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Posts from the ‘Apple’ Category

13
Oct

Pocket Casts 3.0 for iOS

We’re proud to announce the availability of Pocket Casts 3.0, for iOS: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/pocket-casts/id414834813?mt=8

Over 3 months ago we took a long, hard look at Pocket Casts. It was by far our favourite app, yet it was selling really badly. So we had a decision to make: let it go and move on to something else, or double down and work on making it better. We loved it too much to let it go, I for one use it twice a day, if not more. So we made a decision that’s not easy as a small developer with very tight cash flow…we decided to spend whatever it took on getting the app right. ‘Whatever it took’ turned out to be 3 months. That’s a huge risk, but we think it was worth it.

New Look, New Layout, New Flow

The first thing you’ll notice when you open version 3.0 is that everything has changed. The look, the feel, the flow of the entire app. There are many reasons for this, but the main one for us was always about making the app more usable and more friendly. For long time users of our application, we realise this can be quite jarring at first but give it a few days we think you’ll love it. We can’t explain every single change we made, but we’d like to cover a few.

When we first created Pocket Casts, we came up with the concept of the updates tab. New episodes stayed there, until you either downloaded or deleted them. We loved this, but it confused people to no end. Some people don’t like deleting, others were confused when after a podcast was downloaded, it would disappear from the updates tab. Where did it go, what did I do…they didn’t know. So the concept of ‘Recent’ and the Episodes page was born:

The way it works now is that episodes that you’re phone has found out about recently, appear in the ‘recent’ page. Downloading them leaves them there, but also places them in the ‘downloaded’ page (which also flashes briefly when you download something. This makes it clearer where your podcasts are, and how to get to them. Another new feature is that the app will now download 2 podcasts at once, which is handy when one podcast authors site is screamingly fast, while the other is slow.

Cloud Power! (Notifications, Speed, Data Use)

Pocket Casts is the only podcast application for iOS (as far as we know) that does all its podcast processing on a server. What this means is that when your phone needs to see what’s new, instead of downloading individual podcast feeds (which can be very large), it just calls our server once “hey what’s new” it says. “Here are 3 episodes that are new since the last time you checked” says our server. That’s about 10kb’s worth of data, vs potentially many megabytes worth. Also worth noting is it’s a lot faster.

Talk is cheap though. Let’s compare Pocket Casts with the highest ranking of our competitors. I installed both apps cleanly, and imported my OPML file with the 27 podcasts that I subscribe to. I let both do their first refresh/setup without timing. Next I quit both apps, and performed a refresh in each one in turn, measuring the amount of data used, and the time taken. The results might surprise you:

Pocket Casts took 1 second to refresh all 27 of my podcasts. Our competitor took almost 2 minutes (105 seconds). That’s about 70x longer. It’s worth noting here that I could have been really mean and added 100 podcasts. Pocket Casts would still do those in 1 second, while the competing app (without a server) could take up to 10 minutes. It’s not rocket science, their app has to go off and look at every single RSS feed for every single podcast and see what’s new. That’s where our server comes in, it refreshes podcast feeds at a rate of about one million per day! All this so that your phone doesn’t have to.

Time aside, I decided to monitor the data use. To refresh 27 podcasts Pocket Casts sends 5kb to our server, and receives 3kb, for a total of 8kb. That’s tiny. The competing app sent 69kb and received 2252kb for a total of 2321kb (2.3 megabytes). In this case the competing app uses 290x more data than Pocket Casts. Note that we’re not deriding our competitor in any way, you can’t do any better than that, since you have to parse the feeds from the phone. That’s why we designed our app to have a server, because we wanted fast refreshes with minimal data use. And not just any old server, we currently run 11 high-end servers, that plow through many, many gigabytes worth of data each and every day. Yes, we do take this very, very seriously.

Speed, and bandwidth aside, having a server also adds one more benefit, the ability to do push notifications. Something we’ve expanded quite a lot in the new version:

You can now opt to receive text notifications, along with a sound when new podcasts are released. You can even turn this on or off per podcast, if you like some more than others. What it means is that you’re always notified about what’s new, even if you have the app closed.

