AirPrint Where You Couldn’t AirPrint Before

Our household has several iPads and iPhones. I use my iPad all the time to surf the web, reply to emails and view my Twitter stream, among other things.  Occasionally I find it would be nice to print from the iPad, since it has AirPrint and all, but our Canon MX860 printer doesn’t support AirPrint.

Enter handyPrint….

handyPrint™ v5 is a 64 bit Mac OSX application that allow you to print from your iPods, iPads and iPhones on printers that do not support the AirPrint protocol. v5 has been re-designed as a standard application similar to the ones you would find in the Apple App Store. You simply copy it to the Applications folder and run it from there. Once you turn the application switch to ON it will start on its own every time you login to you user account. No need to manually start the application.

handyPrint is a simple download which is a DMG, just click to install.  It’s an application needs to be running while the user is logged in on the host Mac.  I noticed there’s a Pro version that runs as a service to alleviate this requirement but this didn’t matter to me.

Once installed handyPrint is run and sits in the OS X menu bar after it’s turned on. The user interface is really simple:

HandyPrint

A list of available printers shows up and you just select the ones you enable AirPrint support.  This particular printer is actually wireless, I just happen to have the driver installed on my Mac.

Printing from the iPad is simple.  While you’re in the application you want to print from, just select Print as if you had an AirPrint-supported printer around:

IMG 0001

Select the printer and that’s it.  handyPrinter works seamless.

Thanks to Eric Davis for pointing it out on Twitter. 

An iPad user tries a Nexus 7

Apple has always been really good at paying attention to the little details, the ones that make their products just that much better than anyone else.  I think people refer to this as being the “best”. 

I cam across this great post by Eric Sink detailing his experience with a Nexus 7 after having an iPad as an appendage since April 2010.  What I found interesting is his use and requirements are almost exactly like mine. I carry an iPhone but I rarely use it except for the occasional phone call or reading Twitter while standing in line somewhere.  

Google is starting to show how it pays attention to those details that really matter to us.  Things like a seamless integration between our devices and the parts of life we care about; calendars, email and photos.

9. Unsurprisingly, Android’s integration with my Google calendar is ridiculously good. On iOS, I use CalenMob Pro, which has sometimes been disappointing. With the Nexus 7, I feel like access to my calendar is fast and reliable. That is an unfamiliar feeling.

10. Ditto for Gmail. Very slick setup. It just works.

I like the Apple hardware still better but the Google hardware is getting better:

Judging the OS and its built-in apps, I gotta say I think Android might be generally better than iOS.

But third-party apps for Android, when they exist at all, are generally worse than their iOS counterparts.

In terms of overall quality of the hardware, the iPad Retina Mini wins. The Nexus 7 feels like quality, but the iPad is just better.

Overall, I am fairly impressed. And surprised (as usual). I can’t describe myself as “immediately hooked”, but I can say that I might stay with an Android tablet for longer than I expected.

Apple needs to pay attention. 

It’s becoming somewhat clear that Apple may be developing a few chinks in their armor.  Some people I know who have labeled themselves iOS developers in the past are gravitating toward Android.  I have been working with Android a bit more myself and spend some time with my Nexus 7 (first gen).  I don’t like it any more than my iPad Mini, it’s just too small for my eyes.  I like my full-size iPad Air but if we see a second generation Nexus 10, then I may give it a fair try.  The apps are getting better and although not all of my iPad apps are on Android, there are usually suitable replacements.  Maybe someday they will be better than their iOS counterpart.

Come on Google, give me the Nexus 10 V2

Ratings or No Ratings, It Could be Time for A Change to Apple App Store Rating System

The latest episode of the The Talk Show, Gruber discusses his distaste for apps that ask for a rating. I found the view a bit disappointing. He has a lot of influence and is both a user and an app developer.

I can’t understand this adversity. A developer works hard and wants to know what a user thinks of their work. Is our time too much in demand to leave a bit of feedback? Ratings are supposed to have an effect how apps appear in the store, their rank and eventually their placement. An app without ratings is an app that may never be found, a possible lost soul.

