Wednesday, 13 November 2013

App of the week - Spingredients

For all of you foodies out there, here's a lovely app from Whisk Mobile called Spingredients. Spingredients is an app designed to inspire great recipe ideas - it allows you to choose one from over 400 ingredients, and it then select three other ingredients that go well with it. It is a very interesting idea, and nicely executed, so I'll let Simon - its creator - tell you all about it.

Spingredients is a Universal iOS app (iPhone/iPad) and is available here.

Describe Spingredients
As a very keen cook, I'm always trying to come up with new dishes. I know what goes with what, and I know how to treat the ingredients, but that spark of inspiration is sometimes difficult to come by. That's where the idea for Spingredients came from - inspiring great ingredient combinations in keen home cooks and chefs.

Tell us about the development process
This was my first iOS app, in my spare time before I started professionally, and it was a long development! Learning Objective-C, and all the eccentricities of iOS development felt like a real uphill battle, but it all clicked a few months into the development. It's all written natively and has been through a number of major redesigns, but I'm happy with the current form - although perhaps it is due an iOS7 style makeover!

One interesting problem I had to overcome was where to get all the data from. A lot was entered manually from our own research - I wrote a PHP website for this - however most of it was generated automatically. For this, I wrote a script that used the Bing API to carry out automated searches on each of the 400+ ingredients. Logging the number of pages found for each ingredient on its own, and then each possible combination of any two of those ingredients. This generated a lot of data, and a lot of rubbish - but once it was cleaned, it became the basis for the combination ratings in Spingredients.

How do you market your app?
Like a lot of indie developers, I've tried Facebook, LinkedIn advertising and Google Adwords. I've also tried Twitter including the IDRTG group. The most downloads have come when I've been featured on blogs etc e.g. when Babble put the app in their "Top 50 Food Apps", or when it was an app of the week on CNET Australia. It's been tough finding the time or inclination to do the hard-yards of getting the app in front of people - I enjoy the creation process too much and the sales side has definitely taken a back seat - at the end of the day, getting it noticed amongst the million other apps out there is difficult.

What's next for you and your app?
An iOS7 overhaul for Spingredients, and no doubt other projects to come shortly - watch this space!

What's next in the mobile space?
Wearable tech is the big thing in the press at the moment, and it is certainly an exciting idea - once it makes it past the gimmick stage to be truly useful then it will be fantastic.

Screenshots

Thanks to Simon for taking the time to answer our questions. Get some variety back in your diet with Spingredient for iPhone and iPad - download it here.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

App of the week - Swerve!

At rdrct.it, we've managed to entice a lot of indie developers to our service, and one of those is Silentshark Games - a family game development house from the UK.

Swerve! is an extremely addictive, skill based, top-down driving game. The concept is very simple, but the difficulty level of the game is set perfectly to make it very challenging - you will fail some levels, but repeated attempts reward you with success.

Anyway, Tom will now talk about the game, but you can download Swerve! for iPhone/iPad and Android here.

Describe Swerve!
A crazy retro driving game, where your car is out of control! You can steer, but you can't brake, and the accelerator is jammed on full!

Swerve and steer around other vehicles across 5 different worlds - standard, desert, ice, ghost and lunar - in this fun to play, casual driving game.

Tell us about the development process
This game was developed over a six month period (on and off), using the programming language "Monkey", which provides an easy way to compile the same source code for Android, iOS etc.

My eldest son did the graphics, and my other sons were heavily involved in testing, design etc. Very much a family effort!

How do you market your app?
I have tried using the IDRTG Twitter group (http://www.innovatty.com/twitter/IDRTG/index.php) to promote. Posted to a few forums, and used Facebook.

What's next for you and your app?
We have a new app in the pipeline, in which you play the part of a zombie, climbing a building. Lots of fun to make, we hope to release it in late October/ November.

What's next in the mobile space?
Android vs iOS continues to be an interesting battle.. I think the safe prediction is more smartphones and tablets, and more innovative uses for these devices (like using your phone for making payments etc.)

Anything else that you want to say?
Me and my sons have had a great time designing and developing games. Whilst our offerings are a long way off from the games which are professionally designed, it's been a blast constructing them.

