Succeeding in a Mature App Store

Charles Perry has a great response to David Smith's concerns about the App Store being “full” (which I also pondered here):

We need to compete in niches, where there isn’t enough opportunity to justify the attention of large corporate developers. Don’t try to create a new bookkeeping app – Intuit will eat you alive. Instead build a bookkeeping app that’s tailored specifically for veterinarians or, even more narrowly, for large animal veterinarians. Don’t build a general purpose word processor – Microsoft has that space all locked up. Instead, build a word processor that’s specialized for a particular field like academics or screenwriting. Each of these niches offer plenty of revenue opportunities for a single developer. The big players won’t be interested, though. After all, a niche with potential annual revenue of $250,000 might be an amazing opportunity for an indie, but for the big players, $250,000 won’t even cover their engineering costs.

As I often argue, small niches can actually be pretty big on the Internet. Or, at least, big enough to turn a profit.

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Virtual: Podcaster Guild

This week Federico and Myke start off talking about coffee habits, before discussing the newly announced Final Fantasy mobile game, customisable 3DS Home screens, Nintendo's YouTube press tour and how games like Minecraft and No Man's Sky could be shaping the future of gaming.

This happened after we recorded Virtual today (look for some thoughts soon). You can get the episode here.

Sponsored by:

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Apple’s Holiday (RED) Campaign Raises $20 Million

Dawn Chmielewski, writing at Re/Code, reports that Apple's Apps for RED campaign raised over $20 million to fight AIDS:

The technology giant partnered with software developers who sold apps or exclusive items and donated the proceeds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. The company also donated a portion of sales at its retail and online stores during two of the biggest shopping days of the year — Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Apple's campaign was a first for app downloads going to charity, and I'm glad that the company and developers involved managed to raise this amount for a good cause.

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The Story Behind “The Song”

Last week, Apple released a holiday commercial called The Song that tells a beautiful and simple story where Apple software and devices aren't the main characters.

Today, Apple has posted a “behind the scenes” video that shows how the song was recorded with a voice-o-graph and ported to GarageBand.

There's a few things I like about these two videos. The ad is powerful, and it focuses on what you can do with technology rather than what technology is. That's a strong message, and it's carried out subtly and elegantly through the video.

And I like that the Making Of shows Dana Williams' real dock (with Spotify in it) and the BioShock Infinite vibe of the voice-o-graph. This is a good follow-up to last year's video.

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Drafts Gets Its Today Widget Back

From the changelog of Drafts 4.0.6, released today on the App Store:

New: Today widget. Now back with the addition of recent drafts summary. Thanks to the help of some fine folks inside Apple for sorting this out.

The original Drafts widget was removed from the app after an Apple rejection two weeks ago. As with PCalc and Transmit before, Apple reversed their decision and the widget is back – and it's even better than before.

The widget shows the total number of drafts in the app and it has buttons to create a new empty draft, a draft from the clipboard, and to open recent drafts, which is new. I wish Agile Tortoise didn't have to go through this process, but I'm glad the widget is back in Drafts before the holidays.

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PDF Converter Gets Universal Update

With iOS 8, Readdle updated their PDF Converter app for iPad with an action extension to quickly convert any webpage to PDF. While the same can be done with Workflow now, I like that PDF Converter saves documents automatically into the app, which can store them in iCloud Drive (and thus on all your devices) without even launching the app after a PDF has been generated.

PDF Converter was updated to version 2.2 yesterday with iPhone support – you can now “print” a webpage to PDF directly from Safari with the tap of a button without having to decide where you want to save the file. In the app, you can tap an iCloud Drive button to open the iOS 8 document picker and switch it to other document storage extensions, and you can also convert the contents of your clipboard or files from Dropbox.

If you don't want to convert webpages or files, PDF Converter's action extension shows up in the Photos app, which will let you convert images to PDF documents (handy if you, say, want to annotate screenshots with full-featured apps like PDF Expert).

PDF Converter 2.2 is available on the App Store at $2.99.


My Must-Have iPad Apps, 2014 Edition

For the past four years, I've been running a series called My Must-Have Apps that, once a year, collects all the apps I find indispensable to get work done on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Considering changes to my daily life and workflow, this year will only feature my must-have iPad and iPhone apps. As with last year, I want to start from the iPad.

Over the past two and a half years, my workflow has become increasingly iOS-centric. Changes in my personal and professional life have convinced me that iOS is the best platform for me, with a rich ecosystem of apps that allow me to work faster and more efficiently no matter where I am. This year, my iPad has essentially replaced my MacBook Air, which I now primarily use to watch movies and record podcasts.

There's a few tasks that I still can't get done on an iPad, but the list is shrinking, and, thanks to iOS 8, developers are coming up with new ways to make working on iOS more feasible and pleasant. I don't use my iPad as a computer just to prove a point or because it's a popular topic among readers and listeners of Connected: I need my iPad, the apps it runs, and the workflows I've created to automate what I do on iOS.

It is with extreme seriousness, then, that I take a look at the apps I consider my “must-haves” each December and compile them in a list for MacStories. This allows me to sit down and calmly evaluate how I use my devices, the software I depend on, and how much the way I use apps has changed in 12 months.

This year, I'll only cover iPad and iPhone apps, starting with the iPad. In the list below, you'll find apps organized in eight sections:

  • Work Essentials (apps that I need and use for work every day)
  • Social
  • News & Links (apps to read and discover interesting news)
  • Audio (apps for music and podcasts)
  • Calculators
  • Images
  • Extensions, Widgets, and Keyboards
  • Everything Else

At the end of the article, you'll also find a few statistics about this year's collection as compared to last year's and my iPad App of the Year. Each app has a direct iTunes link, and, where possible, I've included links to previous MacStories coverage as well.

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Emoji Type: A Predictive Emoji Keyboard

Emoji have really taken off this year, and on the iPhone and iPad it is easier than ever to use them thanks to iOS 8’s custom keyboards. Like many people, I’ve been using and enjoying the fantastic Emoji++ from David Smith (you can read our review here). But as someone who is admittedly a bit of a novice when it comes to emoji, the wall of emoji in Emoji++, whilst a massive improvement over the default emoji keyboard, is still a bit intimidating at times. This is particularly the case when searching for an emoji, with no idea if it exists or where it might be.

Emoji Type, which launched today, is a new predictive emoji keyboard. That means you can start typing koala and Emoji Type will pull up the koala emoji in a bar similar to the QuickType suggestion bar from iOS 8’s default keyboard. There’s a whole dictionary of words associated with the various emoji that has been built into Emoji Type. So, as an example, you can get to the koala emoji by typing koala or Australia and you can get to the heart emojis by typing heart or love. And you don’t have to type the whole word for the emoji to appear, emojis start appearing after typing two letters and each letter you type after that will continue to narrow the selection (which is horizontally scrollable).

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