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 😉
Yesterday we covered the new radar functionality that is coming in Pocket Weather 2.0, today we want to talk about adding locations. Adding locations in Pocket Weather has always been a breeze, but only to those familiar with the BOM information itself. In version 2.0 we’re making it easy for the non-BOM boffins among you to add locations as well. So here’s the summary:
- Totally revamped add location interface, showing information like what observations a given station supports and doesn’t support (eg: wind, current temp, real-time UV, etc)
- Find nearest location function revised to give you the 20 closest locations and letting you choose the best. It’s now faster as well, because it no longer has to contact our server.
- Pick locations from a map. For those of you out there that are more spatially minded.
- Pick from just the capital cities (for the city slickers out there)
- Ability to give your locations custom names, so you could have ‘Home’ instead of ‘Adelaide Airport’
- Of course you can still see all the locations in a given state, so don’t worry BOM boffins, that function is still there 🙂
- Location information is now cached on your device, so it’s a lot more data cap friendly
Well that’s it for todays update, tomorrow we are going to talk about some firmware 3.0 goodness that we’ve built into Pocket Weather, and we know that you’ll really love.
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 email@example.com.
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.
Some quick updates for you, starting with the main Melbourne Rain Radar. It went offline about 72 hours ago, and at the time of writing this is still not back up. This means that those of you living in Melbourne will not be able to access the rain radar from Pocket Weather (or the BOM site for that matter). We have implemented the changes required to incorporate the backup Melbourne Airport Radar into our application, and will submit that as an update to the App Store shortly. I wouldn’t hold my breath on seeing it anytime soon, as Apple are frantically testing thousands of applications that have been submitted to comply with the new 3.0 firmware update at the moment. At least you can sleep soundly knowing that once the update comes out, you will never have to go outside to find out if it’s actually raining or not!
We also have one other cool feature that we are testing for the next release, which we’ll keep a secret until it actually comes out.
Just a quick post to let you know that Pocket Weather AU 1.4.1 is now available. It fixes some weirdness and crashing that can happen if you keep opening the radar, and should also fix the issue where you couldn’t play music/listen to podcasts while checking the radar. We also tweaked the look of the days being displayed in the High Visibility skin so that the day name stands out a bit more.
Thanks go to Alex S and the fine people at Mactalk Australia for identifying and helping to diagnose the issues:
So go grab the new release, and if you like it please leave us some feedback on iTunes. Unfortunately for every new release the feedback gets (effectively) wiped and we are at the mercy of the first few people that leave reviews! There’s at least one Troll who has decided that it’s their personal mission in life to leave us one star reviews that say nothing about the application but just criticise me personally instead. At the same time they leave glowing reviews for Oz Weather. I doubt that it’s Graham himself, but you get people like this sometimes, it’s just par for the course. Perhaps they have self-esteem issues, perhaps they just have no life, either way I just feel sorry for anyone that gets enjoyment out of doing that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind people leaving one star reviews if they hate our application and say why, more power to them. It’s my intention not to feed the trolls and just trust that you guys, our loyal fans, will leave us a few positive reviews 🙂
We’re proud to announce the first of our new applications on the iTunes Store was released today: Pocket Weather AU Lite. It’s basically a slimmed down Pocket Weather AU that we’ve released free of charge. We’ve only removed features though, not crippled it, so if all you want is forecast information and the default skin then this app would suffice. We are of course hoping that it will get the Pocket Weather name out there and result in more sales of the full version, but as with everything we do, this is an experiment that we are all very excited to see the results of.
- Forecast & observation data for hundreds of areas around Australia (every single location that the BOM has, we have)
- Automatically find your local weather using your current location
- Last update is always cached, so you don’t need a network connection to check the weather for the week, once you’ve got it once.
- Updates are tiny (less than 10kb) so you don’t have to worry about your iPhone data cap.
- A free piece of Pocket Weather Goodness for all to try.
Why Should I Upgrade?:
- Animated rain radars to tell you if you’re about to get rained on
- Animated synoptic and satellite charts to marvel at Australia wide weather
- Landscape weather view, see it all in one easy to read screen
- Sunrise/sunset times for planning all sorts of activities
- 3 more skins to choose from to make the application look just the way you want it to
- Tidal information for hundreds of locations around Australia (for the fishermen/boaties out there)
- Ability to customise the application to just the way you want it, like being able to open straight to your favourite location
- Warm fuzzy feelings knowing that you have done your bit by supporting Australian Developers!
So if you already if you’re already a Pocket Weather Addict, you now have a free version that you can recommend to all your cheap-skate friends. We love all our fans, and we’re sure you’ll help us get this Lite version noticed.
In other minor news: version 1.4.1 of the full version is currently under review by Apple, and contains a few important fixes, so watch out for that one soon as well!
Just a quick blog post to let you know two quick items of news:
- Version 1.4 of Pocket Weather AU was submitted to Apple last week, so it should hopefully be approved any day now. Highlights include extended regional forecasts, a new high visibility skin and a configuration option for the wind direction. That last one should final end the religious debate between the into the wind and away from the wind people.
- We were interviewed on the Mactalk Interviews podcast, which you can find here (if you really want to hear how bad we sound in real life): http://forums.mactalk.com.au/40/64628-mactalk-interviews-interview-7-phil-russell-pocket-weather.html.