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Posts tagged with "developers"

How Readdle Launched Their First Mac App

Readdle's Denys Zhadanov has put together a good article detailing how Readdle launched PDF Expert for Mac (which Graham likes) and got to #1 in the Mac App Store. I particularly liked this bit on how they positioned the app in the research stage:

Many people told me that it doesn’t make sense to build a product that already has some decent alternatives. But honestly, I like competition. Healthy competition indicates that there is a good addressable market out there. Having a superior product that does things better and is differentiated enough can lead to a successful and sustainable business.

Thanks to our research and preparation, we were able to position PDF Expert for Mac really well. It steps in where Apple Preview is too basic and Adobe Acrobat is too cumbersome. With PDF Expert, people can actually do their PDF work much faster and easier, including reading, annotating, form filling, and signing documents.

As I argued on Connected last week, too many developers think that making a good app is all it takes to achieve "success". Preparation, research, and understanding the position of an app beforehand are just as essential. Denys has some other practical tips and fascinating stats, so make sure to check out his post.


Tokens Adds Support for Apple TV Apps

From the Tokens blog:

Today, we’re proud to launch Tokens 1.5. This update brings support for Apple TV apps and marks an interesting point in the development of the app.

iTunes Connect (iTC) has changed a lot in the years since we first launched Tokens. The first version interacted with iTC entirely by scraping HTML. This technique was inherently slow and fragile. A chain of page requests were required for every query and minor text changes on iTC could break our scraping code. Over the last two years, iTC has improved dramatically in this respect; it is now almost entirely a modern front end web application backed by a JSON API.

If you're a Mac or iOS developer, Tokens is a must-have. With the latest iTunes Connect changes, the app can even work for users limited to Marketing roles. Tokens is only $29 – a steal considering the time it'll save you for generating and saving promo codes.


Apple Won’t Accept New Apps and App Updates December 22-29

With an update on their Developer website, Apple confirmed the annual iTunes Connect shutdown for the holidays that will prevent developers from releasing new apps and updates:

The busiest season on the App Store is almost here. Make sure your apps are up-to-date and ready for the winter holidays. New apps and app updates will not be accepted December 22-29, so any releases should be submitted, approved, and scheduled in advance. Other iTunes Connect functionality will remain available.

Because of your incredible apps, the App Store crossed 100 billion cumulative downloads. Revenue from the App Store increased 25% year over year, and the number of transacting customers grew 18%, setting a new all-time record. We want to thank you for all your hard work and dedication to our platforms.

As usual, developers who are making a new app or preparing an update should plan accordingly.


App Store Gets a Smarter Search Engine

As reported by TechCrunch, Apple appears to have tweaked the search algorithm of the App Store over the past few weeks, leading to more consistent results:

According to multiple sources, including developers who tracked their own rankings, as well as app store analytics firms, the change that began November 3 included several adjustments. Apps are now ranking in search results on a mix of contextual keywords for the app, including partial keyword matches, along with competitor brand names and other matches.

I'm curious to see how this latest change will affect independent developers over the next couple of months. For better or worse, search – not the Store's curated Explore section – is still the easiest way to find any kind of app. A major change to the search algorithm can potentially affect the livelihood of thousands of indie developers.


No One Minding the Mac App Store

Michael Tsai, writing on the latest issue that hit the Mac App Store, preventing users to launch apps they previously downloaded:

I woke up to an inbox full of e-mails from customers reporting that my apps wouldn’t launch. This included new customers who had just purchased from the Mac App Store as well as people who had purchased long ago, hadn’t made any changes, and expected that things would just keep working.


The Mac App Store is supposed to make things easier, but it’s also a single point of failure. Not only is it neglected, but sometimes even the existing functionality stops working. Mac OS X 10.9 introduced a code signing bug that prevented me from submitting updates for several months. In June 2015, there was a month-long iTunes Connect bug that prevented my uploaded build from entering the review queue. And I currently have a bug fix update that Apple has been reviewing for 33 days (with 8 days of waiting before that). When I inquired about the status, Apple told me that everything was normal and that I should just keep waiting. In short, the system is broken on multiple levels, and there is no evidence to suggest that things will get better.

This problem hit me as well – I had to check something on Tweetbot for Mac last night, but it wouldn't launch. Same with other apps. There is a workaround, but it's not working for everyone. And, despite the widespread nature of the problem, Apple has said nothing about it.

The Mac App Store lives in a sad state of abandon when compared to its iOS counterpart. For years now, Mac developers haven't gotten access to the same tools made available to iOS developers. And that's not to mention the myriad of issues and uncertainty they had to go through when Apple started rolling out sandboxing.

But preventing people from using apps they bought without a proper explanation, affecting third-party developers in the process? Just inexcusable.


