Posts tagged "iphone"
Here’s a nice non-jailbreak solution for getting quick access to common iOS settings options such as Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode, Notifications, and Brightness. Note that it’s not extremely elegant, as it will require Mobile Safari to open momentarily but it’s better than nothing if you’re not a jailbreaker.
I’m trying it out in an Android-like setup, with these toggles now on my second Home screen.
Here are the key numbers from yesterday’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” event.
iPhones: Half on the market are iPhone 4’s
App Store: >500k apps; 140k iPad apps
App Store: 18b; $3b paid to developers
If you compare these numbers to the WWDC keynote just four months ago (or so), what stands out to me is that there is a 55% increase in the total number of iPad apps (90k iPad apps then).
For more comprehensive stats and visuals, see MacStories post The (Big) Numbers Apple Touted At Their iPhone Event.
Beta testing isn’t specific to iOS development. In fact, it was very much popularized with web apps. It has similar benefits such as building early interest, collecting feedback, and generally making the app much more stable before launch.
Running a beta program for iOS apps also has distinct challenges. In the past, I’ve covered smarter ways to deal with having to distribute apps using tools like Hockey. Earlier in the process though, the focus is on gathering testers. Compared to web apps, much more than just an e-mail address is required for iOS beta testers. Important tester details include knowing their unique device identifiers (UDID’s), iOS version, and device type. Without this information, it becomes difficult to understand if a tester can run an app on their device. Worse, it’s simply not possible to include a tester in the beta program without having the UDID at a minimum.
Using Forms to Collect Tester Details
Unfortunately, iOS developers still haven’t recognized that there are better ways to collect this info from testers. I see this happen both with indie developers and with large, established companies alike. They are still having UDID’s sent to them via screenshots in e-mail and are then manually typing them into their developer account. At the same time, they have no clue if these testers can really even help them, meaning their precious device slots are being used for no reason at all.
Well, there are some really easy ways to improve this process but the main one I want to focus on for now, is building an iOS-specific beta sign-up form. The form should include basic tester information, such as name, e-mail, Twitter handle, etc., as well as device-specific details, such as UDID, operating system version, and device model. I recommend creating these forms in tools like Google Docs, Wufoo, or even Survey Monkey. Some may want to roll their own version but the key is funneling this information into an easily manageable single source (e.g., spreadsheet, database, etc.).
Over the past couple of years, I’ve continued to evolve my iOS beta forms but one by Xavier Veyrat of Hot Apps Factory recently caught my eye. With Rise Alarm, I had integrated my beta signup into my micro-site itself and added some new questions, including if the beta tester was going to be committed to testing the app. Hot Apps Factory took their form a step further though with their App Cooker beta sign-up form. It was extremely well-designed and also had significantly more questions for beta testers. Beyond the basics, it asked testers about other platforms of interest and even requested an acknowledgement from them that they wouldn’t share screenshots during the beta.
Short versus Long Forms
Forms don’t necessarily need to be long or exceptionally detailed. They might just include the basics mentioned above and a link to a UDID app (e.g., I recommend UDID Tool) to assist testers with grabbing theirs.
It’s true that longer forms may drop the number of testers who perform a signup. But it also has a benefit of filtering those who obviously are not excited or committed to providing helpful feedback.
Remember, that each device testing slot is highly valuable, since at least for the time being, Apple is still limiting each account to 100 total devices. Even two amazing testers are much more important than twenty unengaged ones. Those who take the time to complete all fields will likely fall into the former grouping. In any case, provided these forms submit into some sort of backend with reporting (e.g., Google Forms go into Google Spreadsheets), you’ll be able to quickly compare all the testers and select the ones you want based on their answers and device specifications.
When to Launch
The right time to surface the beta sign-up form can vary. But it’s a good idea to get it online 2-3 weeks before you’re ready for a beta. You may want to share it through social media channels or even give it a more prominent place in the navigation on the app website. When to launch, as well as the length of the form, is somewhat dependent on the amount of submissions you’re wanting.