Now Playing

The old now playing screen was ok, but there were a few things that bothered us. Firstly the progress bar was too close to the top of the screen, which didn’t work well with iOS 5 and its new notification pull down. Secondly the controls were a bit small, and felt cramped down the bottom. Lastly there didn’t seem to be any consistency as to how we placed  these controls on the page. In the new version we’ve fixed all that, while retaining the ability to see all the podcast artwork by tapping in the middle of the screen. The show notes are now much more accessible as well, just swipe to the right to see them. We also download the show notes when the podcast is downloaded, so no more having to have an internet connection to read them. On the list screens, you can now see exactly where you are up to in each podcast (and it updates if the podcast is playing) as well as being able to pause and play right from those screens. Lastly (and this is one of our favourite features) you can now start playing a podcast while it’s downloading.

Storage

If you listen to a lot of podcasts like we do, then you can quickly become overwhelmed with having to manage them. Deleting old ones can especially turn into a chore. With the new version of Pocket Casts, we now let you configure how many old episodes you’d like to keep. You can do this for all your podcasts, as well as each one individually. So in my case I tell it to keep the last 3 Tech News Todays (a daily show), but only the last This Week In Tech (a weekly show). You can also ‘star’ an episode if you want to make sure it never gets automatically deleted by the app.

Podcast Settings

New to Pocket Casts v3.0 is the Podcast Settings page. We realised fairly early on that some podcasts have really terrible album artwork. Others have long and cumbersome names. Well worry about those things no longer:

Now you can change the name of a podcast, or its artwork at any time. We may have accidentally also created a way to listen to more…how shall we say…’risque’ podcasts with this feature, but that wasn’t our intention. Honest.

Sharing

Another great new feature of Pocket Casts v3.0 is the ability to share your podcasts, episodes, or even the position in an episode with other people. This means if you’re really liking a podcast, or an episode, you can recommend it to a friend in a few simple taps. When you tap on an email, tweet or website with this sharing link in it, you can open that straight from your phone, and it will launch Pocket Casts, and let you choose if you’d like to listen/subscribe. When we release version 3.1 for Android, you’ll even be able to share with your friends on the other side of the fence.

The Small Things

We could go on for hours (quite literally) about all the things we’ve changed, but we’ll leave you with a few extra things:

  • You can stop an episode from playing (or streaming) by long pressing on the now playing tab icon.
  • We now have podcast chapter support, swipe to the left to see all the chapters, tap on one to play it
  • You can now export your subscriptions to an OPML file, for backup and to use in other podcasting apps
  • You can now turn our giant skip buttons off, handy for people that want to listen to advertising
  • You can now check out the podcast description, and visit the podcasts website from the podcast page
  • You can tap on the first podcasting tab to switch from the tile view to the episode view
  • You can now add videos into your playlist as well. By default they’ll play as audio, but one tap and you can be watching the video instead.
Don’t tell me you made it to the end, and are still reading? Go grab the app already. Tell a friend. Heck yell it out from the rooftops if you have to:
20
Apr

App Store Experiments Gone Wild

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…

Sales PWW

Pocket Weather World Downloads

PWW HD Sales

Pocket Weather World HD Downloads

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 Revenue

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.

Pocket Weather World HD Revenue

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.
So there you go, interesting experiment. We’re not going to be making this a regular thing, and we don’t do discounts or promotions, so please feel free to continue buying our apps 😉
8
Mar

Can Android and iOS Co-Exist?

Today we’re proud to announce our latest app Pocket Casts, for Android:

https://market.android.com/details?id=au.com.shiftyjelly.pocketcasts

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…

27
Oct

Sure It Does, You Just Need Big Pockets

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.