I have responded in every way to the rating dialogs. If I don’t have time or have not had enough time with the app I will request to be asked later. If I just don’t want to rate it, I will respond with a “No thanks” but I do rate the apps I use and like.

This is but one problem with the App Store and users. Giving an application a rating or a review is not easy.  A user has to go to iTunes and the App Store, find the app and rate it.  It’s too much work.

David Smith has a thoughtful piece on his hopes for the future of the app store. I wish I had the same positive view of the future:

I want to believe that the App Store is a special place. I want for it to be the singularly best venue for customers to come and find innovative, well designed, quality software. Software that pushes the boundaries of what is possible and continually amazes and delights its customers. I want for there to be an aspirational pull upwards on my own development. I want to feel like I need to work extra hard to make sure my apps meet the high standards my customers have been trained to expect.

Gruber had a follow-up to David’s post agreeing the App Store and iOS should feel special.

It’s not just the App Store that we want to feel like a special place — it’s iOS itself. Using iOS, on both the iPhone and iPad, dozens of times every day, for stretches long and short, should feel like a platform in pursuit of perfection. Having a de facto standard practice where apps badger you at seemingly random moments with pop-up ads prompting you to rate them is in contradiction to this ideal.

I could be missing something but shouldn’t a user rating an application be helping filter out the bad apps? If a developer can’t ask for a rating, and we know users hardly go out of their way to rate an app, how can ensure we are getting the good apps? Maybe we should remove ratings altogether? Or it could be a time for a change to the way apps are rated; instead of a 1 to 5, a “Like” system such as on Facebook. You can’t dislike something on Facebook, only like it. A viable option?

I don’t think chastising a developer because they are trying to ask the user what they think is fair.  Accept this or don’t, kill off ratings completely or change the procedure.  I think what is there not doesn’t work and is too hard for users to take part.

Yep, paid apps are dead « Tapity

Jeremy over at Tapity had a great post yesterday talking about the very same topic I blogged about; paid apps. Tapity makes much of its living on paid applications like Languages, Grades and Hours and they face the reality.

Yep, paid apps are dead « Tapity.

By piecing together a few anecdotes I have heard, the top ten best-selling apps are selling roughly 25% as many copies as they did a year ago. If a #5 app sold 16,000 copies a day a year ago, #5 might only sell 4000 copies a day today. Now, that may still sound like a lot but apps are lucky to be #5 for a few days before dropping back into the abyss of obscurity. I’m not saying those statistics are by any means exact or even accurate but this is the kind of scale we are talking about. It is pretty drastic.

The volume just isn’t there anymore for paid apps. Premium apps that can sell for $5-$20 can probably continue to do well but the days of hit-based $0.99 apps are very much over.

His possible solution:

My thinking has changed quite a bit over the past few months and here is what I have come up with: we need to stop making apps and start making businesses.

Turning an app into a business? He explains it exactly as I have been telling those that will listen:

Hours is a perfect example. The old thinking goes like this: sell Hours for a few bucks, try to have a big launch. Rinse and repeat for updates. Since we’ve learned some things about launching great apps, we can probably do fairly well with this model and make, say, $100k.

That would be considered a successful app. But $100k isn’t enough to support a business like Tapity. It’s not nearly enough.

But what if we think bigger? Yes, release the app and sell a lot of copies but don’t stop there. Use that to prove to big companies that Hours is the absolute best time-tracker out there, hook into the back-ends that those companies use, and sell it to them at the corporate level for big bucks. Build some web and Mac integration. Maybe even hire a small salesforce. Make it a company.

Yes, yes and yes again…thinking out of the app box that has become warm and comfortable to making our apps into a real business with the actual app just being an integral part of it.

Jeremy, how about a nice SaaS app to collect all those entries from Hours for companies to use?  You can charge monthly, nice recurring revenue instead of that terrible one-time app charge.  And just think, you’re adding a ton of value.