No matter how many you receive, you can be rest assured that using a beta sign-up form is going to simplify this process, reduce errors (no more typing UDID’s!), and help you manage testers better throughout the entire beta program.
There’s been a new trend with iPhone apps to use more sophisticated custom tab bars. In case you don’t know what a “tab bar” is, it’s historically been the black bar at the bottom of the screen, which provides the main navigation for the iPhone app. Apple is fairly specific about the functionality of a tab bar and provides the following specifications in the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines:
A tab bar gives users the ability to switch among different modes or views in an application, and users should be able to access these modes from everywhere in the application. However, a tab bar should never be used as a toolbar, which contains buttons that act on elements in the current mode (see “Toolbars” for more information on toolbars).
So, what makes a tab bar custom? There’s no exact definition but generally, it’s anything that veers outside this description or clearly tries to reinvent the standard tab bar implementation available in most iPhone apps. Let’s take a look at some of the latest trends and see what we can learn from them:
One of the more elegant custom tab bars is in the extremely polished and fun Airbnb app, which provides a marketplace for homestay. According to Andrew Vilcsak, Airbnb’s mobile platform lead and the iPhone developer who brought it to the App Store, it took five months to build the app and “hundreds of hours of work” to build the custom tab bar.
Differentiators: Textured background, tab selected indicator, icon inactive state
Glassshouse Apps’ Gift Plan also showcases a unique custom tab bar. As Milind Alvares notes, they “remixed [the tab bar] into a scrolling ticker.” In the initial release, tapping a tab would move it to the center. It’s obvious Milind was not a fan of this functionality and it’s no wonder that it was made optional in version 1.1.
Differentiators: Sliding tab selected indicator, tab bar height, icon active state coloring
While both apps have custom tab bars, each are still familiar to users, keeping the somewhat standard blue highlight for the icon active state when the tab is selected. This provides a nice balance of being innovative yet familiar, adhering to Apple’s guidelines. But then we have…
Instagram, Path, and Gowalla
Instagram and Path are two of the hottest apps in the App Store, focused on new ways to do photo sharing. Gowalla has been around for quite some time but recently launched Gowalla 3, which supports multiple check-in’s and an overall, slick new design for its iPhone app.
All of these apps do something distinct, following Instagram’s lead: they place buttons in the middle of the tab bar. Now, this seeming no-no has gone over fine with Apple, who rewarded both Instagram and Path with the title of, “App of the Week” in their short histories. But it leads one to wonder, will they revise the guidelines, which reads, “However, a tab bar should never be used as a toolbar, which contains buttons that act on elements in the current mode.”
Above: Instagram, Path, and Gowalla
Surely, Apple offers guidelines only. So, despite not following them in this case, Instagram’s button in the tab bar is likely here to stay. Although I disagree with that particular choice, in general, I’m happy to see this type of innovation occurring on the iPhone. For quite some time UX, UI, and design experimentation on the iPhone has appeared absent. If Instagram brought us anything, it was to try new things again…and for that, it’s a welcome disagreement.
In-between the launch of App Savvy, talks, interviews, and some very exciting client work, I’ve been tinkering in the workshop. I’m going to write much more about the making and motivation of my latest app—Rise Alarm—but for now, go check it out. It has a very unique experience, with the interface being driven by swipes. It also just so happens to be the most beautiful alarm clock on the App Store. I’m finally satisfied with a fun, quality alarm app that works 100% of the time (yeah, local notifications!).
By the way, there are also a couple of fun video trailers. The one currently featured on the homepage showcases the iPad version (part of Rise Alarm Universal) and an original song by my bud Liam McDonald (a talented yet undiscovered singer/songwriter). I could definitely hear this song in an Apple commercial. The original iPhone trailer is also still available and has a completely different style. At the end of it, you can hear the “Glow” alarm sound. Great alarm sounds are also a major part of what makes Rise Alarm different than other options.
Don’t take my word for it? Check out this initial glowing review on MacStories.