Archives For Apple

We are on the verge of the release of iOS 9. Some of the new iOS features I like very much are related to viewing web content inside apps. I am not talking so much about apps that are built primarily with web technology, but about apps that link to web pages. For instance when you open a web link inside Twitter for iOS. Back in the days, we would use UIWebview and build our own browser view, which generally was a bad idea. Not only was UIWebView performance subpar, the layout of these custom built web browser screens was always different which confused users.

Why were custom browser views used in the first place?

The main reason why developers build their own in-app browser views, is to not have the user completely leave their app and forget to switch back. This was and still is a legitimate concern. UIWebview would display the web content, but app developers had to build the whole interface around it. Besides a back button to the app, sometimes developers would build a back and forward button for navigating between web pages if users were lucky. You maybe would see the url and see if HTTPS was used, but most of the time not. The biggest drawback would be that UIWebview was running in its own process wit no access to Safari information. So the user had no access to bookmarks or cookies. This meant that credentials that were saved in cookies were not available, requiring users to login again. Overall this rendered a bad user experience.

back button iOS 9

Enter the Back Button with iOS 9

With iOS 9, the operating system is smart enough to remember what app you used before you switched to another app. So if your iOS app opens a web url, Safari is opened with a back button. In the left hand top corner a small button is added, with the title Back to <AppName>. So a user can view the web page, do everything she does normally inside of a browser like navigating back-forward, bookmark etcetera. And when the user is done, she can just tap the back button and go back to your app. This is similar to the back button in Android, that has been there for a while and is available on operating system level. And with better and faster app switching it is no nuisance anymore to switch between apps.

SFSafariViewController for a little more customization

For developers that want a little bit more control there is the SFSafariViewController. With this class you can create a web view that looks and works 95 % like Safari. It is the responsibility of the developer to show and hide the view. But after that, it is Safari. So URL is visible, bookmarking functionality is there. Cookies are available.

Better web browsing user experience with iOS 9

I love the new features in iOS 9. Hopefully lots of developers will start using these features and ditch custom UIWebview based browsing.

Quip is apparently ready to switch over:

wrist turn wearing a watch

Tomorrow Apple will announce the release date of their Apple watch. This is their entry device in a whole new category, as were the iPhone and iPad. Although there are other smartwatches like the Pebble and various Android smart watches, none these have been sold on a grand scale and are only used by early adopters. Apple always waits, until Apple’s version is near perfect and the market is ready for it. So it is time for smartwatches to become mainstream.

Google Glass failed not so much because of the technology and features, but because of social reasons. People thought it was intrusive. Is he taking pictures of me? Is he reading his email when his eye wanders? Granted, Google Glass is really “in your face”, both for the wearer and the person interacting with the wearer. Social reasons, not technology reasons made Glass fail as a consumer product.

Apple Watch will come with a slew of new technologies and new ways we can use our watch. Pay, open our car doors, operate our music. I have a Pebble. One of the things I find most useful are the notifications that arrived the watch. No need to pull out your phone, just look at your watch. A subtle vibration indicates a notification has arrived. And you just turn your wrist and look at the display, and see what notification came in.

Normally, looking at your watch means you want to know what time it is. Seeing someone else look at their watch might indicate they need to go, or are bored. Now this will be a thing we will do a lot more when smartwatches become mainstream, and look at our notifications. So my question is: can we change the perception of the wrist turn?

 

Last week Amazon announced the availability of app engament metrics for Android apps published in their app store. Finally, I thought! The mobile industry has been focused solely on app downloads and personally I think that is the wrong metric. It is quite easy to get somebody to download an app. Great marketing, news/blog posts and incentivised downloads in combination with easy installs make it simple to get lots of downloads. However this study by Localytics show 24 % of users try out a downloaded app only once. That is a massive churn, which is a pity. You can’t provide value to users that have your app installed but don’t use it. For that you need engagement. So now Android developers with apps in the Amazon store can see daily user sessions, app retention and daily active devices. This gives app developers a much better idea how much value they provide.

The next step would be to use app engagement for top 25’s ranking. One reason why everybody has been focused so much on downloads is that they have a big impact on ranking for various stores, in particular Apple’s iTunes App Store. As app downloads are too easy to fake a lot of companies resorted to playing the system in various ways, instead of focusing on a great product for a great market with a huge need.

I liked the announcement a few weeks back from Google about referral tracking for Google Play Store, letting you know where your installs come from. Combined with Amazon’s announcement about engagement metrics I see two long awaited functionalities made available for app stores. Hopefully the two main app stores, Apple’s iTunes and Google Play will start adopting both soon and compete more for the hearths, minds and wallets of developers.