Digging the Gold from the Apple App Store

It’s really hard to make a living in the Apple App Store. It’s not impossible but neither is winning the lottery. People who aren’t developers don’t understand how hard software is to create and because of the Apple-influenced ecosystem, they expect software will be cheap or free.

I have been thinking about how to be profitable in the App Store or better to avoid it altogether. I’ve discussed this with developer friends and it seems to be a challenge we all face today. Times are changing and in order to thrive we need to adapt.

Oh the Choices We Have

Today we have mainly 3 ways to make money in the app store:

  1. Conventional purchase, typically starting at $0.99 and ranging up to $4.99. Users seem to hate to spend even $0.99 when there is an acceptable, free, alternative.
  2. Advertising – display ads in your software and get paid when a user clicks on the ad. If your sales are small, there aren’t many people to look at these ads and less to click.
  3. In-App Purchase (IAP) – this seems to be a valid alternative to asking users for upgrades. IAP allows developers to bundle features and offer users these features for a fee.

IAP is an approach I am considering for my current apps and future ones. The idea would be to give the basic software away and charge for “Pro” features.  These pro features need to be real value to the user, no just take a crippled lite version of the app and enabling features users expect.

I have experimented pricing for my apps. My main app is Palette Pro, started out for $1.99 and did fine at release. I later changed the price to free for a short period of time to test the results, which were astonishing. Downloads for the free app was 1000x that of paid. This is pretty powerful and says a lot. Just like most developers, I can’t work for free.

Joel Spolsky from Hacker News:

The only business models I want to work on any more have some mass-market component that is absolutely free, and a niche companion product that makes money off of the exhaust fumes of the mass-market component.

The last two businesses I started are Stack Overflow, which is free, where the careers business on the side makes money on the small fraction of Stack Overflow users who are looking to get better jobs, and Trello, which is free, but the business of providing administrative tools to large organizations using Trello can sustain the whole business.

This is more than just “freemium” or “advertising-supported.” Freemium and Ad-supported business models are special cases of this general model. The real insight is that the free product has a chance to reach an enormous audience which provides distribution/advertising/marketing making it trivial to go to market with your paid product.

What Marco is reporting here is that the old-fashioned “make something and get people to pay for it” business is much harder to pull off and likely to always be left in the dust by someone making the same thing for free, getting 100x the user base, and getting 1% of them to pay for some value added feature.

Upgrades

Apple has so far refused to listen to the developer community for app upgrades. Today, when a developer releases a new version of their app they are not compensated. Small updates are fine and expected, but full an upgrade that takes developers weeks or months are hard to justify spending the precious development time and see no immediate return. If a user purchases an app, they receive free-for-life upgrades. 

The only way today to get paid for upgrades is to create an entirely new app in the app store. People have to pay the full-price for the mew features. This is great for developers but not appreciated by users. Realmac Software, developers of the Clear to-do app for iOS and the Mac, attempted this recently and it was not well-accepted. So, Realmac back peddled on their decision.

David Smith has a great episode of Developing Perspective where he talks with a Clear user (his wife) about her thoughts on the Clear upgrade attempt. If her thoughts represent how most users view software on their mobile device; upgrades are not worth pursuing.

Personally, I think this is a great way to get paid for upgrades. Users don’t have to buy, if their current version does what they need then just keep using what you have. This is how software has been sold over the years; you have version, here’s an upgrade, don’t buy it if you don’t want it. Users don’t favor this approach.

Marco Arment recently discussed his new podcasting app, Overcast, on his blog and thoughts on pricing. He’s right:

I’ve gone back and forth on what Overcast’s business model should be. I’m definitely charging customers directly (rather than venture-capital or ads), but I’m still debating where, how, and for what.

I’m sure of one thing, though: the market for paid-up-front apps appealing to mass consumers is gone. If you have paid apps in the store, you’ve probably seen the writing on the wall for a while.

