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Forbidden Fruit in Apple's APIs

Apple appears to be cracking down on apps these days which are not sticking to the SDK agreement when it comes to using undocumented (read “private”) APIs. I’m attempting to make a list here, so if you have received the usual slap on the wrist for actually using one of the undocumented “features” to make it easier on yourself then please let me know so that I can add it here.

The problem with these undocumented API calls is that up until now Apple did not seem to uniformly care if they where to be found in submitted apps. But lately the reviewers seem to have gotten a static analyzer into their hands. With the help of which they can dump all the method names in your app so they will see if you are naughty or nice.

The official statement is that Apple is working on making more and more undocumented API public. They claim that those APIs are not properly tested and will probably change between OS versions thus breaking apps that rely on them. We’ll see if some of these following methods will eventually really become public.

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Add one Week and Skip Weekend

dbarret asks:

“I need some help with this issue and I’m hoping you have the time to point me in the right direction, here goes:

  1. I want to display today’s date in a UILabel, then with a button event, the tricky part…
  2. display a date 7 days in the future UNLESS it’s the weekend, then it will display the following Monday.

So basically I want to display ONLY weekdays, no weekends… it that even possible?”

Of course it is possible. In this case it’s not even very difficult.

I assume that you know how to display a UILabel and set its text. So in this article I’ll show how to enhance what we previously learned about adding days to NSDates and add extra code to also skip weekend days.

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Smart Developers track their Best Apps with MyAppSales

Sure, you should be doing your coding mostly because you enjoy it and only secondarily for the money. But it’s no sin to get a kick out of checking yesterday’s sales report and seeing how well your babies are performing. My aim for MyAppSales is to be the preferred mobile tool for this purpose.

I lost track some months ago, but I estimate my user base to be around 250 people worldwide. Because I am distributing MyAppSales as source code only this automatically requires users to have at least some fleeting knowledge of how to download source code from a Subversion repository. This is called “positive preselection”. That’s one of the reasons why I can hypothesize that MyAppSales users are smarter than the average Cocoa Touch developer.

I am proud of my baby and I was interested to learn which of the multitude of apps which are being tracked with MyAppSales are considered by their makers to be their crowning achievement . So I’ve asked my customers via Twitter which of their apps they deem to be their masterpiece (so far) and today I’m proudly presenting the best apps of the smartest developers to prove the hypothesis from this article’s title. I call this …

MyAppSalesMyAppSales Users’ App Showcase

Entires are sorted in order of submission. All wordings and descriptions are verbatim. The statements are not meant to be reviews but to illustrate which skills, talent and knowledge need to come together to make what a developer has the right to call “his best app”.

So what are those super powers? You’re about to find out …

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Ignoring Certificate Errors on NSUrlRequest

Fabian asks:

I’m trying to request data from a website via HTTPS that does not have valid certificate. How can I ignore the certificate error?

When the iPhone makes a HTTPS request it verifies that the certificate used to encrypt the data has a valid root certificate authority. Usually – for big sites – this is provided by Thawte or Verisign or any other recognized Root Certification Authority (CA). A bundle of the public certificates of such CAs is installed in the OS and enables the client to know which CAs are valid.

The problem arises however if you don’t have the funds to purchase such a certificate from a CA, those are expensive. Or sometimes you want to create a certificate for your own use or testing. This is called self-signed certificates. Those are also deemed invalid at first glance, unless you tell your browser to accept these certificates. Or it may be the case of Twitter who seem to have an expired certificate on one of their API servers.

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The new Whites – Worthy Polycarbonate Successor

A couple of days ago I got a chance to take a first feel of the new “low-end” MacBook. Well, it’s not so low after all.

For a while it looked like Apple would totally abandon the plasticBook line in favor of making everything out of Aluminium Unibodies. Though there still seems to be a magic line for quite a few Mac buyers at $1000. The cheapest Pro starts at $1199 and personally I would prefer if this would be the Thousand-Dollar-Laptop, but there’s also something psychological or maybe historical that entices Apple to continue the white line.

Maybe it’s because you can more easily affix stickers on a shell that’s made out of Polycarbonate? Hey it’s just a fancy pancy word for Plastic, so it would not mind if your kids stick some cartoon characters on it, next to the glowing Apple logo. Reimagining the fruit as just having been handed by the evil queen to Snow White?

