Category Archives: Uncategorized

Epic vs Apple

So I’ve been reading a lot on the opinions of what Epic has done to challenge the monopoly of Apple on the AppStore. And there are a lot of differing opinions, a lot from very narrow ways of looking at things.

For some context, Epic added a way to buy InApp Purchases at a discount using their own payment services in their hugely successful Fortnite game, circumventing the rule that Apple has in place that you have to use Apple’s purchase system, so they get their 30% cut on everything. Epic did this to blatantly break Apple’s rules so that they would get banned, which they did, and have ammunition to file an already prepared lawsuit, which they did.

I have been frustrated and critical of Apple since the beginning of the AppStore for its “Closed” system. I made as much or more money in the days before the magical iPhone in a much smaller market when I had the freedom to use any and all curated stores and channels and purchasing options as I could engineer(mainly free trials and paid updates) in the Windows Mobile and Palm worlds. I could choose if someones 30% “tax” was worth it to my business.

But now over the years it has been ingrained that this “closed system” is great for your peace of mind, and that Apple does all these extra things of value that they deserve it all. Opinions may vary, but there should be a choice.

The way I see all the mistakes they’ve made in the store, all the rejection hassles for no reason, the encouraging a race to the bottom and wanting “millions of apps” available which drove the quality of the average app down considerably. The horrible search results, the unfair curating practices to play favors, the not allowing trials…. The list goes on and on. Most of us knew that the big problem with the AppStore is they just threw apps into the iTunes media model, and acted like they had done tons and tons of work to create this great experience. They hadn’t. And not starting on a real foundation, we still see the effects of that.

But my biggest gripe right now, is everyone is saying the AppStore is making a safe environment. They aren’t. The review process allows garbage and bad actors that are gaming the system and ripping people off in all the time. And they use that system and their rules to stifle creativity and reject apps that would compete too closely with something they want to do themselves.

Everything that actually makes the system safe can be done without the AppStore. They do it on Mac. Those things are built into the Operating System, not the AppStore. We have to be checked and sign apps. And apps still have to ask whether you can have access to sensitive APIs and data whether it is from the AppStore or not. So regardless of where you get the app, those will be in place.

If you think that that safety is needed, guess what, it will still be there for you to use. There will be nobody there forcing you to get any app not on the AppStore. And obviously it would be in everybody’s best interest if when this happens some parental type controls are put in place to not always allow this in iOS. But now it’s up to you if you trust the company, not Apple.

So just give us a choice.

How is the world going to be that much different if we can get apps another way. The developer can pursue different channels and different marketing and sales models, and if Apple’s store is worth it, we’ll use it too. But then real developers can have options like more direct contact with users, issue refunds ourselves, price freedom, new marketing channels… This list goes on and on too, it lets a business be a business and not depend on following ever changing and restrictive rules that come at a large cost.

So thank you to Epic for finally getting to the point where you can fight this, it had to be somebody with the resources. And yes, they obviously have some ulterior motives in play, but who cares, they are doing what someone has needed to do for a long time. And to get what they ultimately want, they have to bring all of us little guys with them…

2020 and beyond

Another year is underway. And with that a new enthusiasm for what Birdsoft can become.

In 2019 we did some app updates that we hope you appreciated, but we were more busy laying a foundation for the reimagining of some of what we hope to make the centerpiece of Birdsoft going forward.

A new set of products that will capitalize on our years of development experience to bring you something that we are truly proud of, and with a sustainable revenue model that can keep us iterating and improving on our products at a much greater level. A new modern codebase with new innovations baked in will just be the start. And we can’t wait to show it to you soon…

At this point we are approaching 20 years of mobile development… What a fun ride!

The hours thing.

So we have always thought our ‘Billing Hours’ has been a better product than the popular ‘Hours’ app. We realize that they have built out a great network to get it up and selling, have some friends at Apple, and do self promotion amazingly. But the fact is, their app is lacking in many areas. It has some neat effects and some novelty interactions, but it just doesn’t do everything that you might want it to do, and actually can be a little confusing for how ‘easy’ it is supposed to be. It seems to be missing several very basic features.