Featuring Tides:

Warnings:

Detailed Forecasts:

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?!
6
Sep

Crossroads

There are times in everyones lives, where you stand at a fork in the road, looking at two differing directions, and having to choose one. ShiftyJelly found itself at just such a point a month or so ago. We have been in the App Store now for two years, working on our apps in our ‘spare time’ while all working full time jobs. The problem is that we don’t really have spare time, that’s just a euphemism for time that we really want to be spending with our families, friends and having fun. Sure we’ve had fun doing this, but it was really starting to wear us down. The last few releases of our products have contained some fairly obvious bugs and it was getting harder and harder to maintain the motivation to open the laptop at 11pm at night and start coding. We are insanely passionate about quality, so this was really starting to get to us.

Introduction aside, we stood at a fork. In one direction was either selling or shutting down ShiftyJelly, in the other was resigning from our full time jobs and taking the leap into doing this full time. In truth there was only one option, but it was not an easy one. To those of you who think we sold out or were going to shut down, shame on you! We resigned our jobs, and it’s full steam ahead!

So what does this mean? Initially it means that we’ll be busy looking for office space, sorting out legal documents, registering various bits and pieces, so we’ll be distracted for a little while. Once the transition period is over though, it means that ShiftyJelly is about to bring it’s A game. No more late night rushed releases, no more cutting corners, just pure unadulterated awesomeness. If you’re one of our competitors, consider yourself on notice. If you’re one of the many companies we turned project work down for, we will now consider it. Best of all, if you’re one of the people that has purchased one of our applications, or supported us, we’re finally going to be able to devote 100% of our time and energy into making products that blow your mind. We’ll also be updating all of our existing products to finally make them what we’ve always wanted them to be, not just what we had time for them to be.

We’ll be keeping you up to date over the next few weeks as we make the transition, but for now we leave you with this teaser image. Who could that be in the shadows…

Shifty Eyes

26
Jun

My Frame – The Little App That Could

Well after a false start yesterday, it finally happened! My Frame (the little app that could) is now back in the App Store:

http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/my-frame/id364532249?mt=8

So what happened? Well here’s a rough timeline:

  • 28th May: A new version of My Frame was approved for sale in the App Store (v1.3).
  • May 31st: Apple calls telling us that My Frame is to be removed from the App Store. No firm reason is given, just something vague about having widgets. We then email Steve himself and he states: “We are not allowing apps that create their own desktops.  Sorry.”.
  • June 2nd Apple removes My Frame from the store. International Outrage occurs. There are riots, looting and pillaging in the streets of the worlds capitals (ok, that last part may be a slight exaggeration).
  • June 3rd We give up all hope of ever seeing My Frame in the store again.
  • June 5th We begin a dialogue with Apple to get My Frame back in the store. I use the word ‘dialogue’ kindly, really it’s more of a monologue. It started positively with them sending us an email asking us to call them, but after that it was all one way traffic. We send emails. They ignore us. We call them, they don’t call us back.
  • Somewhere in June: We decide to take a punt and submit My Frame minus the Twitter and Stickies functions. Not based on any specific advice from Apple, but as a random guess as to what they may object to. We have some minor success with our contact at Apple, who ends up being very helpful, but is still not able to tell us what to change or whether we’ll be approved as part of our review.
  • June 25th: My Frame is finally approved for sale…and then gets removed from the store 30 minutes later. This time Apple did answer our calls, and told us it was a mix up with some master override they have to change.
  • June 26th: My Frame appears in the store, after it’s month long hiatus. Several seconds later, the “where are Twitter and Stickies” emails begin to arrive in our inbox. Here’s the ironic part: we can’t say ‘removed at the request of Apple’ because Apple never requested anything…leaving us in a very weird place.