These days when I get asked, “Oliver can you recommend a Laptop?” you can guess my answer: Mac and if you absolutely need Windows, run it in Bootcamp or virtually. Turns out the school director already had been Mac-infected for at home, so my suggestion to also get a Mac for use at school fell on fertile ground.

Being the resident Mac-Maniac I was asked to set up E-Mail, printing and install Office. In turn I asked to be recorded while unboxing the beast.

I had almost forgotten to mention this video on my blog. But then I saw on YouTube that the views already had surpassed my previous video of Unboxing a Magic Mouse. So I felt compelled to also provide an honorable spot on my blog for it.

It appears that while the Magic Mouse is way more hyped as being revolutionary and many people openly discuss if it’s worth it, the audience for white MacBooks is an order of magnitude larger. Or put differently, way more people are looking for the cheapest method to enter the Apple ecosystem, than are in the market for a fancy new mouse.

The White MacBook again pushes the envelope. Now the shell is made of 2 big parts and the top feels like plastic, the bottom like a powdery rubber. No firewire, No more seperate line-in. That’s now combined into the headphone jack. I supposed to be able to use an iPhone headset for remote-control and external Mic.

You now get up to 7 hours worth of battery life with the enclosed big battery. Now all mobile Macs have no user-servicable battery any more. So you will have to bring your favorite toy to the store and get it replaced there in 2-3 years when the retainable charge drops below a useful mobile working endurance. There’s been much discussion about the user-friendlyness of such an approach, but having now doors or stickers on the bottom of a laptop goes a long way to give you even more the feeling that “Mac just works”. Being a Windows administrator by day and seeing lots of notebooks, I honestly believe that even the simplest mobile MacBook blows any other Laptop out of the water in terms of ease-of-use and industrial design.

While we are still waiting for Apple’s answer to the netbook craze – which will not come this holiday season – the new white one is the perfect choice to give as a first Mac to your kids or wife. Daddy can still have a shiny aluminum Pro on his lap and thus be the king of the castle. All coming together in perfect Apple-Harmony for Christmas.

Q&A with iPhone Business Owner Selling for $100,000

Brice Milliorn

After I had laid out my analysis about Brice Milliorn offering his iPhone Apps Portfolio for sale on eBay, I got contacted by the owner/seller himself. He offered to respond to any deeply probing questions I might have. Journalistic curiosity got the better of me and so I constructed the hardest questions that I could think of.

Here are his answers, verbatim and unedited.

1. You claim to produce 86% of your income from the USA, yet none of your apps appear in the top 100 in any category there. What is your explanation for this?

There are 100,000 apps on the app store and my apps pop in & out of the top 100 from time to time. Also obviously a Top 100 is only a 0.001 percent of the total app store product mix, considering there are 100k apps out there now.  So just because you don’t show up in the Top 100, doesn’t mean you don’t sell a lot of apps.  And furthermore, it is good that my apps are being recognized internationally as well.

2. If your business is still growing (and would grow more with “proper marketing”) how do you explain the steep decline in average royalties for the past 30 days compared to the 60 or 90 days range?

Lack of marketing, lack of updates, lack of attention, and o’yes 100,000 apps on the app store!

3. You say “a person who can market them will have much better results”. How can you predict that if everybody knows that after an initial sales spike there is only a long tail to farm on?

Marketing 101, see below.

4. What’s your factual foundation to claim that “the numbers may be better” as a sales argument?

Marketing 101, and I know this because the spike in sales that you saw (see charts on link list at bottom) was because of the little marketing that I did have time to do. Also a lot of these apps can have focus marketing, meaning they deal with certain areas of the US, so marketing can be focused on that area or that segment of people (i.e. College Students).

5. How did you yourself arrive at the number $100,000?

  • Well I like what I am doing, don’t have much time but still like it, for me to give it up, a big number would need to be paid, 100k is that big number.
  • However when valuing the business, I think it is a small price to pay. When you value real estate you look out 5-6 years. If you take my sales and look out only 2-3 years, this business will pay for it self easily.
  • I also arrived at this number by looking at the two previous cases that I know of (see below for 2 example cases in question #10) of iPhone developers selling their business and after talking to them about their situation.  These apps were sold between 5k and 10k each, I am selling 87 apps for 100k, that is $1,149 each.