Granted they did jump right on the Apple Watch thing, and seemed to have done a nice job with doing what they already do on there, if you have an Apple watch…

So we noticed that they are giving it away free and made a blog post about their future plans to enter the Enterprise world with their basic timer app. And always being the salesman they blow over the fact that some companies will require more. They will require features they don’t have. Features that may be a long time coming. And the features they plan to add, they seem to hint they will be monetizing in new ways…

So we thought, what a great time for us to do another of our FREE giveaways of our App, so you can see jut how much more usable an app can be when it has more of the features you need. Like sending an invoice!

So give BOTH apps a try.. Give them a fair shake, and consider… Does their UI with some interesting shortcuts and interactions really make anything easier in the long run? Is having it a good tradeoff for not having the features that people that actually do track time might use the most? Or does the simpler app do what you need?

I think you’ll agree that Billing Hours has more potential. And we have a new version coming that we won’t be adding monetization and steering towards Enterprise.. It will just have some neat UI tricks of our own, and requested features. So drop us an email on what you think, and what we can add….

Billing Hours on the AppStore.

Thanks

 

Update: Edited as this post was initially written pretty hastily and so came off a tad harsh. Obviously Hours has some benefits and is enough for many people’s needs.  And other may not know about the several other more full featured Time Trackers that exist as this one was one of the most visible. Check out ‘Hours Tracker’ for another great and more full featured option…

 

Let’s not call it a Post-Mortem… We just need a little life support.

So Birdsoft is going part time as of October 13th, 2014.

What does this mean? 

Well, Ive taken an iOS development(and possibly other flavors) job with a company that I’ve done quite a bit of consulting work for in the past. It will be a new adventure getting to create and work on some great mobile products.

Birdsoft will still live on. This new company is really cool and very open to you doing whatever you want on the side. So some nights and weekends I will be doing updates, adding features and trying to fit in as much of what I used to do in doing this full time, and still keep my sanity. I have Extreme Agenda 5 well under way, I have my new product pretty much done, and I just got all of my major apps updated to be working with iOS8.. So Birdsoft is in a pretty good place that way…

And my apps are mostly solid and mature at this point, so don’t think that part time means I wont be offering email support or squashing the bugs that do come up or adding anything. That will still hold a high priority….

I’m not throwing away 11+ years of full time work. I’d like to think I did some pretty cool things in there…

Why?

This is a hard one. I don’t want to pass all the blame off on Apple, though they deserve a large portion of it. I simply didn’t maintain making enough money to support myself with just Birdsoft, even though I feel like I have better products now than I did when I was able to do it…

I did make a few mistakes and focused on the wrong things a few times. I didn’t quite play the ever changing game right, it was like hitting a moving target(notice I didn’t use the word ‘evolving’). I did play it fairly right in 2012, but Apple already has changed the rules a couple times since then.

And I could have done a much better job of finding and embracing the network of developers out there(and Press and Apple itself). But basically Ive determined that one of the only real ways of doing that would have meant spending thousands of dollars to get to THE developer conference(WWDC), solely to mingle and network. It was hard to justify…. but it turned out to be a mistake that I didn’t. Who charges that much, when the mobile stores used to throw the same types of things free, Oh yeah that’s Apple….

But really it is that Apple made the AppStore a mess. They seem to be cleaning it up a bit, but then I’ve thought that before. They simply made decisions that did not help the good middle of the road developers. They didn’t see us as that important. So now they have a trash heap of half-done apps that you have to dig through in order to find the gems.

My biggest example. Apple actually championing the ‘race to the bottom’ price wise is the biggest mess. You don’t think they support that? I have an app that has made six figures, and I have a somewhat similar app that hasn’t even made 5 figures. The first is a paid app and the second is freemium. Guess which app they rush through reviews and show higher in searches? Yeah, the one that has more downloads, not the one that keeps me in business….

Good for you Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. I love that the vast majority of the billions that the AppStore makes goes to only a couple companies that make good but not great games, but have learned to manipulate people in the same ways as casinos do.  I’m glad that’s who Apple has decided to shape their rules around, to reward them instead of trying to make a nice big playing field that thousands of developers could live and thrive off of…

They have so many things structured like search, discovery, reviews, top charts  that are all just skewed and broken.  And the biggest mistake was promoting how many apps they had. 1,000,000 apps didn’t mean anything, when like 5% were any good. We’ve pointed most of these issues out since the beginning of the store, and yet some have gotten worse… It’s just a mess that I hope they are trying to fix and change their direction on….

