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Top 10 questions asked by new iOS developers: I

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Top 10 misconception or mysteries facing new iOS developers. Summarized from my observations and own experience. Part 1.

Free app or paid app?
This is a big question. Apple iTunes app store is not a freebie store (compared to many other app stores), that being said, most downloaded apps are either free or cost 99 cents. It’s hard to make a living on 99 cents apps and at the same time providing free upgrades. Apple does provide other revenue models such as Ads (iAd and other ads) and in-app purchase. I have not tried those, and I think ads are good for app with a lot of downloads (at least 10,000, or 50,000), and in-app purchase are good for certain app or features.

Ads or No Ads?
I remember Mike Lee, a pioneer in iOS app development, once said don’t annoy users by Ads. That being said, we all need the money to live, again I think if we can make some Ads money without really annoying users. That’s ok.

Universal App or separate iPhone/iPad apps?
Tough question. Again it depends. I remember Kirby Turner said a few things on this topic at VTM last fall. His suggestion is do it when “functionality is same or similar for iPhone/iPad apps”, and “enhanced user experience”, on the other hand not to do it when “Functionality differs greatly”, and “business justifications”.

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Felt blessed: looking back at 2010

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It’s Christmas eve 2010. Baby already fell asleep. Wife is tweaking her new Toshiba R705 laptop, and I was reading some Navigation controller stuff while watching TV (PBS Christmas program, KMOV news).

This year is obviously one of the most significant years in my 13 years stay in this country. In early March, we got a baby girl. Before that I changed job after 15 months stint at a decent size software company. Things did not work out as good as I thought in Oct/Nov 2008 (the middle of financial crisis). The good thing is, after some hard work and luck, I got a new job at local software company, and got to do what like to do.

In July I signed up the Apple iOS developer program, paid the $99 annual fee and became more seriously on iOS app development. I have thought about it and bought Macbook and iPhone 3G back in Jan 2009, but between my old job, our expectation of baby, and my shear inaction, I did not get to finish the Beginning iPhone Development book in 2009. I started fresh again in 2010 (got the new iPhone 3 dev book, for one). Since the birth of baby, I felt more and more the importance of spending time with family. I think iOS app dev gave me a decent shot at this desire. In middle Oct. I went to the city of brotherly love Philadelphia (again, I went there in May with my in-laws), for the Voice that Matter iPhone dev conference. I think I learned quite a few things there, besides technology, there is design and the business of going indie, which both are important to me (being from developer background).

Looking forward, baby is growing much faster than I thought, especially since she started to crawl and stand. She likes my gadgets (iPhone, iPad, and macbook), much more than her own vtech laptop. I hope I can spend more time with her before she grows up.

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The first bug reported for myNestEgg v 1.2

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This morning I received an email from a user saying that the app stopped working. After one round of back and forth, I realized I shipped the product with a serious (show stopper) bug: I was playing around with adding a comma separator around the time I made change for v 1.2, and I left the code there when it shipped. Now I break pretty much everyone’s nest egg if they run the updated (v 1.2) app.


This little incident again illustrate the thing I mentioned last week: testing

and another topic I would like to talk some time later: source code control.

Luckily, the fix was relatively easy: I comment out the code where I put in “exta comma” for numbers. Because the app persists the number to the file system, I need to do some String manipulation in Objective C (basically remove the extra comma) when reading from the file during app loading. Here is a StackOverflow discussion thread I followed on this topic.

BTW, the user has entered the opportunity to win the $25 Amazon gift card, as I said a bit earlier.

PS: it appears the ratios (saving progress; income ratio) are still correct in those cases, despite the error of dollar amount. Note the ratios are more important in reality, though I can understand the dollar amount are more important in most people’s mind.

PS 2: it’s interesting to see sometimes, when things are broken, it started to get attention. This reminds me a story in which an app got a lot of “ad click” because the useful data feeds were broken, and all the user can see is the Ads.

