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:
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?!
After a lot of hard work in Camp Shifty our new website is ready to roll: http://www.shiftyjelly.com.au/. Why not head over and check it out?
The next few weeks will see a refresh of a lot of our products, starting with Pocket Weather AU HD. Here’s a small sneak peak of the new tides area:
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…
We’ve had a lot of email recently. Probably because some genius thought it would be a good idea to start putting email us buttons into all of our applications. While it has increased our workload a bit, we’d prefer that to people just getting frustrated, deleting our application then telling all their friends how bad it is. The emails vary from ones that are quite funny to ones that are quite angry. I’d estimate that 9 times out of 10 the answer is very simple, and people normally walk away (assuming that’s what you do after reading an email) very happy. It’s funny, sometimes it almost seems that people are happier to get a buggy application that you then fix (after they find the bug) than to receive a perfect, bug free application. In quite possibly the longest segue in ever, that’s what I want to talk about: Quality, Features and how shiftyjelly applications are made. Possibly unicorns and rainbows too, I haven’t decided.
Most people assume that we’re some large-ish corporation, which I’d like to put down to the amazing quality of our applications, and the fact that ‘shiftyjelly’ is a very serious business like company name. I can see the latest IBM board meeting: “Who did we outsource all our IT work this year Bob?”. “Why shiftyjelly Frank, who else? Dependable chaps the lot of them.”. In truth a typical day in the life of a shiftyjelly goes something like this (there are 3-4 of us btw, depending on who’s counting and how, you can read more about that here):
- Wake up
- Eat breakfast
- Go to our full time jobs (which have nothing to do with shiftjelly)
- Come home
- Eat dinner
- Be social
- Put the kids/wife/dogs to bed
- Decide whether to code like a mad monkey or just crash into bed
There’s a point here right? If you’re still reading my guess is that’s what you’re wondering. Well the point is this: we’re just 3-4 part timers working in the wee hours from our couches. It might sound more glamorous if I told you my couch is leather, but really, sometimes it’s just hard work. We make a little money, ’tis true. When split 3-4 ways it’s not a lot though, which you can probably guess by the fact that we still all work full time elsewhere. But we don’t do this for the money. If we did we would have been much better off working the graveyard shift at a service station (gas station for the Americans out there). It would pay more, and I hear the employee discounts are really awesome. No we do this because we love it. Not always, not every day, but we really do love it. Some days we hate it, we chase down excruciating painful bugs for hours on end, sometimes in circles. Some nights you end up giving up and just reverting all the changes you made (thank goodness for source control). But most times it just seems cool. We’re making applications that people use every day. Roofers, tradies, fishermen, office workers, cyclists…even grandma. We’re also motivated by our competitors, perhaps because we’re all alpha males, but every time one of them creeps above us in the charts the coding nights become more frantic, the features get more elaborate, the whole virtual office (we’re separated by many kilometres) hums. All this just for the pure fact that we refuse to be beaten.
So on to the point (yes I know I promised it paragraphs ago): we love you guys, we really do. We love hearing from you. It pains us that we cannot add features faster than we do, but we’re trying. Some days we feel like we’re working 2 jobs. So yes we’re upgrading all our apps to support that fancy new iPhone 4 display, yes we’ll keep adding features to our new iPad versions, yes we’ll never forget about the old iPhone apps, yes we’ll fix all those little annoying bugs that slip through our 2am testing…but it will take time. And until someone comes along and hands us a million dollars (I know, we’re cheap, right?) we’ll probably stay at our day jobs, and it will always take time.
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