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Daylight Savings Time … there's an app for that (NOW)!

When I researched locales for LuckyWheel and time zones for MyAppSales I discovered that Apple had outfitted my iPhone with a complete database of all timezones worldwide as well as methods that would return the next DST switching time. Back then I thought “that would be a cool feature” and found it strange that there is nothing like this in the regular iPhone UI to actually access this data.

Do you know the feeling that you have an app stuck in your head that wants to get out? You’ll know what I am talking about if you have an idea that frequently comes into your mind because you have not acted on it. There are three ways to deal with such ideas:

  • look up your local locale and down enough alcoholic beverages to destroy those few synapses that kept bothering you.
  • use a notepad (or notepod) to jot down the idea and draw some sketches off the pictures that float around in your head. To the idea this will feel like validation and it will stop vying for your attention.
  • or if it can be done in a day, build the app!

I just had finished my work on the H1N1 Swineflu Defender app contract, so I had a couple of days of my spare time to spare for a quick app like that. And strangely enough this way just the perfect time right before the next DST switches for Europe and the USA to also capitalize on DST being a hot topic this time of year as everybody is searching on Wikipedia or Google for when the switch will actually occur.

It’s now almost exactly one year after I started to code exclusively for the iPhone platform and so I really WAS able to finish this app in less than a man-day, spread out over a weekend. To have an extra kicker feature I also implemented dual-mode e-mail which gives you the ability to send a pre-made e-mail to yourself or other people you like to remind of a coming switch.

Dual-mode e-mail means that on OS 3.0 you get in-app email, on older OS versions you get the regular mail app. Also the mail form permits attaching of files, so I developed a technique to generate and include a graphic of a clock illustrating the switch. This forced me to figure out how to make an UIImage from an UIView, because I wanted to reuse my clock drawing code.

SummerTime Icon Big

About half the time went into designing the icon together with Christian Pfandler and making it as neat as possible. Together we also made localizations for German, English, French, Spanish and Dutch, especially the app store marketing text took more time than the app itself. I prefer to spend my time coding so I was really glad to have a friend at my side who would take care of design and large portions of marketing for me. It was this collaboration how we came up with the icon design that looks like a friendly and warm sun where the switching arrow mimics a smiley and the hands of the clock remind you of a wink. I’m sure that’s an icon you would want to keep on the first page of your springboard. ;-)

Of course there are a couple of additional things that I could have wanted to include, like getting a push notification ahead of a switch. But you have to draw a line what to put in to version 1.0 to not keep delaying yourself. If there is enough interest in this app that’s a definite and easy to add feature for the next major update. Ship first and improve later.

I submitted the app to Apple on October 12th because I figured that that would leave sufficient time to get into the store before October 25th. But yesterday, 10 days after submission, I had a feeling that I should ask for expediting the review, just to make sure to make it. Granted I have a second chance because US switches one week later (November 1st), but I figured it can never hurt to ask.

And really it did not but really helped. About half a day after I sent the request to the app review team, they responded and agreed to do it. This morning, after another half day, I had the joyous mail in my inbox: the app is live on the store. I checked immediately, because usually it takes a while to appear, but it was already there on the Austria app store.

When I briefly searched for other apps like this on the store I did not find ANY. This lead me to the conclusion that my app is the first of it’s kind. That actually makes me a little bit proud as well of my┬ápet peeve that I turned into a pet project. :-)


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