Anyone who is thinking of developing their own apps should just go for it!


Screenshots

Thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer our questions - he can be contacted here, and you can download Swerve! for iPhone/iPad and Android here.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

App of the week - Waka Walks

Following on from our first featured game last time, this week we've gone for an app in the ever growing Kids app category.

Waka Walks is published by Wakalaps from Ireland, and is available for Android and iOS here. Anyway, I'll hand you over to Ellis Elephant to talk about his app!

Describe Waka Walks
Waka Walks is a digital toy for kids. Its all about matching up the top middle and bottom of eight different animated characters. You can create new characters from all the parts or match them up properly to hear the character shout. See what iPad mum said about it
"My daughter giggles the entire time we play this app. We take turns making surprise funny animals for each other. She loves the music so much that she leaves the app on and we spin and dance to the music too! 10 out of 10".

Tell us about the development process
At the very early stages of development we wanted to release for both IOS and Android, and as i come from 2D animation we wanted to pick software that best suited this at the time, so we picked Corona. I also wanted to make Waka Walks compatible to first generation devices, this was the hardest challenge squeezing all the animation into old iPads as well as having a HD version for newer models, but after lots of trial and error we got it to work.

How do you market this app?
We had a very low key marketing plan in place, contacting children's app reviewers, press releases and pretty much spreading the word through social media. We want to build our audience so to speak, so like our Facebook page to be kept up to date or follow us on Twitter and check out our website.

What's next for you and your app?
We are releasing a free Halloween version called Waka Monster Walks on the 24th of October.

Were also developing an animated adventure where the users need to help the characters throughout the app, called Waka Squinky & the Witch. Have a look at the trailer here. It should be out late November.

What's next in the mobile space?
As a 2D animator the rise of software that allows animation to be created within the game engine is very interesting. The potential to produce complex animations while keeping the App file size to a minimum is very exciting.

Anything else that you want to say?
Like most things that are worthwhile App development for us is a long game, we intend to develop a slate of apps and to build our audience.

What's the Tech/Startup/Dev scene like in your area?
Ireland has a very active and open Indie dev group, with regular get togethers and a very active community on Facebook to help promote one and other's projects.

Screenshots

Thanks to Ellis Elephant for taking the time to answer our questions. He can be reached at ellis@wakalaps.com, and you can find Waka Walks on Android and iOS here.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

App of the week - Fizzy Factory


This week we're talking to Judson Bandy from Hangzone about their addictive puzzler Fizzy Factory.

This is the first featured game on our blog, and it certainly deserves it. Like most good puzzle games, Fizzy Factory is a simple idea, simple to learn but difficult to master. It is very easy to find yourself spending way too long playing. Anyway, I'll now let Judson tell us more about it, but you can download it for iOS and Android here.

Describe Fizzy Factory
Fizzy Factory is a color mixing puzzle game. Simply drag your finger to move soda from the color-coded starting bottles to the ending bottles. Red soda goes to the red bottle. Easy enough, right? That is until you have to mix yellow and blue soda to make green, put red through the yellow color station to make orange soda, or drag purple into the splitter to make red and blue sodas. With 384 levels, it's a challenge for even the most seasoned gamer.

Talk to us about the development process
Fizzy Factory was originally developed for the iPhone and iPad using Cocos2d-iphone. After releasing the iOS version, we set out to release the game on Android and Kindle Fire using Cocos2d-x. This required us to translate all of our code from Objective-C to C++, and remove all Apple classes and add Android and Amazon libraries into the project. It might be good to mention that we both have backgrounds in finance and are self-taught developers with no knowledge of C++, so we had to quickly teach ourselves C++ before we could begin transitioning the code. It was a quick process though, and we tend to think our find and replace all skills for converting Objective-C to C++ are pretty top notch.

How do you market this app?
I heard being the rdrct.it "App of the Week" garners high praise worldwide, which should shoot Fizzy Factory into the top 10 games. We have a lot of eggs in that basket.

What's next for you and your app?
We hope to add more level packs to Fizzy Factory in the somewhat near future. We're batting around a couple of ideas for new projects but everything is still under wraps at the moment.

