Appiness.io blog

03 Jun 2014
by Admin

Apple Swift Programming Language

Well, you probably heard about it already. Apple unveiled a new language called Swift at yesterday’s WWDC.

What, a new language you say?

Yes, indeed, a new language. To understand why they’d rock the ecosystem so much and force you to reopen you grey matter, it helps to take a look at the history of the current set of development tools.

As you know, developing natively for iOS is done using xcode and Objective-C. XCode is actually quite a nice and rich IDE. The real issue comes with Objective-C. C is around 40 years old (Who hasn’t read Kerningham and Richie) and Objective-C isn’t much newer. It’s claim to fame was during Jobs’ respite from Apple when he founded NExT…and in fact, Objective-C is still littered with NExT remnants, such as NSString etc. In short, the language hasn’t evolved a whole lot and we’re carrying a lot of legacy baggage with it. People have also said Objective-C has mysterious syntax, what with all the [[‘s.

So, enter Swift.

The first major difference between Swift and Objective-C is the fact that Swift is a scripting language. Meaning you can interactively execute code, interrogate variables, make changes etc. My simplistic explanation is think of coding permanently in debug mode 🙂 Scripting languages have become popular…originally they were frowned upon for performance reasons but optimizations have largely voided that argument. Python is a great example of a successful scripting language.

So xcode introduces a new concept called Playgrounds which will let Swift developers essentially visualize their script in real-time while coding. Generally speaking, developing in a scripting language should make the development process faster than traditional compiled code. (Note, I said development time, not runtime).

Swift promises a slew of new benefits including closures (yeah ok, Objective-C did have that with Blocks), multiple return types, Generics, namespaces…um yeah ok, not all unique and new, but we can assume it is a capable platform built for the modern day operating system.

One of the first questions people had was “Can I still use Objective-C” – and the answer is yes. However, it is likely that Apple will be pushing hard to move the developer community over to Swift as the de facto standard going forward.

Here is a snippet of Hello World in Swift:

// Playground – noun: a place where people can play
var s = “Hello” + ” World.”

import Cocoa

let hero = NSImage(name: “myimage”);
let images = [“round, “star”, “heart”].ma[ {
NSImage(named: $0)
}

What you don’t see in above is that with Xcode, on the right hand side you’d see the results of each statement live as if it executed. That is the cool part about the playgrounds and it being a scripting language. Personally, the syntax will still need to grow on me – you do not need to use the ‘let’ syntax fortunately. Oh, and wait..I started talking about the legacy NS prefixes and guess what, they’re still there 🙁

Apple claims that Swift was designed to be fast. And remember, it is a scripting language during the development cycles but then turned into native optimized code for deployment.

All in all, I think this will be a good thing. Yes, we need to learn a new language. But let’s face it. It’s really only syntax. Logic is still logic. True still equals !False. And on the bright side, you can’t see job descriptions requiring 5 years of Swift on iOS.

01 Jun 2014
by Admin

Quickblox revises pricing

Another BaaS (Backend-as-a-service) company has revised its pricing structure. I’m talking about Quickblox this time. This is good news for developers, and most of the viable BaaS products on the market have a very capable “free tier” – honestly, I can’t see much need for the indie developer to waste their time developing the backend for their mobile app. The free tiers offered by companies such as Parse and Quickblox will be more than adequate for most mobile apps. In fact, should you need to move into a paid tier, this is probably a nice problem to have because it means your app is doing quite well!

Quickblox recently revised their pricing. Both the free tier and the first paid tier make the service quite accessible. The free tier is quite capable, allowing your app to have around 20,000 monthly user and supporting 20 chat requests per second. That’s pretty decent. The first paid tier comes in at $49 per month, half the price of Parse’s first paid tier, and gives you 35,000 monthly users and ups the chat requests to 35 per second. Certainly, Quickblox is offering a competitive pricing plan.

20 May 2014
by Admin

Review My App

“Review my app, please!”

This is a common refrain from many the weary app developer – review my app please! The app store is so crowded these days that it’s not longer a case of “build it and they will come”. Instead, our poor app developer needs  to actively market his or her app to help get it downloaded. And while you can certainly use an app review service like our appiness, here are some additional marketing tips:

I published my app, now how do I market it?

This is a common question. If you’re like most of us, you’re a hot developer, you enjoyed cranking out your latest masterpiece, and you didn’t give much thought to the marketing aspect. Back in the early days of the app store marketing was easy – but now – well, you’re drowned out in a noise of other apps.

Here are some guidelines for marketing your app. Unfortunately, yes, it does take some work, but, the results will be worthwhile.

First the free resources:

Social Media Presence

Make sure you have a Facebook page and a Twitter page for your app. Especially Facebook. Spend the time to make it look polished. A good suggestion is to use an inexpensive service to create your facebook timeline page for you, so that you have nice banner image and professional look. Then, update your facebook page regularly. This should be easy: You’re excited about your app, so keep talking about it. Don’t make it too salesy, but you can give tips, hints and more. “Here’s a tip for all of you struggling on level 2: Make sure the widget is aligned with the player”, as an example.

