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!
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.
In todays update we want to focus on some less sexy, but nonetheless very cool features. The main one is our new warnings system. Pocket Weather AU has always handled local warnings (by placing a red icon on the location which you could tap to get more details), but has been lacking in the state and regional warnings department. Well in 2.1 we aim to rectify that, behold the new state warnings screen:
A few quick things to note. You’ll get the state of your topmost location (or the location you’ve currently got selected) as the first one. From there you’ll notice that we have different icons for flood, wind, fire and general warnings. Let’s drill down into a cyclone warning:
Now here’s where it starts to get really cool. Philip (our back end magician) spent a lot of time reformatting all the Bureau of Meteorology warnings so that they would look great on your iPhone (which was no easy task), and they certainly do. So where some (like our competitors) would link you straight to the BOM Warnings page, we of course go the extra step and try to make the experience as painless as possible. We do that for normal warnings as well:
This feature has been a long time coming, and we intend to keep tweaking and improving it based on your feedback. We hope that people on the east coast, and those in rural areas really appreciate the level of effort that Philip has gone through to make this a reality. Finally it’s worth pointing out that you can choose to get the warnings for your state pushed to you, as soon as they are issued (or updated) by the BOM. Now if that’s not cool we don’t know what is 😉
The other thing we’ve done with release 2.1 is really focus on all those little things that have been annoying us for ages. Here is one example: in the current version you’ve always been able to edit your location and give it a custom name, as well as choose custom information for it. This was always hidden, and I suspect 95% of people never knew it existed. So in 2.1 we expose this function straight from the add screen, by tapping the ‘Custom Location’ option:
From there you’ll get a screen letting you name your location, and picking all the individual attributes for it. This is for the hard core Bureau of Meteorology fans only, but we know you’re out there!
We could go one about all the various little bugs we’ve fixed (of which there are almost 30 according to our bug tracking system), but we don’t want to bore you with that. We’ll leave you with one final image. Typically when you’ve had problems with Pocket Weather (which are few and far between) you’d email us and we’d go through a process of elimination until we narrowed it down and fixed it for you. In the spirit of helping you out we’ve added a new feature straight to the iPhone app itself:
This gives you the option of attaching a debugging file that will help us get to the potential problem much faster 🙂
Pocket Weather AU 2.1, Slicker, Smoother, Easier, Better 🙂
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:
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!
Some people have commented that we’ve been quiet for a while now, and want to know what we’ve been up to. Well today we’d like to start filling you in. First cab off the rank is a brand new product:
Our latest submission to the app store is a thing of pure beauty. For a while now we’ve wanted something we could have running on our desks at work, that would show us weather information, as well as the time. We call it Time BOM and it’s going off! I think it speaks for itself:
It updates with the latest weather automatically, and also transitions between showing you the 6 day forecast and current conditions. It comes in two very unique and classy skins.
Another thing that we’re really proud is that there are no in app settings for anything you’d want to do day to day. Want to turn the seconds off? Simply tap on them to make them go away. Want to change between the current conditions and the forecast? Simply tap that area of the screen. Want to control the brightness? Simply tap and hold any area of the screen to get a brightness control. Want to change skins? Simply swipe left or right.
Of course for the obsessive, there are still settings inside the iPhones ‘Settings’ application, but they are for things you’ll only set once (like how often you want the application to update it’s weather).
One last thing to note: this application is not another skin for Pocket Weather AU. It’s an entirely new product that’s more of a desktop appliance than a weather application. We don’t intend to cram every single feature of Pocket Weather into this application, but rather to keep it light, elegant and useful. We intend to add an alarm clock feature, as well as new skins with some really funky ways of visualising the weather. As with Pocket Weather we intend to keep updating this application for many years to come.
So what are you waiting for, go and buy it!
p.s. Don’t worry Pocket Weather fans, we haven’t forgotten you, tomorrow we’ll discuss what’s new in Pocket Weather AU 2.1, followed by what’s new in Pocket Weather World 1.1. In the meantime, why not show us some lovin’ by buying Time BOM?
