After a quick eight day wait at the hands of Apple’s review team, the best Pocket Weather we’ve shipped yet is now available for your iPhone and iPad.
Among the many fixes, we’ve redesigned the full-screen rain radar, cleaned up the card designs, touched up some of the weather icons, changed the background weather conditions to look nicer for the summer, made the weather icon bigger on iPhone 5, + a heap more. (read below for the full update notes)
You can grab it from the app store. If you really like it, please submit a five star review!
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.
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 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.
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.