able to announce that Pocket Casts version 4 is almost done, and will be available soon!
Some big features of Pocket Casts 4:
- Stunning, redesigned user interface based on iOS 7′s styling.
- iPad support, because your iPad needs podcast lovin’ too.
- Your subscriptions, playlists and play states can be synced between every iOS & Android device you own. We *love* this feature. And you heard us right, iOS and Android, living together in syncing harmony. That’s syncsess right there!
- Smart dynamic episode filters. 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 obviously still available for the super picky among you.
- Automatic downloads. When a new episode of your favourite show comes out, Pocket Casts can download it automatically for you, without you having to open the app.
There’s a lot more to Pocket Casts 4, but we have to keep some surprises for when it launches
Many of these new features rely on the cool new technologies built into iOS 7. This is why Pocket Casts 4 will be available as a free update for iOS 7 only and will be released to coincide with the launch of iOS 7. If your device can’t run iOS 7, v3 of Pocket Casts will continue to work just fine, and when you do update to a shiny new device, you’ll be able to upgrade your app for free!
We think Pocket Casts is the best way to listen to podcasts. We know you’ll love it and we can’t wait to get it into your hands so you can enjoy it too!
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!
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.
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!
People often ask us “Do you do client work? I have this great idea!”. We literally get that several times a week. The answer is yes, but we are not interested in your idea. We are looking for people who don’t just have an idea, they have a business plan, they have their budget sorted and they have the passion required to transform an idea (the first 1% of the work required) into a product (the other 99%). People we can form a partnership with to bring something truly innovative and useful to the market.
So we’re proud to announce our first such collaboration for this year, with just such a client: Rebecca from Rustic Evolutions (www.rusticevolutions.com.au). In September of 2011, we received this email in our inbox:
I am interested in having an iPad app developed for use by farmers as an in-paddock record keeping tool. I would like to work with a South Australian based company to develop this and found your website from a google search. Can you please let me know what information you would require to provide a quote and timeframe for developing an app?
The best thing about this email? Rebecca didn’t ask us to sign an NDA before uttering a word about her idea, but instead gave us a really high level explanation about what she wanted. People who believe that ideas are incredibly valuable, and can be stolen in seconds are a topic for another day (hint: they are not and they can not). So long story short Rebecca came in, we talked about her idea, and then laid out a roadmap for how to bring her idea to the store. It was clear from the beginning that Rebecca had already put a lot of thought into her app, and the business around it. She had mockups of screens, notes about ideas, and questions all ready to go.
The result? A smashingly handsome, and functional app called EvoCrop. Now available in the App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/evocrop/id540246364?ls=1&mt=8
The takeaway? If you want to bring an app to market, you have to be prepared to put in the hard work. To research, to think things through, to organise the finances required. Then you have to find yourself a team of developers that you’re comfortable working with, that want to see you succeed and that, most importantly, you trust. You also have to be a bit flexible, the more Non-Disclosure Agreements and restrictive contracts you sign, the worse the outcome is going to be.
The clients thoughts on the project?
I just want to say thank you so so much for all your enthusiasm, hard work and assistance in getting this app into the market. Whenever I tell people I’m getting an app made they always ask how the hell do you do that. My answer is always the same – I googled app developers and very wisely chose the coolest and most skilled boys in the business. Finding you was a dream come true and the whole process has been stress free and an absolute pleasure, something that is very rare for a start-up independent business I’m sure you will agree.
So Rebecca: we really do wish you all the best with your app and hope that you get the success you most definitely deserve. Working with you was a pleasure, and we’re really proud of what we have built together. If anyone out there knows of any farmers that would be interested in what Rebecca and her company have to offer, be sure to point them to her Rustic Evolutions home page, and her brand spanking new EvoCrop app.
And finally, we can’t help but leave you with the picture Rebecca sent us of herself and her husband, trialling the app in the field:
Today Apple released their own podcasting application for iOS. This was widely rumoured, though it still seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise. Naturally a lot of people have asked us about how we feel about being ‘sherlocked’ (a fun term dating back to an app called ‘Watson’ which Apple copied, and bundled into Max OS X as ‘Sherlock’). Our reaction to the rumours was of course trepidation and fear, since Apple can play ‘dirty’ and do all sorts of things with iOS apps that we as third-party developers are not allowed to do. The app that they released today though, made us very happy.
Apple’s app is quite pretty to look at, and it does a nice job of separating podcasts out of iTunes so in that sense they’ve done the podcasting community a great service. Once you play with their app for more than 5 minutes though, you realise it’s little more than that. It’s literally the features they once had inside the Music and iTunes applications bundled into iOS, moved into their own application. As the maker of a podcasting app, we realise this sounds dis-ingenious, so please, allow us to elaborate.
Let’s pretend that I’m a podcast fan (which I am, so that part is easy) and I’m out to find a podcasting application. Logically (for me at least) I’d try the free Apple one first. Here are some of the things that are immediately annoying about it:
- There’s a 50MB limit on downloads over 3G. Case in point Macbreak Weekly came out today, it was 50.3MB. Can I download it?