 

Apple's developer portal

Apple’s developer portal

When you as a iOS developer want to send out beta versions to testers, you need to create a build of your app with an ad hoc profile that contains the UDID’s from all the devices of your testers. Not only is that a painful process, you are also limited to 100 devices. That is, a 100 devices per developer license per year. When the iPhone 3 was released that was OK, but now it is becoming a major hurdle to do testing. It is time for Apple to change this policy. Here’s why:

  1. fragmentation – now you have the iPhone 4, 4S and 5 as well as the iPad 2, 3, 4 and iPad Mini. Don’t forget iPod Touch 4 and 5. Also iOS 5 is still around (not for iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad Mini or iPod Touch 5), so times 2 major iOS versions = 14 different devices.
  2. developers create more apps per year – imagine a company that publishes 10 apps per year, for 10 different demographics. That 100 device limitation is for that one publisher, meaning you can have max 10 testers per demographic.
  3. quality standards have gone up – There are 700,000 iOS apps out there. Only the best that get in a top 25 make money. High quality is required, so developers have to test thoroughly.

What could Apple do? Continue Reading…

ipad mini

So why did Apple suddenly come up with the iPad Mini, even after Steve Jobs public denouncements of the 7 inch class of tablets? It fits different use cases. Ten inch tablets like the iPad are just too big for a number of them. Operating an iPad for longer time without support of a table or your lap (on the couch, in bed) is hard. You cannot grasp the whole device with one hand. With 7 inch tablets like the Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire and now the iPad Mini, you can. Imagine being a doctor, checking up on your patients while making your round through the hospital? Much easier. It will even fit in your doctor’s lab coat pocket. Seating guests in your restaurant or writing names and phone numbers down for your waiting list? A breez. Demoing at conventions, or writing down email addresses of interested people? No more need for an iPad grip, just one hand. I bet you that businesses will love the iPad Mini for data entry much more than the normal iPad, that shines at media consumption at home. And the fact that Google/Asus and Amazon and have had some first well selling tablets in this category, highlighted by the Nexus 7 trashing by Schiller, indicates that Apple couldn’t stay behind and had to come with an iPad version in the 7 inch category.

Continue Reading…

Finally, Facebook has released an update of their iOS app. Whereas older versions used HTML technology in combination with UIWebViews, the new version as it looks now is (almost) fully developed in native iOS technology, Objective-C. As I have written in the past, it is hard to get a well performing app using the hybrid approach of native and web. The UIWebView is not as fast as when it runs inside of mobile Safari because the Javascript engine Nitro is not available for 3rd party apps, and it doesn’t seem to be so in the new upcoming iOS 6.

My testing by network sniffing confirms that no more HTML is returned from the Facebook servers but JSON, the preferred format when using REST technology. JSON just gives you the data, formatting needs to be done by the code inside of the app. Most iOS apps that retrieve server data use JSON technology, so that was a no-brainer. According to their development blog post, many more different optimisations were implemented, including offloading actions to background threads (iOS 101), caching of computations how long text should be displayed, caching of heights of rows in the UITableView. Most of the app is native now. Still some lesser used parts are leveraging HTML technology, to allow for flexibility.

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Just in case anybody still thought just a great iOS or Android app would get you tons of downloads and lots of money: no it won’t. If you want success for your app, you need to market it and that will cost money.

As this nice infographic from Apppromo.com shows, top earners spend an average of 14% on marketing and have an average marketing budget of $30,000 dollars. Yes, that means it is really hard to make money if you are a small team with no cash in the bank. But with so many apps out there and the iTunes and Play store not really facilitating discovery, you need to get your customers attention somewhere else.

So how can you do app marketing?

 

 

Edit 1: also very interesting thread on Hackernews about a story written on Ars Technical about this infographic.

 

I got some annoying app requests on Facebook from this one app. They came via friends that I know click on too many apps and games, so I ignored them. Yesterday I saw a post about this very app called Syn on the Dutch iPhoneclub, where it was deemed a spam app. Worse, somehow it had made it to the number one position in the paid top 10 of all apps, in spite of an average rating of 1 star (!). My first reaction was that the company behind the app, Falkor, inc must have hired some shady firm to boost downloads to get that high in the ranking. But so many people complained about spam, I thought let’s dig deeper and do some research.

Continue Reading…

Burstly just announced that they have acquired TestFlight. Congrats on both, it shows how mature the mobile market is becoming. Besides the acquisition they also announced TestFlight Live, a product to see how your app is performing once it has been published.

I think this is a step away of what they have been doing until now, which was all focused on the phase before launching. Also it is a crowded space: there are already mobile analytics companies like Flurry and app download companies like Distimo and Mobapp.

Meanwhile, we at Mobtest.com keep on focusing on our mission: to build a great marketplace where mobile developers can find testers. Developers need feedback on their apps before they push them out in the app stores. They need to get high ratings to do their marketing in the app stores and get interested users to actually download their app.

We are looking for beta testers of our own service, so sign up at mobtest.com to get an invite. First batch is 50 testers, so sign up quickly!

I had this blog post drafted already, and originally had it titled “iTunes App Store sucks, and Apple doesn’t give a shit”. Well, after the acquisition of Chomp Apple shows it knows. Finally!

To be more precise, I think that app discovery in the app store sucks, and this hurts both users and developers.

Right now, the only ways users find apps are through New, What’s Hot or the top 25 of a category. With almost  600,000 apps,  that is basically an Office Depot with aisles that are 50 miles long. You look at the top 25, but that’s it.  App search is just really bad. Genius? Anybody ever used Genius more than once? Genius is a joke like Ping is. Apparently, Apple is just not good at social.

Continue Reading…