That model made sense when there were fewer apps available, but now that there are plenty of free and good-enough versions of almost anything, it’s a different game. Apps targeting niche markets can still find enough paying customers to stay alive if they’re much better than any free alternatives, but the number of apps in that situation is always shrinking.

I don’t think we will see an upgrading pricing structure any time soon from Apple.  The company wants apps to be free and let developers figure out how to run the business side of things.

The Gold at the End of the App Rainbow

The art of pricing combined with making a living with mobile apps has been on my mind for a long time.  Recently my thoughts have become a bit more tangible. The reality is, most apps will be free.  Most people with make money giving their applications away, while getting the most attention,  then offer premium services with In-App Purchase.  

One aspect I haven’t mentioned but believe is probably the best way to realize the value of mobile applications is to offer applications for free but consume a paid backend.  A Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) backend is offered for some monthly fee and the mobile application is simply a client of the SaaS app, just like a web browser.  The beauty and simplicity of this approach is that it works for apps in the Apple app store but also on Google Play and the Windows Store.

It’s interesting where this is going but things are pretty clear; developers need to change their approach to how they earn their living in mobile.

JOBS

Jobs

I don’t usually post about movies, mainly because most movies these days really suck and aren’t worth the time to even say I saw one.  I did take in the new JOBS film with Ashton Kutcher.  I really enjoy the movie.  It brought back a lot of memories of how the industry was back in the day and how it has evolved since then.  It was truly an exciting time and I hate to admit, a far more exciting and exhilarating time than today.  

I’ve heard a lot of criticism leading up to the movie, both about the content and Kutcher’s portrayal of Steve so going into the movie my expectations were not very high.  I have followed the creation of Apple, and many tech companies for that matter, since I got my first computer in the early 80′s..so I’m very familiar with the storyline. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the movie.  It was just over 2 hours and I found myself entranced by the film.  I thought Kutcher did a great job of becoming Steve Jobs, from his facial mannerisms, the looks, personality (maybe a bit nicer) to his walk.

Watching the feedback this weekend I have heard much about how the story wasn’t told accurately and various aspect exaggerated.  The fact that it was meant to honor Steve and Apple as well as entertain, should be obvious it is not a documentary.

Apple fans should enjoy the movie and avoid the criticism.  My daughter and I thoroughly enjoy the story and would/will see it again.  It was a trip back in time when technology seem magical and revolutionary.

Vesper – The First App for iOS 7

01 Hero

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with Xcode 5 and iOS 7 lately.  I can’t mention specifics, but I can say it’s a direction I am very happy to see.  There are a lot of good things happening in there.

Charles Perry points out how Vesper, the note taking application for your iPhone, is a  window into what users can expect from design in iOS 7:

As it turns out they were right on the mark. This style of clean, edge-to-edge design that emphasizes content and deemphasizes the interface was exactly where iOS 7 was headed. As Jony Ive explained in the WWDC keynote address, “In many ways, we’ve tried to create an interface that is unobtrusive and deferential. One where the design recedes, and in doing so actually elevates your content.” And that’s exactly the effect we see in Vesper. Without toolbars, without even separator lines between table view cells, Vesper draws users’ eyes to the content so they can quickly access their information and be on their way. This deference to content is going to be a hallmark of iOS 7 design and will be something for all developers to keep in mind as they plan for the future.

Charles has some really good observations that point out the parallel between Vesper and what users can expect in iOS 7 when it arrives in the fall.  Considering who is on the Vesper team, I wondered how much they knew about iOS 7 redesign while putting Vesper together.  I’m not the only one:

With so much of iOS 7′s new design anticipated by Vesper, it’s natural to wonder how much of this is coincidence. Did Q Branch get tipped off? Or is this just a matter of great minds thinking alike? Who knows. With this group of characters, it could be either or both. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that now we all can see the new direction that iOS is heading. We know that in iOS 7, content is king. We know that in iOS 7, color and animation are more important affordances than ever before. And thanks to Vesper, we now know that it’s possible to combine these traits of iOS 7 to create a unique app that retains an individual identity while at the same time fitting into the rest of the iOS 7 ecosystem. If you’re one of the many now thinking about your own app and its transition to iOS 7, I suggest that you consider what lessons you can take from Vesper. It’s a great app, but I think we’ll soon see that it’s a great iOS 7 app as well.