What's next in the mobile space?
Blackberry and Nokia team up to create the ultimate smartphone. 6 inch screen with a physical keyboard and 100 megapixel camera. A week later both companies declare bankruptcy.


Screenshots

Thanks to Judson for taking the time to answer our questions. Download Fizzy Factory here.

Monday, 30 September 2013

App of the week - Inbox

This week we're talking to Maher Janajri from Inbox about their app that's recently launched out of the NJ accelerator TechLaunch.

Inbox is a beautiful messaging app that has had some good write-ups in blogs such as TechCrunch, and has certainly been passing some traffic through the rdrct.it servers. The iOS version launched in early September with the Android version following on shortly after that. Download it here.

Describe Inbox
Inbox is a new messaging application that gives users unique features they won’t find anywhere else. We give users control of their messaging experience, while keeping it fun. We’ve put an enormous emphasis on challenging the status quo with messaging. The result: bringing in design as core to the experience.

Talk to us about the development process
We initially started development of Inbox for iOS, then after a few weeks, we realized that starting on Android could have given us the flexibility we were looking for. At that point, we decided to pursue Android and iOS at the same time. The biggest challenge has been ensuring that we keep a consistent user experience on two different platforms. For a young company, it’s no easy task.

How do you market this app?
The most effective way for promoting Inbox, has been to focus on our early adopters. You’ve got two types of users: primary users, the early adopters and influencers eager to try every new thing out there, and your secondary users, that put more of an emphasis on convenience and wait for something to get traction before trying it out. Press has also been a great way to get some exposure as well. 

What's next for you and your app?
A big focus of ours now is to enhance our users’ experience by rolling out some key, unique features, while incorporating some of the feedback we’ve gotten from our current users.

What's next in the mobile space?
I’m excited to see some of the new design innovations on mobile in the coming months. A lot of the backend advancements in mobile technology have come a long way and the natural evolution from that is user experience and user interface. Design will start to take center stage, and Inbox is off to a great start.

What's the Tech/Startup/Dev scene like in your area?
The tech/startup/dev scene in our area, New York City, has definitely grown in the last few years. While not at the level of a Silicon Valley entrepreneurial culture, you are seeing a number of investments both VC and Angel in growing tech startups, both hardware and software.

Are there any developer conferences and events that you recommend?
Local meetups are our favorite, we are fond of the NJ, NY, and DC Tech Meetups. Although these meetups aren’t always very technical, they attract a wide variety of like-minded Startup advocates with Technical, Marketing, and Business skills. We like the different perspectives on our product we get when pitching at theses events.

Any developer (or other) blogs and bloggers who you recommend?
Our CTO Hani Shabsigh (Inbox him at @hanishabsigh) has a few blogs that he frequents! On the iOS side, NSHipster.com is a great resource, Mattt Thompson (the creator of the amazing AFNetworking library!) has some deep knowledge! Ash Furrow has been writing some great stuff lately too at Teehan Lax (like this article on ReactiveCocoa! http://j.mp/1amOTFo).  Finally for the server geeks out there we love High Scalability (www.highscalability.com) :)

Anything else that you want to say?
Download Inbox and feel free to Inbox any of the founders! We’re off to a great start with the most requested feature (group chat), coming very soon.

Screenshots

Thanks to Maher for taking the time to answer our questions. You can Inbox him at @maher, and you'll need the app in order to do that, so get it here.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

App of the week - Lingopal

This week we're talking to Richard from Lingopal about how he's using rdrct.it with his successful series of phrasebook apps. There are almost 100 versions of Lingopal in the App Store, and a similar number on Google Play. To date they've had over 4m downloads of their apps.

All of the current version of the Lingopal apps have been configured to share rdrct.it URLs to make sure prospective users always get to the right app marketplace.

If you'd like your app to be featured in the future, then please get in contact via Email, Twitter or Facebook.


Describe Lingopal
Our byline is 'Chat, flirt and insult in 44 languages'. Our premier app for iOS and Android, Lingopal 44, has thousands of phrases with audio in the world's major languages. It's designed to be useful, quick and fun. It won't necessarily transform you into a linguist, but it will get you by and make a foreign person smile, and moments like that help make travelling pretty cool.