A website
Put up a simple one page website. With auto wordpress installs and thousands of themes available, putting up a website should take you no more than a few hours. Hop over to themeforest – you’ll find themes dedicated to mobile app landing pages.

A Youtube trailer
Record a 20 seconds of your game and create a youtube trailer. You can do this for free but I’d almost recommend spending just a little money to have something that looks professional. You can get this done cheap or if you have time do it yourself. Many app review sites will just want to see a video trailer so that they know if they want to waste their time or not reviewing your app. So put your best put forward and get that video out there. And yes, you can then use it on your website and facebook page.

Submit to review sites
Ok, this has both a free and a paid option. There are many review sites where you can submit your app. Some will charge a fee to “expedite” the review. For now, we focus on the free ones. Submit your app asking for a review, and include a link to your video and your website or FB page. Make the reviewers life easier!

Update your forum signature
You’re probably a member of a number of forums, perhaps technical forums for when you were developing your app. Update your signature to talk about your new app.

Paid Resources:

App Directories
There are app directories which will charge you to be listed and reviewed. Find some of the better more well established ones and consider paying for inclusion.

Banner Ads
This can be expensive…but it can be effective. Create a snazzy banner ad for your game and publish it across a couple of game networks.

In game advertising
Look at services like Chartboost where you can advertise your app inside another app. This can be an effective marketing tool.

Oh, and lest we forget…a plug for our own service (full disclaimer), appiness.io. Statistics show that when people look at an app in the appstore, they FIRST scroll down to see how many downloads and how many reviews an app got before bothering with it themselves. So while you need to engage in a myriad of the marketing activities described above, we highly recommend you first get some real downloads and reviews of your app using a service like ours….then you’ll no longer be asking “hey, review my app”!

Good luck!

09 May 2014
by Admin

Parse, a really neat BaaS

Hello App developers!

If you haven’t yet checked out Parse.com, you owe it to yourself to hop on over and give them a try. Parse is one of the players in the Backend-as-a-service (BaaS) vertical. If you’re not yet familiar with BaaS, it’s basically where you use a hosted server and database for your app or web app. Imagine if you want to create a mobile app that, say, stores contacts, but not on the phone, and rather on the “cloud” or a hosted database. Traditionally, you’d need to write not just the app, but also the server code…say a PHP script running on a mysql database. Well, with a BaaS, you can focus on the mobile app part, and use the BaaS to store your data. And of course I’m simplifying it here. You can do so much more.

There are a few BaaS providers out there including Parse, Kinvey and Quickblox. Right now I’m writing about Parse but certainly check out the others too.

Where Parse really shines is in the API provided for various platforms. You can natively hook in with iOS, Android, Windows, Unity3d and more. Plus you can make pure http requests. And the API is very rich. I used the iOS API and very quickly created a little app with all the bells and whistles you’d expect, such as “drag to refresh” and more.

Parse.com also shines with the example applications to get you started. They are feature rich and well written, and the accompanying documentation makes learning a snap.

I did have some issues with multi-table queries (complex joins), but was able to work around most of them. They also have a active forum.

From a pricing perspective they have a free tier which will work for most new apps. And if you need to upgrade to a paid tier, congratulations, your app must be doing well.

So, go check out parse.com

And may you have some appiness!

04 Apr 2014
by Admin

Why App reviews are important

App reviews are the single most important factor in determining the ultimate success of your app. Well, ok, that’s not entirely true. You need an app that doesn’t suck…or if it does suck, that it sucks in a new and novel way (think ‘flappy birds’). So assuming your app is half way decent, the most important factor to getting increased traffic is through reviews. And I’ll explain why:

1. Ratings over Description
There are countless statistics that show the average app store customer will FIRST scan the reviews before reading your entire app description. Think about it…it is an instant 5 second question being asked and answered: “Is this app even worth my time?”. Think about your own app store habits, and you’ll realize you may be guilty of this too. So you need to ensure your app has a large number of downloads with a corresponding number of good reviews. Don’t be that app that shows “no reviews”, or worse, a single 1 star review.

2. Chart placement
The position of your app on the charts is in part determined by the traffic and reviews your app receives. Think of it as ‘app seo’ – just like high trafficked websites tend to do better on the search results (catch-22), so do apps receiving downloads with positive ratings.

3. Getting noticed
This is similar to item 1. above, but think about professional app reviewers or media coverage. Think they’re going to enthusiastically endorse a app with tepid downloads and reviews? Heck no! “Group Think” will have them gravitate to the apps that seem to be most popular.

Look, you’ve spent countless hours developing your app, getting graphics done, maybe creating a web page page, a video. And, if you published to the Apple App store, you went through a particularly painful approval process. And now it’s just languishing there…ouch. Kickstart your app’s success by getting a dose of appiness! Get one of our entry level packages to try us out and you’ll see and immediate improvement in your app performance.

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