It’s the last day of the week (yay!) and the last update about the features coming in Pocket Weather AU 2.0. Today we cover some more mundane (but very important) tweaks:
- Tweaks to all of the skins, including skinning of the location list screen
- 3 new icons for heavy rain, fog and wind.
- Realtime UV support for some locations (from ARPANSA, more coming later)
- Radar updates improved to always get the most recent radars
- Option to disable rotation (eg: portrait only mode)
- Option to disable load on startup (useful for iPod touches)
- Many more bug fixes and server tweaks (there are literally too many to mention here, we re-wrote a large chunk of the code).
So what next you say? Rest we say! Then it’s straight on to the Pocket Weather World v1.1 upgrade!
Our designer also wants to completely overhaul Pocket Weather…but that’s a story for another day 😉
Pocket Weather AU 2.0 was released to Apple in the wee hours of this morning (2am to be precise) so please excuse the spelling mistakes grammer-erratical errors in this post. On Tuesday we explained the new Radar features in v2.0, yesterday we talked about how adding locations will be different, so today to celebrate the apps release (to Apple that is, it’s not on the store just yet…) we’re going to unveil the big ticket feature for 2.0!
A picture speaks a thousand words…
Vanilla push push baby! Pocket Weather AU 2.0, your iPhone will love it 😉
Things are eerily quiet in the shiftyjelly Offices, which may lead you to think that we’re all sleeping on the job. The truth is that we are working harder than ever on some of the biggest updates that the Pocket Weather world has ever seen! So what’s coming?
Pocket Weather AU 2.0
We haven’t forgotten our Australian app, instead it’s getting the biggest update it’s ever seen, here are just some of the things that are included:
- New Terry Hills radar, and a framework to add new radars on the fly without updating the app.
- New radar functionality that we’re keeping mum on.
- Some 3.0 features that will blow your socks off (and maybe even make your head explode!) Again we’re keeping mum on exactly what’s involved.
- Real-time UV updates, handy for summer so you can see exactly when you’re mostly like to turn into crispy bacon…mmmm bacon…
- New options including disabling rotation, and more control of when the app auto-loads.
- A lot of code re-writing and optimising, making for the smoothest, slickest and most complete version yet!
Pocket Weather World with Push 1.1
Our newest app, and the one we’re still exciting about updating
- Support for weather warnings, and push notifications on those warnings.
- Support for animated radars
The obvious question is when are these coming out? And the answer is simple: ‘When they’re done’. We are talking about weeks, not months, but we will take as long as we need to, because we want to release updates oozing with quality, instead of jumping the gun and getting shot in the back.
It would seem lately that every man and his dog has been posting things on how much they dislike the app store. I think they all have valid points, but are also missing the forest for the trees. A lot of people ask us what we think of Apple and the App Store, so we thought we may as well write a quick post on it:
Firstly, let’s start with the positives, and there are a lot. Apple provides a distribution mechanism to well over 20 million iPhone/iPod Touch devices worldwide, and all they ask is a $US99 fee and 30% of the revenue generated. They handle all the payment processing, bandwidth, customer complaints and refunds without a developer having to life a finger. A lot of developers seem to forget that this platform is unique, I mean where else in the world can a fart app earn you close to a million dollars? Apple also copy protects your work for you, meaning you don’t have to worry about serial numbers and licensing. The system is not uncrackable, but the bar is set high enough that you don’t normally have to worry about piracy.
Then there’s the advertising side, for the lucky few Apple advertises our products for free. Apple picked our application Pocket Weather AU as a ‘Staff Pick’ and sales tripled overnight, and stayed high for well over a month. Our competitor Oz Weather gets even better treatment, being splashed all over magazine ads, and lit up in fluorescent glory in all the Apple stores around Australia. All this Apple does for free. I accept that if you’re not one of the chosen ones that’s not a bonus, but there is always that lucky dip aspect of magically appearing in the Staff Picks, What’s Hot or What’s New sections, or sometimes just being featured with other applications that are similar to your own.