- When I play a podcast, I like to be able to see where I’m up to. The now playing screen Apple has is pretty, but doesn’t tell me that. You can tap the artwork to get a progress bar but even that doesn’t have times on it, you actually have to start scrubbing to get them. Once you do the times stay, but they don’t update at all…which seems a bit silly.
- I like to be able to skip adverts really quickly. Apple has a skip back 10 seconds, skip forward 30 seconds. That part would keep me reasonably happy, except the buttons are too close together, and I’d struggle to hit them accurately in my car, which is where I listen to podcasts for over an hour a day.
- I also listen to podcasts that don’t come out on a regular basis, and I’d like the app to send me updates when a new episode comes out, the Apple app can’t do that, I have to open it to get it to refresh.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “You’re purposely focussing on all the things you’re app does well, because you want to point out how great it is. That’s not fair”. You’re right, and you’re wrong. We built our app because we’re avid podcasts fans. We spent a long time agonising over all the little details that we wanted in an application to make our podcast experience pleasurable, rather than painful. So yes, the Apple app is missing things our app has, and yes I’ve pointed out some of them, but for good reason: these are all features we wanted, nay, demanded.
So why would you buy our app over the Apple one? Do you even need to? If you’re a person who listens to only a few podcasts every now and again, you can probably get by with the Apple app just fine. It’s very capable, it’s nicely designed, it’s clean, it’s minimal. But if you want more, here’s the things you’d get with our app:
- Push notifications when new episodes comes out, handy if like me you can’t keep track of when new shows are meant to come out:
- Giant skip buttons (hidden by default, come up when you tap them) for easy skipping in the car. Also handy is the amount back and forward is configurable. Personally I prefer 45 seconds forward, 10 back. Two taps when Tech News Today starts gets me straight to the content every time
- Server side podcast parsing. Now this is something as a user I wouldn’t think I’d need, but being able to update all 30 of my podcasts in 1 second, vs 1 minute for Apple’s app saves me bandwidth and time. We’re also the only app in iOS to do this.
- Being able to play a video podcast, as audio. All to often I download a video podcast, but then want to play it while doing something else on my phone. The Apple app stops the video the second you back out of it or press your home button. Pocket Casts automatically switches to playing the audio from the video file, allowing you to keep listening.
- Being able to play a podcast while it’s downloading is also very handy, it means you get the best of streaming and downloading. So this morning I was dropping my son off at school, and a new Macbreak Weekly came out. I was out on 3G, so I just tapped download before I hopped back in the car, about 20 seconds later it’s ready to play, and I get to keep the file afterwards so I don’t need a network connection next time I go to play it. Update: I’m told Apple’s app actually supports a slight hybrid of this mode. Where it will stream and download at the same time, then switch to the downloaded version when the download is done. I can’t confirm this, but you’d still be out of luck if it’s over 50MB and you’re on 3G, just like I was in the example below.
I could literally go on all day, but here’s a few more of my favourite features of our app:
- Variable playback speeds (1x, 1.2x, 1.5x, 2x) – Apple has just slow, normal and fast.
- Playlist, choose the order in which you want to play your episodes. Handy when you’re on a plane. Queue up some episodes in the order you want, put your headphones in and your phone never needs to leave your pocket.
- Show notes, one of the most crucial parts of listening to any podcast, and yet as far as I can tell Apple has left them out completely.
- Handy Settings: want to delete a podcast automatically when you’re done. No sweat. Want to configure how your headphones should work with the app, Pocket Casts can do that too. Apple’s app is locked into triple tap to jump back 10 seconds, double tap to skip to the next podcast. In Pocket Casts we have the more sane default of having double-tap skip forward, which is a lifesaver for skipping adverts when you’re phone is in your pocket and should you choose you can have the headphones skip whole episodes instead.
- Manually add shows: every now and again you’ll come across a podcast that isn’t in iTunes. In Apple’s app your out of luck but in ours you can paste in the feed URL and be on your way.
Welcome to 2012, and goodbye to January…where on earth does the time go! This is the first year we’ve sat down and actually planned the year ahead. It’s been quite an exciting task and today we thought we’d share a little bit of that planning process with you. Nothing is guaranteed of course, we’re not exactly renowned for sticking to deadlines, or plans, so we’ll see how it goes.
First things first, we present to you Shiny Item #1:
Off you go, visit it, marvel at it, behold it’s simple, shiny beauty. The next thing you’ll probably notice is Shiny Item #2:
That’s right, we’ve been working on a brand new Mac app. No details yet, we’ll just let you marvel mysteriously.
But of course it wouldn’t be the Official Year of Shiny Things (why yes, I did just make that up, thanks for asking) if there wasn’t more than just those two things, and there certainly is. We plan on making some very big changes to our existing iOS apps, as well as our Android apps. This is the first year we’re going to turn our Android development into a first class experience. What we’ll be striving for is an equal (or better!) app experience on our Android apps in comparison to our iOS ones.
Suffice it to say we’re very excited about 2012, and if you own an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android Phone, Android Tablet or a Mac you should be too! If on the other hand you own only Windows products, then perhaps it’s time to evaluate where you are in life, and what on earth you’re doing reading our blog…