Aug 18

We need to submit our app to the store before it closes for the weekend—what time does the app store close on Friday nights?

I found that quote on the very funny site ClientsFromHell.net. Reportedly it’s an actual quote from a real client.

Of course the App Store is not shut down for customers during weekends. But we have recently found out that the app review team no longer works on weekends. Back in the days when it seemed like the app reviewers were constantly having trouble keeping up with the ever increasing flood of app submissions, you would see apps get approved at all hours of the day and on weekends. No longer.

In a previous life when I was building large scale web sites and server systems we learned to never deploy new code on a Friday, unless you wanted to work on weekends to fix bugs or deal with launch jitters.

The same thing applies to iOS apps now. Don’t set the release date of an app to fall on a Friday. Should there be a problem with the new version of the app and you want to push through an emergency update, then nobody will act on your request until the following Monday.

But, you don’t have control over when an app will be approved, you say. That is true, but you can set the date when the app will be released. And you should always, always use this feature.

Look at the current App Store Review Status and add some margin to allow for delays. For example, today the status says that 99% of all new app submissions and 99% of all app updates are reviewed within 7 days. I would set the release date to around 2 weeks for an app update. Make sure that the date is not a Friday, and that it’s a day when you’re available and ready to handle new customer support issues.

For a new app submission I would set the release date even further into the future to allow your marketing campaign to ramp up and steam forward towards a known date. But that’s a different topic.

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Aug 01

The TSA has come up with one useful rule: you are allowed to pass through the security checkpoint without removing your iPad from your bag. (Brilliant move by Apple marketing, BTW.)

As a self-respecting geek and iOS developer I of course travel with plenty of electronics. On a recent trip I happened to have two iPads in my backpack while going through security. That was however too much for the TSA to swallow. (”Is that two iPads in your backpack??”) The iPads had to be separated and take another trip through the x-ray machine.

I honestly don’t know if the “iPad exception rule” is a general free pass for all tablets. I doubt it. The iPad is relatively easy to identify, but how would a TSA drone distinguish between the plethora of devices that get marketed as tablets these days. But that’s irrelevant for this story, since I can’t imagine anyone actually owning two Android tablets?

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Apr 01

In honor of Apple’s founding on April 1, 1976 I usually try to come up with an April Fools joke here on the site. However, the past couple of months I’ve been heads down working on a very large project, so no time for pranks this year. :(

So instead I’ll just link to some of the better collections of April Fools jokes this year:

And of course there’s Scoopertino – funny year round.

I hope to be able to announce the big project real soon now, and get back to more regular blogging.

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Jan 07

Where is it?

At first I was a bit perplexed because I could not find the Mac App Store. I looked in iTunes, then I updated iTunes, but still no Mac App Store. A little bit later when the Software Update reminder told me there was an update available to OS X, then the lightbulb when on. Obviously a new OS update would be required to do the install and update magic that is part of the Mac App Store. (A least that makes sense to a developer.) It seems that I was not the only one who was confused. Now Apple has added a tutorial on how to get the Mac App Store to their website.

Pricing

I’m happy to see that the general price level in the Mac App Store is significantly higher than in the iOS App Store. Here’s a detailed analysis of the titles available on opening day.

This is mainly because of existing software titles from Apple and indy developers anchoring the price spectrum with unchanged prices from their other distribution channels. It is probably also reflection of the economics of selling to a smaller market.

Let’s hope that the Mac App Store does not fall into the price-race-to-the-bottom trap, so that it can become a viable channel for indy developers.

UI Design

Apple has been pretty strict in enforcing the HIG for iOS apps, so it’s a bit surprising that they have lowered the bar for the Mac App Store. Hopefully this is just a temporary lapse “justified” by the need to have a nice round number of 1,000 apps available on opening day.

This is especially sad since Mac developers have generally prided themselves in creating beautiful software with excellent interface design. One designer’s head exploded when he saw some of the apps in the Mac App Store, and he created this blog to showcase the worst.

DRM

It looks like some developers did not read the memo about protecting their apps. Check out Alex Curylo’s ValidateStoreReceipt code if you need it.