Its a vicious cycle, reward the apps that are cheap or free with more downloads, but cycle them out as new ones come in, and hope enough people keep playing the game. Developers then don’t make enough money on apps(or make it all up front only), so those app don’t keep developer’s attention. So the developer then don’t improve them to what they should be. Now we have a lot of non-updated apps along with all the poor ones all sitting around clogging the system.

And add to that you have ‘developer experts’ actually telling new developer to make simple apps that are over designed but with very few features in order to turn out product and play this game… And Apple promoting and even giving design awards and Editor’s choice to apps that don’t even do what they’re supposed to do very well, with very few features, but they look pretty…

So at least we have over 1,000,000 apps.

Side Note: You know what I still to this day find: My apps with the most features still sell the best!

Add to that the press being a ‘good ol’ boys’ club at this point that will push for and ‘love’ some pretty average apps because they met the developer once and that developer kisses up to them on Twitter or has been around doing Mac stuff, and some really good apps are getting passed over….

It all makes it hard…

So who would have thought that the mobile app market was more stable and dare I say better before the iPhone. From my 11+ years experience, unfortunately that’s the case…

I’m around. Birdsoft is still going. But Im seeing some pretty big names dropping out of the fight, even today… and I feel like by doing this I just couldn’t quite pull it off fully either.. stinks!

 

 

 

We’re here…

So what an interesting summer….

Well, we keep on churning out iOS development. We are currently doing a bunch of fixes and changes for Apple’s iOS8 and new iPhone sizes. We probably could have been a little quicker with our updates. But then again, Apple did hold out any information on those screens, because, well you know… secrecy… No, not a great reason, but it’s Apple. They don’t make mistakes… Well, except the mess that is iOS8 so far, and….

We did just come off of doing a huge project for a very high profile client, which we can’t mention because of Lawyer stuff… But it is an AWESOME app that we had a part in getting ready to ship for a top news agency….

So that got in the way of us shipping our latest big new product which is now about 95% complete, and work done on the new EXTREME AGENDA 5.0! So along with consulting, once we get these ‘fix’ updates out those 2 things are our main priorities. We have some great ideas and the good stuff that is in iOS8 made that list grow even longer, so… We hope to show you some neat new things very soon….

 

 

 

 

What’s the plan….

So we haven’t done an update of our current plans in a while… So here it is.

We are currently juggling a few consulting projects, one being a pretty neat Android project, so we have opened up that can of worms… So along with juggling those, we have some pretty big plans for the coming months for our own products.

We have just released updates to all of the Extreme line of products and Grid Calendar products, and are working to get those completely stable on iOS7-7.1 for those few people that are seeing issues. And then we plan on a big update to Extreme Agenda, hopefully dropping this summer.

We have an update to ‘All-In Poker’ very close to done that adds a lot of neat effects and some graphics upgrades to the app, along with 2 new games…

But our biggest plan is that we have ideas for 5-6 very high quality apps that at this point we are able to turn around in a month or less. How? Well, we now have built out a very stable new framework to start with and then with code re-use and switching to some newer iOS technologies, we can create very capable products utilizing our 5+ years experience on this platform(as long as it has existed) very quickly. And ask our many satisfied iOS clients, we are very efficient developing for them, or YOU, as well…

The first of these apps just dropped called “Billing Hours” and took less than a month’s development  time. But it has features competing with and even above the top guys in that market.  It is a time tracking app that allows contractors to keep track of and even invoice their hours and billable items. Check it out now at it’s low introductory price.

 

We have already started in on the 2nd app. It is the resurrection of a Birdsoft oldie but a goodie, dating back to our Pocket PC days and should compete or even top what exists in that space as well….We’re pretty excited…

We have some big plans and hopefully a big deal in place for a solution we have ready for Form Data collection and entry, right now targeting the utility world, http://www.utiliforms.com . We plan to expand on this as well in the AppStore, with a more standard version as one of our new “high end apps” coming soon.