I don’t use my iPhone enough to make a commitment to Vesper but an iPad version would be a quick purchase.  Of course the $4.99 price tag might be a cheap investment to learn a bit about design.

iOS 7 and Seizing an Opportunity

IOS7

The past few days have been filled with all things Apple and I have been drinking from the firehose all things iOS 7.  Apple announced an anticipated upgrade to iOS on Monday but not just any upgrade.  The new operating system changes the way users will interact with their iOS devices and will change the way developers approach developing applications for these devices.

I started a post yesterday with my thoughts on how this new update would greatly affect developers and designers as they created new applications and how existing applications would be facing a difficult path.  I felt good about my thoughts until Marco Arment posted an eerily similar post as mine.   

iOS 7 is very different and I’m very skeptical the upgrade path for applications will be smooth.  As Marco says:

iOS 7 is different. It isn’t just a new skin: it introduces entirely new navigational and structural standards far beyond the extent of any previous UI changes. Existing apps can support iOS 7 fairly easily without looking broken, but they’ll look and feel ancient. 

Developers who created complex applications will be faced with a fork in the road; attempt a transition or start over:

I don’t think most developers of mature, non-trivial apps are going to have an easy time migrating them well to iOS 7. Even if they overcome the technical barriers, the resulting apps just won’t look and feel right. They won’t fool anyone.

A new paradigm means a chance to start from zero and build great things.

Apple has set fire to iOS. Everything’s in flux. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain, because this fall, hundreds of millions of people will start demanding apps for a platform with thousands of old, stale players and not many new, nimble alternatives. If you want to enter a category that’s crowded on iOS 6, and you’re one of the few that exclusively targets iOS 7, your app can look better, work better, and be faster and cheaper to develop than most competing apps.

Developers will be tasked with porting their applications to iOS 7 but it will be a difficult task.  Design is completely different so not only will developers have to ramp up but so will designers. 

iOS 7 is a great opportunity to create new applications, taking advantage of the new way of doing things. Maybe this is the opportunity and *not* upgrade applications but start all over and build new experiences in iOS 7.  Can we convince clients this is different enough that apps are worthy of rethinking the user experience, leveraging what’s new and building great experiences?  Some will fight the idea.   Some will refuse.  Those looking not where the puck is but where it’s going to be, will embrace a rebuild.

I for one, am devouring all the material I can get my hands on for iOS7 include the new Human Interface Guidelines and the Transition Guide.  I also have Xcode 5 running and installed iOS 7 beta on an old device.   If you’re interested in a really detailed article on iO7 user interface differences, go read Matt Gemmell’s article.

I will be ready to help clients move forward from older versions of iOS as well as ready to guide them on new applications.  As far as my applications, I will see how the transition goes.  This could be an opportune time to redesign, retool and rebuild for the paradigm shift to iOS 7.  

The design changes to iOS 7 are brilliant, very exciting times ahead.

Google Obviously Loves Developers, When Will Apple?

Google io logo

When is Apple going to begin listening to developers as well as Google does?

The tools Apple gives developers as part of iTunes Connect (the portal we use to publish and maintain our applications), are better than they used to be but are subpar compared to just about anyone else.

I have a few applications in the Apple iOS ecosystem and I have almost no knowledge of who my customers are and I’m not able to respond to reviews.

Google, on the other hand, has been taking a very different approach, listening to developers and acting on the feedback.  Recently Google started allowing developers to respond to reviews.  Its super-easy for a user to dislike one feature in your app and give a scathing review.  If you are an Apple developer, you have to just sit back and take it.  