6. Currently it is unlikely that you will find a buyer. Small guys don’t have the money. Big guys don’t see an audience. What’s your plan B? Would you also be willing to only sell shares of your company to interested investors? Like $10,000 to get 10% of your monthly royalties would be around 36% annual interest.

I wouldn’t say I won’t find a buyer? I have had over 100+ emails inquiring about it further and there are 70+ watchers on ebay right now. My website has had over 3000 hits in just 3 days, the ebay auction has over 3000 page views as well. I have no plan B. Like I said above, I like what I do and to get me to sell it would have to be a BIG number. Not willing to sell shares of company. 100k, take it or leave it.

7. Or how about only asking for a certain percentage in cash and getting paid a percentage from royalties over a certain period?

Again, not willing to do this, 100k take it or leave it, I enjoy what I do.

8. There is a guy named Joe Madox who is seemingly interested. When defending your offer it sounds like he has already made up his mind to try to come up with the sum. Or is a friend of yours?

This guy has asked a lot of questions, more than anyone. He owns a publicly traded company. He was thinking about paying me in shares of his company. I declined, cash only.

9. You are saying you’re selling “your business”. Does this include the legal entity plus bank accounts belonging to it? What’s this “collateral” you speak of?

Selling the assets of the company, meaning the 87 apps, not the name of the LLC or the LLC itself, little confusing I realize.  The collateral is all the source files, the website files, images, everything the user needs to run these apps and update these apps and completely relinquish these apps from me!  No bank account b/c not getting the LLC, just getting the apps themselves.

10. Based on what legal foundation do you think you can sell your business at all? Sure you can sell a corporation, but how does Apple deal with such a sale?

I am selling my programs, not Apple, not my LLC. There have been previous developers who have sold their business fine, I contacted them to ask questions, got a response from them, said everything went smoothly. Here are those two examples…

Example 1:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Top-Tens-iPhone-app-source-code-and-website_W0QQitemZ260457053112QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Computing_Software_Software_SR?hash=item3ca4733bb8&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14#ht_946wt_1167

Example 2:

http://blog.secondgearsoftware.com/2009/10/bitbq-acquires-fitnesstrack-emergency.html

11. How big is the business risk of your news providers cutting your sports-related apps off?

Well I have fended them off so far but there are a lot of hoops to get around with these apps, a new person starting these types will take weeks and weeks of trial and error with Apple before it ever gets approved.  There are also other news providers I could always use I am sure.

12. In Summary I must say that you are doing a very bad job at presenting your business as something worth purchasing. Anybody who has the money to spend on your company also has the financial sense to want to see a good business case. You fail to present it. We all don’t know what will be in 3 years. Apple may still dominate the Smartphone market. Or it may not. And also coming out of the crisis it has become extremely hard for anybody to get a loan for 100k for a business.

I think we all know, the only company to better the iPhone, is Apple. And the economy is/was bad but there is always someone with more money than they need looking for a golden opportunity.

13. Therefore I suggest that you need help in 1) compiling the numbers in a more transparent fashion, 2) maybe even going so far as to providing the apps.db from MyAppSales for download (It does not contain login data, which is on your keychain), or a ZIP of your past financial reports. 3) formulating a plan B as outlined above.

I am NOT going to give out the individual numbers but I will break them down more. The reason I will not give out the individual numbers is because my best selling ones will then be duplicated.

These numbers are again from AppViz as of 11/07/09.

  • Rule book Apps 8,712
  • Sports Related Apps 12,479
  • Friday Night Lights, ANTZ, & iSpy 4,533

Any further questions can be direct to me at jbmjbm22@me.com.

Also further info can be found at the following redirected sites:

JBMJBM, LLC iPhone App Website

http://www.jbrice.com/iphone

JBMJBM, LLC Sell Page (with CHARTS)

http://www.jbrice.com/sell

JBMJBM, LLC Ebay Sell Page

http://www.jbrice.com/ebay

JBMJBM, LLC Press Release

http://www.jbrice.com/pressrelease

MyAppSales 1.0.11 – Review Forwarding and Fixes

Always towards the middle of the month I seem to accumulate so many fixes and tweaks from my user base so that it I feel pressed to formally release a new version. For 1.0.11 I fixed several minor things and as a bonus I added the possibility of forwarding all reviews for one app via in-app-email.