So what’s the moral of the story? Certainly there are many, but I’m not your mum, and I don’t intend to expound them for you. Needless to say getting stuffed around for a month wasn’t pleasant, but we are pleased that we are now back in the store. We still have no clear direction as to what we can do with the future of My Frame, but no doubt we’ll continue to develop it like the mad fools that we are. So what are you waiting for, go grab it if you haven’t already and join us on board our Little App That Could…and repeat after me: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”!

http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/my-frame/id364532249?mt=8

5
Jun

Now That The Dust Has Settled

A wise man once said ‘never pen a word in anger’, he was going to say more, but I punched him in the face. Years later I realised his advice was straight and true, unlike his nose. Jokes aside I thought I’d give a quick update on the My Frame situation, and also what our plans are for the future. Since some people are confused by the hierarchy of Shiftyjelly, Groundhog Software, and myself, allow me to explain. I work at Groundhog Software as my full time job, we do custom software solutions for almost any environment (be it Enterprise Java, SOA integration or iPhone applications). Shiftyjelly is just a part time company I run with 3 other mates (a programmer and 2 designers) That history lesson is important in understanding that each of us is going to respond to Apple differently. So My Frame and Tennis Stats are Groundhog Software products, while things like Pocket Weather HD were made by Shiftyjelly.

In terms of My Frame Apple has now contacted Groundhog via email and we are setting up a phone call so we can discuss the situation and come to an amicable conclusion. While that doesn’t excuse them for how they treated us, we are glad to see that they are taking steps to address it, and they’ve even allowed us to submit a modified version of My Frame back to the store. We hope that they’ll give us enough clear guidance so that we can develop future version of My Frame without fear of wasting valuable time and effort. Only time will tell, but these are certainly some positive steps.

In terms of Shiftyjelly our Pocket Weather AU HD product skyrocketed up to be the #1 paid app here in the Australian app store. That’s not us bragging, but it’s an important consideration in what we’re going to do going forward. I freely admit I considered pulling all of our Shiftyjelly applications from the store out of protest, and throwing in the towel. Having taken a few days to cool down though, I realised that wouldn’t be fair to all our customers who have supported us over the years by buying our products, and helping us improve them. You have to go where your customers are, and it would be naive of us to think that anything we did would convince many of them to switch their phones. In all fairness we make money off those products as well, which while it’s not our primary concern or goal, certainly helps when you have 2 kids in nappies. So we’re not changing our development strategy, but we have made one key decision: we are going to try our best to bring Pocket Weather AU to the Android platform. Partly out of protest, but also because Android is growing (albeit slowly) here in Australia. We’re not going to make anywhere near the money we do on our iPhone product (we may not even pay back the costs of buying development handsets) but it’s something we feel is the right thing to do. There will be some hurdles to overcome, like the fact that Google currently doesn’t allow Australians to sell paid apps in it’s store, and the fact that the Android handset market is a lot more fragmented, but we don’t care, we’re going to try it anyway 🙂

So in short all our iPhone/iPad customers can relax, we’re not leaving you, and all those who have emailed us about Android we are listening, and hope to bring you something this year. If you’re an Australian Android user, how about helping us out by participating in this forum: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=1432091

22
Apr

Sorry Media, But Apple Isn’t Evil

Update 3 June 2010: To those of you reading this post for the first time, it’s over month old. Pointing out the irony of it to me may seem novel to you, but it’s obvious. I even refer to it myself in the post about Apple removing our application. I leave it here as a piece of history, this is how I felt at the time. Those of you that want to argue with my former self can build a time machine.

As you were:

I received an email in my inbox from someone reporting on Apple and their Policies. They were basically asking about how I feel about Apple being so closed and evil…here was my response:

If there’s one thing I like doing, it’s commenting on Apple’s approval process. I have always been amused by the amount of media hype and attention that goes with it, and how people just assume that we developers must be such an oppressed people, and isn’t it terrible dealing with Apple? Do we have to check our souls at the door? How can we possible approve of and work for such a tyrannical regime? Even the questions in your email are, to be fair, quite leading.

My high level summary would be: I love the app store and the amazing hassle-free distribution it provides and I only really have a few niggling concerns with how Apple has dealt with us, as developers.

So allow me to start with my concerns. My one biggest concern is that it’s never easy having a middle man between you and your customer. If you have a critical bug in your code, it can take days (or longer) for Apple to approve, and all the while your customers are becoming angry and frustrated because they feel you’re not acting urgently on a issue that affects them. My other concern is that there’s no one to call if things go bad, you send email to an address and just hope that one day you might receive a response. So let’s say they closed my account for example, who would I call? Where would I call…I would just send emails into the void. My only other concern is that sometimes Apple let’s through things in one review, and picks them up in later ones. That can be annoying, but they are people after all.