Updates

One of the benefits of the Mac App Store is that installed applications can be updated with one click, just like you update your installed iOS apps. One difference between iOS and Mac is that Mac applications can be installed from several sources. If you have already purchased an application directly from a developer and now it’s available in the Mac App Store, it’s likely that the Mac App Store will recognize that it has already been installed. Where the purchase button usually is you instead see “INSTALLED”. This is good because it will make it more difficult to purchase software that you already own. But the downside is that you are led to believe that you will receive updates to that title through the Mac App Store, which is not the case.

The best explanation that I’ve read on this says that the Mac App Store looks for a matching bundle identifier and version number. So it might be a good idea to change one or the other to avoid a lot of support headaches. Or you can just send your customers to this easy-to-remember URL: IfIBoughtYourAppAlreadyCanIUpdateItThroughTheMacAppStore.com

Another related question is how developers will deal with upgrade pricing. The lifeblood of many indy developers is the upgrade fees existing customers pay when a new major version is released. But in the iOS world customers have been trained to expect free updates for life for apps that they purchase. The reason this can work is the incredible volume of apps that you can sell to iOS customers, combined with the rapid growth of the platform. It will be interesting to see how this will play out on the Mac side.

Opportunity

If you are an iOS developer I think it can be a good business opportunity to port some of your apps to the Mac. Obviously this won’t work for all types of apps, for example if the primary use case depends on mobility or some device capabilities of the iPhone. Sadly I did not have any apps in the Mac App Store on opening day. But there is at least one title planned for the near future.

written by Nick

Jan 01

2010 was a fantastic year!

The Blog

This blog has grown to almost four thousand regular readers. For this I am humbled and very grateful. It gives me great joy to provide iOS programming advice, and I hope that you have learned something new in this past year.

I typically write about challenges, bugs, tips and tricks that I encounter myself as an iOS developer. It’s also a great repository of solutions for myself. I smile each time I search for a problem in Google, and on the first page of search results is a blog post that I wrote (hopefully) quite some time ago…

That said, I do welcome your input on topics, tutorials, difficulty level, mix between technical posts, business items and general ramblings.

One of my few New Years resolutions is to post more regularly.

Pervasent

In my day job as CTO of Pervasent, I’ve had the privilege to deliver many cool iPhone and iPad apps, work on worthwhile and engaging projects, and consult for enterprise class clients.

The limiting factor for our growth is to find more great iOS developers. (That’s why you’ve seen several open job posts on the blog.) Fortunately we’re now in the situation where top notch developers are contacting us, wanting to join our team. Working with great colleagues on a project is a lot more fun than working by yourself.

Here’s a funny anecdote from a recent job interview: One of the opening questions I like to ask is how long have you been programming in Objective-C. Most iPhone developers will answer somewhere in the range 1-3 years. Imagine my surprise when this individual answered 21 years! (He worked at both Next and Apple.) That rendered several of my followup questions moot…

What’s in store for 2011? More enterprise consulting work. But we’re also working on our own product in the document management space. More about that when we’re ready to release it.

Predictions

I’m not going to do any predictions for this year. When it comes to Apple’s mobile products their release schedule is now well established and we all know that there will be incremental updates to most products on this schedule. As for brand new categories of products, they’re just impossible to predict.

The general mobile device market is definitely exciting, but the macro trends are pretty obvious:

  • Apple will continue their curated, vertically integrated, high-margin business.
  • Android will become the device volume leader.
  • iOS will continue to command the most developer attention.
  • The App Store will remain the only financially viable marketplace for selling apps.
  • The other platforms (Windows Phone 7, RIM, Palm, Nokia) will continue to fall further behind.

I wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2011. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Update: Here are some predictions for 2011 that I found interesting, although I don’t necessarily agree with all of them.

written by Nick

Dec 24

Since April when I received my iPad, I have not purchased a single magazine or book in dead tree form. This was not a conscious decision or strategy, but merely a consequence of the convenience of iBooks and Zinio Magazine Reader.

Two eBooks that I recently read and enjoyed very much are Daemon and Freedom (TM) by Daniel Suarez. The story is about an MMOG that takes over the world. It’s extremely well written and the author is a programmer, so the technical details are believable.

Be sure to get both books. The first one — Daemon — ends without a satisfying conclusion, and Freedom will not make much sense without first reading the Daemon.