Talk to us about the development process
Way back in the day, before the iPhone came out, we made Lingopal in J2ME. I aged significantly in that period. At the time we thought that we could do what so many other developers had failed to do, and that was build a single responsive version which would work on most Java phones. Many months, little progress and a scary amount of money later, we halted J2ME dev and turned our attention solely to iOS (the iPhone had come out a few months previous, and we were watching if it was going to be a success). About a month later the app was live and we were earning revenue.

How do you market this app?
Lingopal has typically done much better in non-English speaking countries than English-speaking. We've enjoyed Top 10 rankings in places like Japan, Germany and France, but then marketing specifically to those languages is hard if you're not a native speaker.

Ultimately word of mouth is key. We still get several thousand downloads per day (a mix of free and premium apps) and occasionally messages from users who absolutely adore the app.

What's next for you and your app?
A lot of our competition are using 3rd party automatic translation tools which are great for what they do. It's important to have a point of difference though, and ours is that all content is translated by humans and recorded by humans. Also, Lingopal doesn't require an internet connection, an important consideration for travellers.

That's a roundabout way of telling you that we want to increasingly make use of our large number of users (4m+ downloads) to create content for us (for example the slang and accents from specific parts of the world).

What's next in the mobile space?
School curriculums will include classes in retro (non-electronic) social interaction skills and there will be a huge upswing in children with RSI due to too much time spent playing on gadgets.

Tell us about being a developer in your area - what's the scene like?
Growing. We're based in Perth, Australia, which often gets overlooked by what's happening in Melbourne, Sydney, and to a lesser extent, Brisbane. That said, there are some interesting things happening here, and a group of savvy and successful entrepreneurs and investors who are easy to get in front of. That's one of the benefits of being something of an outpost, I guess.

Are there any developer conferences and events that you recommend?
I went to SXSW a couple of years ago, and that's good for a buzz, though it can be pretty overwhelming. Depending on why you're going, I wouldn't necessarily rush out to buy a ticket. I was fortunate to meet a group of guys and gals who took me under their wing and introduced me to a bunch of people, mostly at networking events and bars. Also, a lot of the scheduled presentations get booked out really quickly. I remember arriving about 15 min early for one session and joined quite a long queue. A short while after the event had started I was still in the same spot. It turned out the queue was for all the people who had missed out and were trying to score a seat when someone left. That sucked.

Are there any blogs and websites that we should know about?
I jump around. I quite like the business-related ones but don't follow anyone religiously. Lance Wiggs (www.lancewiggs.com) usually has something interesting to say (Disclosure: he's an investor in Lingopal).

One last word?
If there's one line you should learn from Lingopal (in the language of your choice), it's this:
"I'm sorry, I can't speak (enter language name). But keep talking. I like to watch your lips."
It works every time.

Screenshots

Thanks to Richard for taking the time to answer our questions. Please check out the range of Lingopal phrasebook apps for iOS and Android for your next trip.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

App of the week - WikiLeaks Party

In the third of our featured app series, we speak to Ron Thorp of Thorp Technology Ltd in London about an app that he's created for the Wikileaks Party which is an Australian political party headed by the controversial Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Anyway, we're here to talk about mobile app development and not politics, so here we go. The app itself has a very functional tab bar interface, but it has a nice clean, flat and modern look to it - this means that it looks at home on devices running both iOS6 and the forthcoming iOS7.


WikiLeaks Party app can be found for both iPhone and Android here: http://rdrct.it/wikileaksparty


Describe the 'WikiLeaks Party' app

It's the app to keep you updated with everything you need to know about the WikiLeaks Party in Australia.

Talk to us about the development process

We developed the app using the Sencha Touch Javascript framework. We also used Sencha Architect . We then used Cordova to create iOS and Android versions. Sencha products are great if you're into supporting multiple mobile platforms.

How do you market this app?

The WikiLeaks Party will be announcing the app on their site shortly. They've already mentioned it on Facebook and Twitter.

What's next for you and your app?

With this WikiLeaks Party app we're largely done with developing it and hope to re-use the technology and format for other clients.
Thorp Technology are already working on another type of app for use in a retail environment. More details next month.

What's next in the mobile space?