But more importantly, let me cover the things that don’t concern me. I don’t think Apple is a ‘prude’ and I was all for removing all the spam (I love how the media referred to them as porn) apps in the store. There were developers releasing app, after app, after app with nothing but pictures of bikini clad women in them. One such developer had over 100 versions of the same thing. I’m not on some moral crusade against porn, what you do in the privacy of your own home is your own business. Safari will get all you all the porn you could ever dream of, do I want it blocked? No. If Apple runs a retail store and doesn’t want to sell bikini’s in there, I say fine, I agree with them that it ruins the look of their store. Imagine if you’re a woman, and you browse the lifestyle section, and all you see are bikini apps in there, I don’t think you’re going to be too impressed. I think trying to turn this into an Apple is restricting your freedom argument is wrong. It’s like Stephen Conroy saying we should censor the internet and if you don’t agree you are for child porn. I’m not for restricting freedom, any more than I’m in favour of child porn, but I think Apple should be free to reject applications from coming into the store in the same way I believe the Australian government should never implement mandatory filtering.

I don’t think there’s that much that is ‘murky’ about their approval process, every time our apps have been rejected it has been for a reason that is documented in either an interface guidelines document, or some other part of their documentation. In my experience (and that’s all I can comment on) it’s extremely well documented as to what you can and can’t do. I’ve seen lots of complaints from developers who were rejected for using private APIs for example, as if they stumbled into them and didn’t know better. Private APIs are something you have to hunt for, you have to dig through header files and classes that are not meant for development, looking for a call to make that does what you want. They aren’t documented and you have to try pretty darn hard to find them. They are private for a reason, because Apple may change them at any time, and there’s no way you can call them by accident. The rules clearly state that you can’t call these APIs.

Perhaps I’m in the minority, but other developers I’ve talked to all agree, the app store is an unprecedented way for developers to distribute applications worldwide. There has never been anything like it in the history of mobile development, and I know, I used to develop for Pocket PC on Windows…and…well let’s not even go there. Apple’s tools, development environment and platform stability are second to none. For me it’s a pleasure to develop for their platform. It doesn’t surprise me that there aren’t more headlines that read “Apple’s Development Environment a Joy to Use” & “Apple Offers Developers Unprecedented Ease of Deployment Worldwide”, because as you well know, calling Apple ‘Evil’ sells 😉

So to sum up, I love being an Apple developer, and I think all the hype about them being somehow ‘Evil’ is just that, hype. If you consider their actions as a company trying to ensure (where possible) that their App Store is a great place to get quality apps, then everything the’ve done makes perfect sense. Sure you can say they did it to be ‘Evil’ and ‘restrict freedom’ but that’s a much harder sell to me. The most obvious reason, while not always headline worthy, is often the most likely one to be true. Have they made mistakes? Sure. But they are making clear and obvious efforts to correct those mistakes. I’ve developed for the App Store since almost day 1, and Apple has been constantly improving things that most people would never even see.

Sorry for the long email, happy to answer any more questions you may have 🙂

9
Apr

Our iPad Review – because we’re joining the club

It’s been a few days now since the legendary Anthony Aagius returned from the promised land with our iPad in hand. The decision to buy an iPad was really made for us months ago. There was a new Apple platform coming, we felt it was going to be huge, and we had to get on board. So what do we think of it after 3 days of fondling it? We’re going to go one better than David Pogue and present it from three perspectives!

As Developers:

There is a lot to like here: it’s the same Cocoa Touch framework, the same Xcode development environment, the same testing and distribution model. Sure there are new controls and paradigms to learn, but a lot of it is familiar. What Apple did with the UIPopoverController is nothing short of amazing, they allowed us to reuse a lot of the iPhone paradigms in a new way, without having to rework a lot of code.It also has 5x as many pixels as an iPhone, meaning we can do so much more now with our apps. After playing with the iPad for a few days, everything we do on the iPhone now feels cramped and limited, having all that extra space is amazing!