Changes:

  • FIXED: Users with multiple vendor IDs would get an error message because of the extra vendor selection screen in iTunes Connect. Now always the highest vendor ID is used.
  • FIXED: Users who enabled passcode protection would never get any reviews being downloaded.
  • ADDED: In-App-Purchases have a alphanumeric trasaction code. This is now changed from IA1 to 101 so that it can be saved to the database. There is no reflection of IAPs in the UI yet. Previously such lines would have gotten ignored.
  • FIXED: Added agent string so that app icons can be be retrieved. This fixes Apple’s recent change requiring an “iTunes” agent string.
  • FIXED: Even if the language code for a store was the same as the chosen target language reviews would still be tried to be translated.
  • FIXED: Users who updated from earlier versions have a service type “HomeDir”. The previous workaroudn was to remove the account and create a new ITC account in Settings. This is no longer necessary and done automatically.
  • FIXED: Deselect report row if chart has no row.
  • CHANGED: Shortened Back Button to “Apps” on review screen.
  • ADDED: You can now forward all reviews for an app via In-App-Email.
  • FIXED: Removed gray shadow of app subtext on app tab which would cause blurry look.

So if you have translated reviews behind one app, you notice the new forward button in the upper right-hand corner…

Review Export 1

You can now e-mail the developer (or yourself) all the reviews as an invaluable source of inspiration to improve your app! In-App-Email also supports landscape view by the way.

Review Export 2

Version 1.0.11 is tagged in the Subversion Repository. You can either update your source from there or opt to update from trunk where development is continuing. Tagged versions are always a stable milestone while in the trunk I make no such warranty.

Note: if you checkout a project from any repository you have to set the project root to be the repo you set up to establish the link. I noticed quite a few users always doing exports when it is so much easier to only push “SCM – Update Entire Project” to get the latest version. So please go into the project settings and make the connection.

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 21.20.51

Why I won't purchase an iPhone Business for $100000 today

We’ve been reading about it on Twitter for the past 2 days, now even TUAW picked up the story of an iPhone Developer who wishes to sell his entire business for $100000. Leaving out of our consideration that probably nobody has this much money around anyway it’s still an interesting impulse to start thinking of how much your own iPhone business would actually sell at…. should you ever WANT TO sell it.

With the seemingly limited journalistic means of TUAW all the author came up with was some general quotes and rants. I dug a bit deeper and think it’s interesting to write down what I found in neutrally evaluating this offer. TUAW repeats the seller’s offer on how he will support you, hand over everything, yadi yadi yadi.

But we all are children of numbers and algorithms. So I think we deserve a little bit deeper analysis. This I will attempt in this article.

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Detect Roaming

hhyyy9 asks:

It’s possible to detect when device goes on roaming or out of home network and turn on / turn off the data connection?

Well, yes and no. Yes to the part of the question about detecting. No to changing a system setting.

You have no direct access at all to roaming or home network information. Probably via a private framework but Apple does not approve of apps using those. Though you could infer the currently used data network from the IP address range you get from the currently active cellular connection. Each provider will have certain IP ranges and if you collect these ranges then you could build up a database to detect such network switching.

Also wheres the point? There already IS a setting that allows you to disable data roaming.

general network

The fact remains that you still cannot mess with the data system setting, but only work within your app.

But this would not be an worthy Dr. Touch post if I didn’t share some cool knowledge, this time how you can get all the current IP addresses of your device. Something like “IPCONFIG /ALL” on Windows or “IFCONFIG” on Unix.

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Magic Mouse has landed

After waiting 10 days – the Apple Store website claimed “ready in 4 days” – my order has arrived. Yesterday I got slightly nervous when I tried tracking the package and found the number was shipped to Manila one month ago. But there was another shipment with a different reference number below it, showing that the package has left Prague and was on it’s way to Vienna.

This morning I found two packages on my desk and so I recorded a quick unboxing ceremony in my lunch break. Thankfully I had a colleague hold my iPhone 3GS, he’s done a good job capturing my emotions. ;-)

After you free the Magic Mouse from it’s Snow White glass coffin you might also feel tempted to kiss it to life. But instead it comes to life if you turn it on and seek with the bluetooth assistant. It gets recodnized as a regular mouse, no gestures yet. Then you need to look for software updates and download the mouse-related update. After a reboot the mouse settings panel changes to something similar to what we are used to from the glass trackpad of the Unibody MacBooks.

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