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Back from Voices that matter: iPhone developer conference

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The conference was hold in Philadelphia, PA. Note there was a VTM_iPhone conference this past spring in Seattle. This is my first time attending an Apple themed conference, my first time to hear names like Omni Group, Mike Lee, which are almost like household names in Mac/iOS community.

Ok, let me get to the topic, the people and topics of conference. First I want to thank Chuck and Barbara (and all other Pearson Publishing organizers, venue helpers) for their hard work on logistics (food, drink, website etc.), if there is anything could be improved, I think it’s the Wifi access point. Probably due to the overwhelming of iPhone/iPad, and laptop, sometimes we had difficulty connecting to Wifi. But that’s a minor thing, compared the quality of speakers, and the openness atmosphere of participants (Mac community is much friendly than some of the other dev community as I know of).

Technical sessions are excellent, sometimes I had hard time to make a choice but I like to attend all 3 sessions running at the same time. Eventually I decided to take more UI (user interface) and Graphics Design classes as that is my weakness, coming from coder/programmer background and not graphics Q. Here is the schedule of classes. Some of the highlights: Aaron Hillegass talked about the product cycle and going form “independence to interdependence” as business grow. Not entirely new topic, but good reminder to me. Mike Lee reminds me a Chinese guy names Lu Xun (after I gave it more thought): he fired at a lot of places and I think many of his points are valid criticism of “lack of effort/thoughts” in design. I think yesterday Steve Jobs’ fire at Android fragmentation is along the same line. When “Open” is just for business and marketing purpose, how meaningful really is open of Android?

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iPhone iOS dev blogs

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The following are iPhone development blogs I often read. Note I used Google reader to get them. I also listed some of the blogs under “dev” category in the side bar (small).

iPhone development by Jeff Lamarche. Jeff is the author of the best beginners book for iPhone dev “Beginning iPhone development”. Recently I found his profile at LinkedIn, and found he was a law school graduate, which is total surprise to me. He is definitely not a lawyer type in terms of writing (blog) and talking style (from his tweets).

Cocoanetics (aka Dr. Touch): Oliver Drobnik, the former Windows Admin turned full time iPhone iOS developer lives in Austria (Europe). Note he recently changed the name from Dr. Touch to Cocoanetics. Regardless the name change, I found he has a very good sense of both technology and business: I think his article on Notifications and “Part Store” (he sold his components software like parts) are very interesting.

iPhone developer:tips written primarily by John Muchow, who is the author of Core J2ME (which is the primary mobile development language pre iPhone, it is still used on Blackberry platform, and note Android used a different Java virtual machine developed by Google). I think some article such as “rename Xcode project”, “Prevent application being placed in background” etc. to be interesting.

iPhone development blog: written by Nick Dalton who got into iPhone dev early. A lot of goodies include this iPhone iOS app store reject reasons. I believe he is a co-founder and CTO of a mobile development firm in SF (can not recall the company name on top of my head, you may google).

Ray Wenderlich: the blog bears the author’s name. It has a lot of meaningful tutorials (not those “Hello world” stuff). Besides that, I found this How to host beta test for iOS app” to be interesting.

Other Resources, news, gossips etc
iPhone developer news (Apple): get it from Apple iOS developer center. The official place for all the announcement etc.

Mobile Orchard: used to be good technical stuff, stopped update this April, just resumed blogging.

43 iPhone app development resources: the list is a bit dated, but still useful.

I will add more as time goes.

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Bought iPhone 4 today

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I bought my long anticipated iPhone 4 today, at local Apple store. The buying process is fairly straight forward, because I switched from T-mobile (have been with them for almost 6 years!), I need to bring the account number because I was going to port the number. The Apple sales rep used an iPhone app for the whole process, from input the data, to slide my credit card. Obviously his iPhone has card reader.

Why I bought iPhone 4?
I was a bit late to the iPhone revolution. I was not a believer at the beginning (Summer 2007, see my post iParty). But slowly I realized this iPhone app thing is going to be big, that’s why I bought iPhone 3g (refurb) at Dec 2008, and bought macbook in Jan 2009, starting learning iPhone app dev (I was working on CFA level one in year 2008). This year the No. 1 priority is our new baby. Yesterday (Sept 17, 2010) my first iPhone app myNestEgg ~ the retirement calculator was approved in iTune store. I certainly hope that’s just a beginning of my iPhone app development. Besides using for app dev, I think the new iPhone photo and video capability will be handy to record the growth of our baby.