Since the iBookstore is not visible in iTunes and there’s no gifting option in iBooks, one way to give these books as a gift is to purchase a regular iTunes Gift Card or Gift Certificate. You may also find specific iBooks gift cards in some stores.

The iBookstore lives a somewhat schizophrenic life. You can’t search or browse books on the web or in iTunes, like you can with apps and music. But yet it is part of the iTunes payment infrastructure. The only way I’ve found to create links to specific books, like the ones above, is to use the Tell a Friend feature in iBooks.

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Dec 06

Out of the blue we were contacted by Apple; they wanted to meet with us. It took us about two microseconds to say yes. :-D So today we’re at the famous One Infinite Loop for a secret meeting. Regardless of the outcome of the meeting, we’re honored to have our work recognized and to have been invited.

As good fanboys we’ll have to visit the Apple Company Store on campus after the meeting to pick up “I visited the Mothership.” T-shirts and other swag that’s only sold there.

written by Nick

Sep 20

Conference season is upon us again.

APPNATION

This new conference took place in San Francisco last week. It was more business oriented and not a developers conference. A couple of our clients attended and said it provided great networking opportunities and they even managed to get the press to write about their app.

JV Alert Live – Denver – September 24-26

This is not an iPhone developers conference either, but it’s a chance to see me on stage. I will be participating in panel discussions, providing a perspective on mobile business opportunities. This is a really good conference for networking.

iPhone/iPad DevCon 2010 – San Diego – September 27-29

Bills themselves as “the first major developer conference after the release of Apple’s iPhone 4 hardware and iOS 4″. A lot of good workshops and technical classes on the schedule.

Voices That Matter: iPhone Developers Conference – Philadelphia – October 16-17

VTM is back again with a great lineup of speakers. This time it’s on the east coast.

360|iDev – Austin, TX – November 7-10

One of my favorite conferences is 360|iDev. I will not be speaking this time, but at least one of my colleagues will be attending.

360|MacDev – Denver – December 10-11

The good folks at 360 Conferences are launching a new conference geared towards Mac Desktop developers. Picking up the torch after C4 ended.

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Sep 09

One of the most popular pages on this blog is App Store Rejection Reasons. Since Apple refused to tell us what the “real” rules for the App Store approval process were, I shared my experiences in the hope that other developers could avoid making the same mistakes. The page ends with call to Apple to release all the hidden rules. Today Apple finally listened. :-)

Here are finally the App Store Review Guidelines. The language of the guidelines is surprisingly informal; definitely not a product of Apple’s legal department. This makes it all the more believable that this is the actual internal checklist that reviewers use.

Daring Fireball has a nice collection of extracts from the guidelines that are funny, frank or puzzling.

I hope that Apple will start referring to these guidelines in their rejection emails, instead of the more diffuse paragraphs of the Developer Program License Agreement. This would also force them to add to the list as soon as apps are rejected and there’s no matching guideline to point to.

Apple also instituted an App Review Board where you appeal any app rejections. Obviously this is not an independent third party board, so don’t set your hopes too high. But instituting a formal review board is a great move by Apple. Hopefully the result will be less randomness in the approvals and rejections.

In another good move today, Apple also updated the iOS Developer Program License Agreement. Many of the egregious paragraphs that were added this spring with the apparent intent to stifle competition, have been removed. Bravo!

Now let’s hope that the HIG rules will still keep most of the bad Flash apps at bay…

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Sep 03

The more I think about the possibilities of iOS apps on the new Apple TV, the less likely I think it will be. The two main stumbling blocks are:

  1. The difficulty of translating a touch interface to a TV screen.
  2. The new Apple TV has no storage; it’s a streaming only device.

But all may not be lost. I think the new AirPlay could open some interesting opportunities. A game that you play on your iPhone is very personal because of the small screen. But if the content of the iPhone screen was streamed to your TV then your friends can follow the game too.

Expand this to games that can utilize multiple devices, like Scrabble, and you can imagine some really interesting game play.

Granted all these devices will quickly add up in cost way beyond a Wii. But for an iHousehold most of these devices are probably already owned, including a few retired iDevices.

Another interesting aspect of this setup is that you don’t have to carry a stack of DVDs over to your friend’s house, you probably already have your iPhone with you and it is ready to play.

What do you think? What kind of entertainment apps would you like to play this way on your TV?

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