Our DNA is written in Objective-C

2012 in Review(s)

I recently revealed that app sales only make up about 4% of our company revenues. Because of this we don’t have much budget to invest into our apps and the reasonable view is to see them as glorified hobby projects.

Nevertheless it is nice to go back over the past year in reviews to pick out the ones that transport the best emotions. There are many people who use app reviews as a sounding board for themselves and write things there that they never would say to a developer in person. Thus it is permissible to pick out the few reviews that give us the best feeling and ignore the rest.

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I like communicate with users of our apps directly and because of this I am encouraging them to get in touch by e-mail. We can only fix issues that we know about. As the past year has shown there bugs are fact of the business. And we can only fix those that we know about. Don’t ever feel tempted to submit a bug report via an app review or offer extortion: “if you add feature x, I’ll give you the fifth star”.

Today is a day as good as any to take a quick shower in some praise.


SpeakerClock made by me as a tribute to TED. But what good is a tribute when the “tributed one” never learns about it? So I contacted TED via their website I received the most amazing testimonial, ever. Accompanied by a photo.

So cool! We’re all playing with your app in the TED office. Here’s
TED’s June Cohen and Chris Anderson.

If you didn’t know, Chris Anderson is the curator of the TED Conference and June Cohen the Executive Producer of TED Media.

With SpeakerClock I wanted to create a totally different UI than what you would expect from an universal iOS app. Taking a page out of Apple’s book I wanted to make it look like a digital LED clock with fixed UI elements.

The idea is to basically have all actions be achievable by gestures. Swipe left and right to set the time. Swipe with more than 1 finger to change the time faster. Tap to start. Tap to stop. Double-Tap to reset to start time. Long press on a preset button, the yellow or red lights to set the time for this.

And that’s all in the instructions, but apparently some people would rather complain about features they think are missing than to read the instructions. Oh well…

The next review on the app store was the reason why I put together this article in the first place:

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Besides Linguan (see below) this is the app that garners the most favorable reactions. This will definitely be the next app to get a few new features. For one thing a few people request an overtime function where the timer would count upwards after reaching zero. Also I would like to implement a remote-control mode where you would be able to control the timer on one device from another one over WiFi.


I made GeoCorder as a tool to record GPX tracks, like you would view as paths on Google Earth or geo-tag DSLR pictures with. Then I had a client who wanted to have a tracker app, which I made. But since I didn’t want to maintain two apps that are both using Core Location I merged the Tracking features into the main app.

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There are two versions of GeoCorder on the app store, both identical in features with the only difference that one has an ad. People generally seem to like what the app evolved to be, but I am a bit uncertain how I could really take it to the next level.

GeoCorder could probably benefit from background launching via significant location changing. This would restart the recording as soon as you move away from your current location. Please let me know in the comments of by email if you have an idea how to make this a useful feature.


This is by far the oldest of all apps presented here, it was my second app I ever submitted to the app store. Originally it was a project to learn iOS development by mimicking an app that existed even before there was an app store. I also made it for the practical reason to have an app that would convince my wife that having an iPhone is a good idea. She remains to this day my customer #1, in general, but also for iWoman in specific.

There is a big market of apps that are competing for this area of female menstrual cycle tracking. Honestly I don’t care much about my competitors because there is little use to me to be competitive about my hobbies.

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Translation: “This is a good use for my poor memory”

iWoman seems to be mostly bought in countries outside of the mainstream as we can see from this recent ranking chart. Being Number 1 in Azerbaijan or Guatemala feels almost as good as getting 5-star reviews.

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At the 2012 WWDC I showed iWoman to on of the coveted Apple designers who praised it as a great app, but also had some harsh UI criticism about things that he would change. iWoman is one of the apps that I still need to adapt for the taller screen of the iPhone 5. When I do that I could also make the wheel view an alternate view you access by rotating the device as the Apple designer suggested. And I would like to be able to free up some vertical space by eliminating the separate list view. Adding a new cycle could also be done from the calendar or even the wheel.

Also I still have this idea that it might be a greet app for male partners of female users of iWoman to be able to confidentially know about certain parameters of their partner’s cycle. When are the mood swings? When are the days to have sex and when better not? (depending on whether the couple tries to conceive or prevent it)

iWoman is near to my heart (literally and figuratively) but I need better feedback and ideas how to improve it. High rankings in “off the beaten track” countries are nice for the ego but I could really do with some more inspiration…


The idea for this app came to me when I saw that Apple had built all information needed for it into NSTimeZone. This gives you a database of all time zones around the globe and whether or not they obey daylight savings time. I figured that there must be a use case for people who want to be able to know on a whim when the next DST switch will be.

I simply cannot remember this ever. I modeled the app after the weather app with identical navigation and you should feel right at home when adding additional locations than the automatic current location time zone info card. Fun fact: this works even if the user has disabled Core Location because it uses the current time zone information instead.

Currently you have an option to email a picture of how the clock is set and you can activate a local push notification to remind you a few hours before the change, at the switch time or on the morning after. Or so the ideas was, unfortunately I had left some test code in place which disabled the notifications every time a user tried to set it. This was only fixed in the most recent update.

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It turns out that the market for this kind of reference app is quite small. Just because you think it might be a nice idea to have something like this does not mean that there is an actual need for it.

But as I stated above, since this app – like all others – is a glorified hobby I still like to hear about what emotions (preferably positive ones) people derive from using it.


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Translation: “Need locate your App / Application, this is a cruel handy tool. Both of you make all translation yourself or if you send files to other translation so facilitates enormously. It is noticeable that it is written by some who themselves have needed a really good tool to manage translations.”

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Translation: “First, I was wondering whether to get iLocalize or Linguan. iLocalize cannot directly open Xcode projects. For iOS app development Linguan is better. When I use Linguan, is very convenient to edit the strings. You can also directly edit storyboards if you use the latest version of Xcode which supports Base.lproj. I feel that because now you only need the internationalization of strings, compared with the old days, it will become much easier for me.”

Linguan is a partner project together with BytePoets. The big problem there is that since our partner requires payment for work done we can only pay for enhancements of Linguan if it sells well.

Then there is the problem with the Mac app store requiring sandboxing for a while now. Most likely we will have to remove XIB support via calling ibtool because you cannot call out to external tools from sandboxed apps. But that might be less of an issue because of base localization support which again means you are localizing a strings file. Xcode then runs ibtool during the build process to generated the XIBs for the individual languages.

It would be awfully nice of you if you could help spread the word on Linguan so that we can some more momentum going, because there are so many features that we will be able to add then.


We need to better communicate what an app expects of the target user as well as what the target audience can expect from the app. Of course we will give priority to apps that have the most positively vocal users, like Linguan and SpeakerClock when there is a bit of time between project milestones to revisit our hobby apps.

There are quite a few of our components that are begging to be used in app store apps, if only to demonstrate their viability and to have something to point to as an example use case. This makes me think that probably there should be a balance struck between polishing the established and making something new.

Up until now I have to admit that I was only exclusively the only developer who laid hands on our apps, even though our team is growing. It is my hope that by documenting all the “available work” inside our company I can also get my colleagues to help improving our portfolio. Maybe one day app sales will again rival component sales in terms of their share in our company profits.


Categories: Business


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