But like always, if we can handle a consulting project for you, that will be first priority…. So drop us a line if you have the next killer app idea…

We’re hoping 2014 brings some great new iOS devices, some great new Birdsoft products and updates that can rise above the mess that is the current AppStore, and to continually keep our clients happy…

Thanks

iOS7.

Well, so there’s that….

iOS7 was introduced and to say it is ‘Polarizing’ is an understatement. Some people love it, some people hate it and some people are cautiously not optimistic. It has some great new features that were really wanted and needed, and I haven’t heard anybody argue against that. Things like control center and multi-tasking. But the UI and aesthetic redesign’s are a radical change with a lot of people including me not loving and not seeing the point of. This goes beyond just the icons.

They had a good thing that they sold MILLIONS of. But yet they convinced themselves that the rumblings from the press and a small sections of users were true and the OS was so dated. Which in small areas was true, but… then they took a sledgehammer and went crazy. It makes be doubt Jony Ive’s ability as a software designer(hardware he’s brilliant, but that doesn’t guarantee his software style will have mass market appeal). I think there was a balance there between where they were and where they ended up, and they didn’t even come close to hitting it.

Most things they changed for the sake of change.

I dont get why navigation buttons can’t have borders. They’re still buttons. If you have a problem defining the edge of a touch area you are way too hung up on this skeumorphic thing. The new way looks fine in some places, but looks really bad and the text all runs together in others. And this takes away using color to represent other things.

And why does the stopwatch app have ‘circular’ edges around its start and stop buttons. Shouldn’t it just be colored text if we’re following this new “better” paradigm?

The transparency is not a great thing. It can look good, like it always did, or it can look horrible depending on the background. But the key is that in iOS6 you couldn’t really get something to look horrible based on the background.

And I don’t get the new skinny font. It doesnt look good on the small screen, and doesnt make things clearer. Just artsy, and will get dated quickly. Wait, I think it already is, most designers have even moved beyond helvetica… Oh, but some Apple apps dont even use this font.. Now, it’s just different, not better.

Animations are animations, they grow tiring. I thought the incoming icon pop out thing was corny the first time I saw it. And we did the zoom out from a location animation that is now defining the launcher and folders in our Grid Contacts app. Its a neat effect, but Im already tired of it on iOS7, after one day, and it broke some other stuff…Now, it’s just different, not better.

And folders are neat that they can scroll inside, now imagine if they weren’t defined to be that silly gray color and actually have a border, and weren’t made to be a scaled up icon size/shape. So we could have the scrolling while showing 16 icons at a time instead of 9. THAT WOULD BE WAY BETTER. Now, it’s just different, not better.

Why change the swipe to open. There is no indicator anymore of which way to swipe(Well there are arrows up and down, which neither is for this). So almost everybody that encounters this takes a while to even figure out how to open their phone the new way. Something is fundamentally wrong with your direction if this happens. Stripping away something to make it prettier and ‘simpler’. NOPE. Now, it’s just different and initially confusing, not better.

Why are we stripping out gradients in nav bars and other places where they actually look good, but they are fine and even overdone in some of our new icons.

And the icons are just plain horrid. Some people like the Easter Bunny meets Hello Kitty colors and simple oversized designs, but if designers can take those same ideas and make stuff that looks infinitely better with the exact same concepts in a couple hours, well Apple went the wrong way. But even worse. Why change the size and corner radius of the icons. The bigger corner radius is not better, its actually makes the icons look smooshed and fat. AND IT BREAKS THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF 3RD PARTY ICONS THAT WERE DESIGNED WITH THE OLD BETTER RADIUS. It feels like a slap in the face for the sake of change and the 3 extra pixels make everything a little more crowded. Now, it’s just different(worse), not better.

It will all cause a lot of confusion for mostly young and old users to re-learn a lot of this stuff. And why, it’s NOT BETTER.

The whole thing is just really inconsistant.

The people that Ive heard love on it, most I feel fall into a category that they wanted the OS to have a facelift so bad, that they can’t see a lot of it for what it really is. Change for the sake of change. Nothing is really improved, it’s just different. The new paradigm doesn’t really have any advantages, Ive tried to come up with any for development. It just forces a different look and breaks a lot of the existing ideas.