“Why the iPad Pro Needs Xcode”

Steve Streza, writing on the state of some iPad apps and developers stretching their iPhone UIs for the big screen:

App developers don’t feel this pain as much, because they’re not living on iPad. For 8+ hours a day, they’re stuck using Xcode on a Mac. They aren’t living and breathing the idioms and design patterns of great iPad apps. Instead they’re stuck on Macs, usually sitting on desks with mice or trackpads, using a very underpowered and unwieldy iPad simulator, to build apps you touch with your hands on the couch.

Xcode running directly on the iPad Pro could fix many of those problems. You now have a tablet powerful enough to run an IDE, with a very nice keyboard cover, and a screen big enough to encompass all the functionality of Xcode, capable of testing almost every feature of every iOS device ever made. You can code with your keyboard and test with multitouch. You could work on a desk and take your whole development environment with you on the couch, bed, or plane.

I couldn't agree more with all the points mentioned by Steve, especially about the potential benefits in education. As I wrote yesterday, the iPad Pro's hardware demands to be used by new kinds of apps. This includes Apple.

Fortunately, I want to believe there's some hope here. Over the past few months, I've personally heard about an iPad Pro version of Xcode in early stages, being demoed internally at Apple. I don't know if this will ever actually happen, but it sure would make for a nice surprise at WWDC next year.

My fingers are crossed.


Apple Raises TestFlight Betas to 2,000 Testers, 60 Days of Testing

Last night and earlier today, Apple rolled out two changes to TestFlight they first announced at WWDC: developers can now invite up to 2,000 testers to their betas, which now expire after 60 days instead of 30.

From Apple's developer blog:

Now you can invite up to 2,000 users to beta test your iOS and tvOS apps before you release them on the App Store. TestFlight makes it simple to invite testers using just their email address and lets testers easily provide valuable feedback within the TestFlight app.

As someone who's been affected by expired TestFlight betas too many times in the past, the expiration date change is especially welcome.


Apple Publishes New Apple News Format Documentation, Details API

Earlier this week, Apple published new documentation regarding the Apple News Format (via Benedict Evans), which will allow all publishers to deliver native articles with richer experiences to their Apple News channels. Currently, only selected publishers have access to the Apple News Format.

In an updated reference page, Apple describes the Apple News Format, which is still listed as "Coming Soon" for publishers:

Apple News Format is the custom JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) document format for News content. With Apple News Format, you can create beautifully crafted layouts with iOS fonts, rich photo galleries, videos, and animations—all optimized for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

In addition, Apple has detailed an API for publishers on Apple News, which can be used to publish Apple News Format articles as well as "retrieve, update, and delete articles you’ve already published, and get basic information about your channel and sections". An API reference is available here, and Apple has included links to CMS plugins for WordPress and Drupal.

Last, Apple has also released a News Preview tool for OS X to preview Apple News Format documents in the Xcode simulator. It's available as a beta download here.

You can read our review of Apple News for iOS 9 here.


When a Dev Dies

Craig Grannell has written about a topic that is very dear to me – app preservation in the age of the App Store. Specifically, he wonders what happens to an app when its developer passes away:

Recently, I was asked by a games mag you’ve probably all heard of to write about Apple TV and gaming, largely from a development standpoint. As ever under such circumstances, I went through my list of email and Twitter contacts, seeing this as a good opportunity to offer some exposure to indie developers whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years. One response came back very quickly, albeit from a name I didn’t quite recognise. The message was in fact from a developer’s wife; the person I was trying to get in touch with had died the previous week.

The developer in question was Stewart Hogarth, who’d lost his battle with congenital heart disease; he was just 34. We’d only been in touch a few times, but I’d been captivated a couple of years ago by his truly excellent 8-bit tribute I Am Level for iOS and Android. This was a smart, charming, entertaining title that married eye-searing Spectrum-style graphics, old-school single-screen platforming challenges, and modern mobile tilt-based controls. It was still installed on all of my devices, and it was strange and very sad to think that the person who created it was no longer with us.

I know that this topic is uncomfortable to discuss, but it's an important one. If we want to treat apps as cultural artifacts more than ephemeral utilities – at least some of them – we need to talk about ways to preserve them.

I genuinely believe that, years from now, apps and games will be studied as interesting data points and references for our society, behaviors, and sociological traits. Today, quite paradoxically, in many cases it's actually easier to preserve physical media than digital app store (lowercase, as it applies to every company) content and developers' back catalogues. Servers that eventually disappear, expired contracts, apps that are no longer supported on the latest OS – it doesn't make much sense to me that the rules and limitations of software make it harder to preserve apps than something which physically decays.

I continue to believe that app preservation is a topic worth discussing, and Craig is touching on an important aspect of it.