Finally there’s the store itself, which supports browsing, reading reviews, screenshots, suggestions and a lot more. All that is great, but the better part is that this store is installed on every single iPhone and iPod Touch sold, and also on most of the desktop computers that these devices sync with.
Of course it would be remiss of us not to mention the many flaws in the App Store as well:
- Review times can sometimes be almost a month, even for minor updates. As a developer there is only one thing more frustrating than releasing an application that contains a bug, and that’s not being able to get the fix to the bug into your users hands for weeks on end. It’s painful, trust us.
- Reviews are fairly random, and things that got through in one release may not pass the second time. Every rejection (even for the most minor of matters) puts you back to the start of the queue.
- The Review process is opaque. There’s no way to know where your application is in the queue and how long it will be before it’s looked at or approved.
- The App store contains over 50,000 applications, even if you do a brilliant job it may still be hard to rise above the noise. Add to that the fact that competition drives prices down, and you may have a hard time charging anything more than a few dollars for your work.
- There’s no way to charge for upgrades on the store, which is a downside if you run a server (like we do) with ongoing costs. It also discourages developers from putting effort into bigger and better releases. This is a real problem if you intend to create an application that fills a small niche, because you sure as heck can’t make up for the difference by volume.
- When you have a problem getting paid, or with the store in general, there are no phone numbers to call, and emails more often than not don’t receive responses. At one point Apple violated their agreement with us (and many others) by not paying within 45 days of the end of the month and we emailed all the different contacts we could find, without a single response. Eventually they paid us, but it’s a damn good thing we weren’t relying on that money to feed our families.
As you can see, most of the downsides are most probably related to staffing problems at Apple. If Apple can figure out how to make the review and email processes scale, then 70% of the problems would be gone overnight and developers would be free to concentrate their whining on that last 30%. Overall the App Store has been a roller coaster that we’ve enjoyed riding. Despite that we are still holding out hope that Android and the Palm Pre take off, and give Apple the much needed incentive to improve the experience for all the developers that have made their phone such a success.
Apple finally approved version 1.5 of Pocket Weather AU yesterday, so go grab it and let us know what you think. The main features included are:
- The Settings have been moved into the application. Since the emails we keep getting seem to indicate that most people didn’t know they existed, they should now be a lot easier to find. Thanks go to the guys from the IconFactory for publishing a very nice library that helped us do this very easily.
- Animated icons are now available (you can turn them on from the settings mentioned above)
- We added the backup Melbourne Airport radar, since the main one in Melbourne is still having problems.
- We also tweaked the application loading time, and response time in a few of the screens.
We hope you like it, and we hope to bring you many more free updates in the future. We’re still deciding on the features of 1.6 but we already have a few like custom naming of locations, adding tide offsets to the tide display, the ability to cache tides so you can view them offline and a setting for locking the screen rotation for those of you that only want to see it in landscape or portrait. Feel free to leave comments with any additional features you want, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other news we’re still working away in the background on a few other projects, which we hope to release weeks ago, but such is life, we’re going to hold onto them until they are fully baked and ready to go.
In our journeys across the vast interwebz, we often discover little pockets of awesomeness that are almost too good to be true. This time around it’s two native iPhone applications that every developer out there should take a look at. Both of them are open source and all you need is the iPhone SDK and a valid certificate to be able to install them onto your iPhone:
App Sales Mobile is a very cool little app for the stats nuts out there (we’re looking at you Graham Dawson) who just can’t get enough of various stats to do with their applications. It basically scrapes the iTunes Connect site and presents things in a very clean and easy to read fashion (graphs, percentages & pie charts oh my!). Check it out, and donate if you like it!
Review Scraper was built to sell on the iTunes Store, but when the developer got rejected he open sourced it instead. It basically lets you choose any application in the store (even if it’s not yours) and see all the reviews for it worldwide. It’s killer feature is that it hooks into Google Translate, as the screenshot below shows. Again be sure to check it out, and donate if you like it.