At Google I/O last week they also announced several other enhancements to their developer program to help:

  • Beta testing and staged rollouts

We have introduced support for beta testing and staged rollouts so that you can get feedback on your new app or app update early in its development and make sure your users are happy with the results. You can test two different versions on two different groups at the same time, such as testing a newer version with your employees first, and a more mature version with a group of external testers.

The beta testing is private on Google Play, and you can specify who gets these versions by adding Google Groups and Google+ Communities. Users give you feedback privately rather than through public reviews. When you’re satisfied that your new version is ready, you can now do a staged rollout to a percentage of your userbase. To give you more flexibility in light of beta testing and help get your whole team involved in the Developer Console, we will soon launch additional access controls.

  • Localization Help

We’re collaborating with Google’s internationalization team to make translating your app into new languages easier than ever. You can purchase professional translations of your apps from independent providers through the Google Play Developer Console. You can upload the strings you want translated, select the languages you want to translate into, and select your translation vendor based on time and price. If you’re interested in translating your apps with this feature, sign up to be a part of the preview in the Developer Console today on the APK page.

The new optimization tips for localization will help you identify new potential opportunities for global expansion based on popular languages for your app’s users and category. To fully localize your app into a language, you need to translate the strings in an APK, translate your Google Play store listing, and upload localized graphics. The optimization tips will also let you know if you’re missing any of these pieces.

Google also announced Android Studio which offers some really innovative ways to preview what an application will look like on various devices and in various languages. Developers also get to see previews of colors and localized strings in the IDE. It’s developed in conjunction with JetBrains, who produce so many great tools. It has to be better than Eclipse.

If you missed the Google I/O Keynote, here it is, but keep in mind, it’s 3-1/2 hours long:

Apple knows they have developers in a position that we need them, way more than they need us.  It’s a really popular platform and people can make reasonable money on it. It’s pretty obvious when WWDC sells out in 90 seconds!

It would be really nice if Apple showed they cared about developers as much as Google does. Google needs developers and they show it.  There was a good post on the Treehouse blog, Why Google Loves Developers, that talks about this very same thing.  They point out it’s not just about Android but Chrome as well.

So, will Apple realize what Google did last week and follow suite with improvements to their developer support? Only time will tell. As an iOS developer, the Android ecosystem is looking like an attractive place to bring some applications. I have been interested more and more lately and the recent announcements just makes the Android platform that much more attractive.

As iOS and Mac developers, we are customers of Apple.  Good vendors listens to their customers, Good did.  How long do you think you would get with your business if you ignored your customers?  It depends I guess if you dominate your market or not.  If you do then you have some time before it comes back to bite you, if you don’t then you will never succeed.  Customers are #1…always.

It will be very interesting to see what Apple has in store for developers next month at WWDC. I can’t see a technical reason Apple developers can’t have the same support from Apple as Google gives theirs.  If Apple values their developers they should offer the same functionality on their platform, we have been asking for a long time.

Introducing Note-It

Screenshot 1afaa9c247a71c1346fa2d51bf413fae

I’m happy to introduce my latest application for iOS devices, Note-It, is now available in the Apple App Store. This is a productivity utility I wrote for myself with the hopes others might find it useful as well.

The idea for Note-It was born as a solution to the way I research on the web on my iPad. I read articles in Google Reader, visit links from tweets on Twitter and copy URLs from the sites I visit in Safari. I often take these links and paste them in an email which I send to myself to be viewed later.

Note-It helps me be a bit more productive by cutting out some steps.

  • I can only send to one email address maintained in the Settings part of the app. When Note-It sends an email, it only uses this address. No more typing my email address.
  • My main use case is finding a URL or some block of text I want to save for later, copying and pasting in an email.

Note-It monitors the clipboard and when active, will ask if I want to use what’s in the clipboard and paste it into the current note.

There is only one note active at a time, put as much as you want to save and send it off.

A complete archive of sent notes is available in case you forgot what you sent previously.

The user interface is simple by design to compliment how simple the application actually is.