And its puzzling their direction with 3rd Party Apps here. They want to brag about 900,000 apps, but didn’t really fix discoverability, and now are really going to break or make outdated like what ~700,000 of them. Why?

So with so many strong opinions that don’t like these bold changes, could this be a stumble. Could this ultimately lose Apple marketshare? Could this balance out the market? Could this be Apple’s ‘Vista’? It wouldn’t shock me. Or maybe I’m wrong and there is a market for a more cutesy version of iOS?!

I’m not going to say it hasn’t grown on me some since I started using it. I just hope Apple is listening, and takes the keys away from Jony a bit, and dials back some of the changes. I know its just a BETA, but does Apple? Hopefully they don’t stay stubbornly committed to their decisions, but they aren’t known to change a ton after BETA.

With all their secrecy when doing these OS’s they obviously can’t do huge usability testing. Well consider this your usability testing, you are turning off a portion of your own following, and I can’t see the changes being a catalyst to replace them with others. Ive been wrong before.

Welcome to the world iOS7…

UPDATE: It is already starting to leak that for example the Icons were designed by marketing and not Interface in Apple. So hopefully this is a good sign that some of the things mentioned will be dialed in or dialed back. Hopefully most of them… We’ll see….

We hope you like our new products…

So we had these ideas. We have seen some cool productivity applications come out that were heavy in design, did one thing and did it well, looked good, and grabbed everyone’s attention. And they are popular. Apps like Clear and Launch Center Pro come to mind. So we decided to make a couple of apps that try to fit this mold. We borrowed from our powerhouse app Extreme Agenda, but relied on that for the backbone, and really stripped it down and started almost completely from scratch UI wise. And not only do we think we succeeded in making some really cool apps, but creating these apps turned out to be like advanced R&D for our big app. Some of the results have already been rolled back in, making that app and code cleaner, more refined, and adding some cool new features.

One of the Apps is a Contact App that uses a grid system to display your contacts and makes it very fast and efficient to contact any of your contacts. This grid view has already been rolled back into XA, but the new app is a light, fast loading app with its own beautiful look and some interesting twists that make everything so easy. It has been approved and will be out soon but we have decided to hold it and release both apps together.

The other app is a calendar app that we hope to redefine how you calendar on your iOS device. We stripped down our calendar to its core, and built it back up with a couple of unique ideas in place. We’re not quite ready to share everything about it yet, but we did put drag-n-drop of events which is a game changer(and will come to XA soon as well). It is also built to be light and super fast loading and is one of the best looking calendars in existence.

We hope you keep your eye out here and on our Facebook and Twitter pages for the apps as we want to make as big a splash as we can.

And for the press, promo codes are available now for Contacts and will be available soon for Calendar.

Come see if we have redefined calendar and contacts on your iOS device…

Watch for The Grid!

and go check out a sneak peek screenshot on our company Twitter page.. Birdsoft on Twitter

Where the calendar app will live socially:

The Grid – Calendar on Facebook

The Grid – Calendar on Twitter

Extreme Agenda features walk thru… (#1)

I thought it would be a good idea to start doing little tricks and tips features in the blog to show people just some of the many features in Extreme Agenda. I know by watching some new users and some of the technical support that we get, that people don’t quite wrap their head around what all the app offers. So here are a few key features(some are also shown off in our product YouTube videos) and ways I personally use the App.

Wildcard Templates

One feature that will really speed up your adding new events is to effectively use the template system in the App. To create a template you simply go into adding an event. Then fill out all the fields that you know you will want to use in every future event that looks like this, then simply hit the “Save to Template” button on the bottom of the list. Now this template will appear in the template list (button next to done) whenever you go to create a new event. Go in, select the template you want, and ‘boom’ all the fields that can be saved are then filled in including time(not date).

To make this more powerful you can use the wildcard ‘**’ in the subject. What this means is when creating the subject for your template use ** and it will get filled in with whatever is already in the subject. For example, if you have a template with the subject ‘Meeting with **’ and you create an event by using the contact to event button (clock with plus in the individual contact toolbar), it will initially come in with the contacts name, like “Bob Jones”. Now select the template ‘Meeting with **’ template and your event will now have a subject of “Meeting with Bob Jones”.