The apps I am going to get
I was using my wife’s 3g (iOS 3.1.2) before getting iPhone 4. One app I plan to install is Netflix viewer (it requires iOS 3.1.3 or later). I already installed Public Radio Player app (I was using Nokia 5800 before iPhone 4, and I am a big NPR fan).

Odds and Ends
Free case: everyone knows the iPhone 4 antenna gate, and thus the iPhone 4 case program. Guess what, there is an app for that. After looking for “free case reviews”appadvice; macWorld; iLounge on the web, I decided to go with the flow: the Speck PixelSkin HD.

AT&T, T-mobile: I have been with T-mobile for almost 6 years, and for most part I am happy with them. Interestingly, I was AT&T (Cingular) before switching to T-mobile, now I am back. I am not too worried about the signal strength of AT&T amid all the stories about AT&T dropping calls.

No more fights on iPhone: my wife joked I will no longer fight for her iPhone as I got my own. I told her mine got Netflix, and now she is going to fight for mine 😀

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Announcing iPhone app myNestEgg ~ the retirement calculator

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(Update Oct-22-2010) The version 1.1 was released yesterday Oct 21, 2010. This link is the same. Release notes is attached at the iTune store description as well.

(Original) iTune store link here.


Product support page here.

What is it (myNestEgg)?
myNestEgg is a retirement (savings/income) calculator iPhone app. It runs on iOS 3.1.2 or later.

How much does it cost?
99 cents in the US (Apple tier 1 price, CA$0.99 GB£0.59 EU0.79 € AU$1.19 NZ$1.29 etc.)

Any special promotion for new product launch?
Yes, you can. If you can find a significant bug or suggest a meaningful feature, you can email me at , and I will give you the refund (via Paypal). And if you like, I can send you the Ad hoc version of my future products for free as long as you send me the feedback (note you will need to send me the UDID of your device for the Ad hoc version).

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Check list for submit iPhone App

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(Update 08-31-2010) I submitted my app myNestEgg (a retirement savings calculator) last night. Some quick thoughts on things not directly related to coding but important during submission.

1) Screenshots and icon file. Apple is very strict on those files. Icon file has to be 57×57 (in png format). “The iPhone/iPod touch screenshot must be a .jpeg, .jpg, .tif, .tiff, or .png file that is 320×480, 480×320, 320×460, 480×300, 640×960, or 960×640 pixels, at least 72 DPI, and in the RGB color space.” (quote Apple)

2) SKU number, tax information (iTune connect). I found this MacRumors discussion thread on SKU number to be useful. As to fill out tax information, iphoneDevSDK has a good thread.

3) Rename a project (target, app) in Xcode. This is a tough one in Xcode 3.1.4. It has been solved in Xcode 3.2. That being said, I saw one interesting article for changing project name in old Xcode.

(Original) Got it from “Prepare for App submission” section of iPhone dev center (subscription required). I need to work on the bold material.

Application Name
Application Description, a working page is over here. I think it can also be used for Application URL below? How about a Support URL, is that something user can talk about problems by filling out a form?

Primary and Secondary Category
App Rating

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The missing iPhone

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By now all the people who are into gadgets should have heard about this iPhone Gizmodo gate: this is apple’s next iPhone .

I don’t know about the fate of this Apple engineer, as Gizmodo did not say a word about him/her (Why Apple Couldn’t Get the Lost iPhone Back). I hope he/she won’t get fired for this (assume this whole thing is not an Apple stunt). Because a while ago, if we recall, a young Chinese engineer died from iPhone leak(HuffingtonPost: Sun Danyong, Chinese Engineer, Kills Himself After Losing ‘4G’ iPhone Prototype).

After all, life is much more important than stupid iPhone, if we can put things in perspective.