The fingerprint authentication in the upcoming iPhone is a great feature others will have to copy soon. Mobile retailing and payments has a big future, and things that improve security and usability like the fingerprint scanning will help it on it's way.

Tell us about being a developer in your area

Lot's happening in London. I really don't make the most of what's on offer.

Screenshots



Thanks to Ron for taking the time to answer our questions.

Integrating a Custom URI Intent Filter into your Android app

In this article, I'll go through the processes involved in registering a Custom URI Intent Filter with your Android app so that you can open the app using a Custom URL/URI Scheme.

1. Picking your scheme
As with iOS, you need to choose your URL scheme carefully. rdrct.it allows you to choose different schemes for your app on different platforms (if you need to), however here we’ll use the Squizzd example from my previous article.

OpenIntents.org is a good place to start with your search for existing Intent Filters that may conflict with (or assist with) your app:

In the remainder of this article, I'll use the scheme we're using in Squizzd - strangely enough, that is:  squizzd://
NOTE: once you've published your app, you may want to register your Intent Filter with OpenIntents and other directories so that people know it exists, and also so that they can avoid using it in their own apps.

2. Inform Android of your Intent Filter:
In order to let Android know about your Intent Filter, and the scheme that should be used, you add it to the AndroidManifest.xml file:

<activity android:name="MainActivity">
    <intent-filter>
        <action android:name="android.intent.action.VIEW" />
        <action android:name="android.intent.action.EDIT" />
        <category android:name="android.intent.category.DEFAULT" />
        <data android:scheme="squizzd" />
    </intent-filter>
</activity>

3. Handling the URL
All you then need to do is handle the URI that your activity has been provided with:

public class MainActivity extends Activity {
    public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {
        super.onCreate(savedInstanceState);
        if (getIntent().getAction() == Intent.ACTION_VIEW) {
            Uri uri = getIntent().getData();
            // Open the Squizzd map, project etc
        }
    }
}

Hopefully you can see just how easy it is to integrate a Custom URI Intent Filter into your Android app. We're going to be following this article with similar posts about achieving the same results with Windows Phone 8, and BB10. The previous article on iOS can be found here.

Without rdrct.it, our URLs for the Squizzd app would need to be in the format: squizzd://abcde12345
This means that in rdrct.it, we enter "squizzd://" into the Custom URL Scheme box.
We then share URLs in the format: http://rdrct.it/squizzd?abcde12345

rdrct.it will then take our URI scheme, add the querystring from the shared URL, and serve the following to the device: squizzd://abcde12345 in order to open the app with the correct content.

Other resources on the subject:
1. A very informative document on the Intent class on developer.android.com here

2. A great tutorial on Vogella.com here

Monday, 9 September 2013

App of the week - Share and Shopping


This week we talk to Bernhard from Appmaker e.K. about Share & Shopping - a polished and simple to use shopping list app that allows you to easily share the lists with friends and family.

To keep the UI simple, Appmaker have used gestural controls that soon become second nature to the user.

Bernhard currently has two apps using rdrct.it URLs, '
Share & Shopping' http://rdrct.it/share_shopping, and 'My Own Diary' http://rdrct.it/myowndiary.

Describe 'Share and Shopping'

Create your shopping list and share it with your partner, roommates or friends. With over 1000 integrated products and our speedy suggestion list, you can put your lists together as fast as the wind! With push messages, you can see when someone has added an item to your list. Choose from a variety of colors to give your list a personal touch.

Talk to us about the development process

The most challenging thing, was to setup the server to share and update the lists in realtime.

Are there any developer conferences and events that you recommend?
Macoun Frankfurt. [This is the largest iOS & OSX developer conference in Germany, and is held on 5th and 6th October. For more information see here. - SB]

Screenshots

Thanks to Bernhard for taking the time to answer our questions. Please check out 'Share and Shopping' and other apps from AppMaker at their website.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

iOS Dev Tip - UIButton without the rounded corners

Want to get nice squared iOS7 type buttons without any custom classes or images?

It couldn't be simpler - just choose a "Custom" type button in Interface Builder, then set the background colour to whatever you want.


And there you have it - nice square buttons - no rounded corners to be seen! Might sound obvious, but I've seen some massively over-complicated ways of achieving the same thing.