These wildcards are pre-loaded and work in the text select screen attached to subject(blue arrow) as well. So if you dont want to have a full template but want to use the phrase ‘Bring ** to Dentist’ you can enter it in here to make re-entry just a matter of picking it…

Move/Copy/Paste

Another very powerful feature is being able to cut and paste events in our App. To do this you just have to remember that like in the desktop OS, once you select an item to Move or Copy, it is remembered in memory(clipboard) until you decide to paste it.

To move or copy in the app you must look for the 2 buttons. They appear in Tap-n-Hold toolbars on events such as in the tabbed calendar at the bottom if you hold down on a specific event a blue toolbar will appear. The first button with arrows pointing in 4 different directions is ‘move’, the second button with a clock and dotted clock behind it is ‘copy’. These can also be found in the toolbar when looking at a full event or in timeline day if you bring up the event toolbar by hitting the toolbar button(gray button with 3 squares).

Just hit ‘copy’ or ‘move’ on the event you are looking to move. Now with the system remembering this, just move to the spot you want to ‘paste’ it. So if you want to move it to another day, you can tap-n-hold on a day in the calendar or week and a day toolbar will appear with the first button being ‘paste'(arrow pointing at a clock). Hit this button and the event will be moved or copy to this day at its original time. You can also use it to move an event in the same day to a different time, so in the timeline day view if you tap-n-hold at a specific time, like the 4:00 row, a similar toolbar will appear to place the event here.

Timeline Day Inline Editing

You will notice in the Timeline Day view that you can quickly add an event by holding down a time row for the tap-n-hold toolbar and then hitting ‘+’. Using this view, instead of going into a full event edit screen you are just dropped inline to enter the subject of the event. It will use the default length, alarm, and calendar(in system settings) to create this event. This view also allows you click on the time and a toolbar will appear that you can then set the time at 15 minute intervals or ‘all day’ without going into the full edit. So if your appointment is at 4:15 just enter it inline at 4:00 and then click the time and choose :15. We hope this allows you to quickly enter an event, and you have the event toolbar button if you need to view it or do more advanced editing.

Emailing Events and the advanced toolbar

When viewing a full event item, the toolbar contains a tool (wrench) button that contains other great choices you may want to do quickly with this event including converting it to a task, email or text the event, or post it to your Facebook timeline.

The email event is designed to add what is called an .ics file as an attachment to the email when sending. So not only will the body of the email show you important information on the event, but on a lot of systems(including other iOS devices) the receiver can then use this file to automatically schedule it into their calendar.

Categories in Contacts

The App uses categories to make everything much more powerful including filtering, colors, and icons. But the contacts categories actually go a bit further as they are implemented with the actual Apple ‘groups’ system for contacts. So if your contacts can use these, it will actually add categories as groups, so they can be sorted by this in other applications that use ‘Groups’. There are actually popular full apps to implement this feature alone out there.

To add categories in the App, simply use the toolbar button with 3 stacked cubes on it. We use the default contact editing screen, so have to do this externally in its own screen.

———-

Hope this helps you discover just some of the power that is already built into Extreme Agenda. And as always if you think of ways to improve the app, we always appreciate an email or join the Facebook group and tell us there.

Thanks and Enjoy…

End of Summer Status…

It has come to the end of the summer, and just one more small vacation for the Labor Day weekend lies between us and really putting our noses down and grinding out more new code for you. Version 3.2 of the Extreme product line finally made it out this month and we are excited about what we turned out. We are very happy with the lack of too many real bug reports having to do with ToodleDo sync, and a couple of the ones that did have problems don’t seem to understand the concept of technical support and just posted a bad review and moved on instead of letting us try to help and improve what we have.

We are now finishing up a new sub-product in that Extreme line to hopefully bring in even more sales and attention, and then we have a few updates in mind to add to Extreme Agenda, a long needed update to PokerTimer (now with over 80K downloads) and a whole new product(well new to iOS). So we are hoping that with the new and upcoming additions we make we can be ready for all the great new users getting iPhone 5s and iPad Minis this fall…

It should be a very interesting rest of the year.

Thanks

Birdsoft

And please remember to update or add new reviews if you like our products, or at least hit the 4-5 star rating for the current version….We really do appreciate it!