It’s not all roses though, the big thing that stands out for us is universal applications. I wasn’t involved in OS X development when Apple went with universal binaries for PowerPC and Intel but that seemed to go very smoothly. Apple made it sound like you just checked a box, and out came universal apps. Apple is saying the same thing of having an app that services both the iPad and iPhone, but we’re just not buying it. For starters unless you just want to upscale your UI you would need two completely different user interface code bases. Next you’d need all sorts of if else statements to cater for which particular view to launch when. Sure you may be able to re-use an underlying data layer but cramming all that universal code into one application strikes us as a maintenance nightmare. A lot of other developers we’ve spoke to seem to agree.

Sales wise it’s hard to tell where this platform will go. Our first application Pocket Weather World HD has been selling reasonably well considering the amount of iPads that have been sold to date, but it has a long way to go if we are ever to recover the development effort we put in. Only time will tell, but we really think this will be as big (if not bigger) than the iPhone.

As Apple Fanboys

The device truly is magical. We find ourselves arguing with people on forums who keep spouting “no flash, no camera, no multitasking”. Until you touch this device you just won’t get it. None of those things matter in the slightest. Flash is dead, a camera while nice presents some challenges (ala shooting straight up your nose) the thing does multitask (even more so when OS 4.0 comes out). We’ve started to think it really was washed in unicorn tears. Really. Truly. It’s fast, it’s super intuitive it feels right to hold, and the screen is amazing. It’s basically just a piece of glass that you touch, and magic comes out. It’s not a laptop, it’s not a giant iPod Touch so stop thinking of it like that, it’s a paradigm shift in mobile computing. Just like any religious fanatic will tell you of their belief, you won’t understand it until you experience it. You may think there’s no room for it in your life, perhaps you already have an iPhone and a Macbook. But once you touch this magical device, your wallet, home and life will make room for it.

As My Grandparents:

They really want it. They find the mouse annoying. They find using a computer in a seperate room uncomfortable. They are sick of plugging in a digital camera and not knowing how to copy photos from it. They have trouble reading the text on a computer screen. They understand how to tap things, and they don’t want to feel that sense of dread that every time they click something they might break the entire computer. Most of all I’m sick of going over every week and fixing their computer. Sure they use Windows XP, and would have less problems on OS X, but let’s face it, they’d still have problems. No matter how much the fanboy in me denies it OS X is every bit as hard for an older person to pick up as Windows is. Sure it behaves better, but that doesn’t make it intuitive.

So our conclusion? One word. Magical.

19
Mar

Pocket Weather AU 2.1 Part 1 – Bringing Sexy Back

Yesterday we talked about our exciting new product Time BOM, which if you haven’t bought yet you really should! Today we want to cover some features that will be in Pocket Weather 2.1. Version 2.1 has a lot of new things in it, and in this post we’ll cover the first half of them, being all visual.

First up is the new icon:

As you can see we’re trying to up the quality of our game with every new release. Our designer Nathan just keeps rocking our world, we hope he rocks yours too!

And of course there’s a new skin to go with it (we call it ‘Shiny’):

We’ve also cleaned up the way you navigate around pocket weather, after receiving so many emails from people who couldn’t find things in the application, we knew we had to do better. So when you click the button in the top right you now get this:

As long time Pocket Weather users will notice we’ve now given prominence to the tides, synoptic chart and national radars. We also have two new features on there: History & Warnings. We’ll talk about warnings in detail tomorrow, but today we’re proud to show you the history feature:

What it gives you is a history of weather conditions over the last 3-4 days, either in graph or table form. We think it’s very cool to be able to wow your friends with the knowledge that the highest temperature today was 35.6 at 2.30pm. We also know a lot of weather buffs will love expounding the profoundness of the occasions when apparent temperature is higher than air temperature 😉

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about the zillions of bugs we’ve squished, and our new warnings section, but we hope this post gets you in the mood for Pocket Weather. We hope to release the new version this weekend!