Archive for the ‘iPhone App News’ Category

Another Big Announcement: Hours

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Hours — an early mockup

Hours — an early mockup

Since our next app, Languages, is more or less designed and is now in the programming stage, we’re hungry for yet another adventure.  And we’ve already decided what we’re going to do.  In addition to Languages and Cleaning Mona Lisa, we’re taking on two new in-house projects. One is Grades 3.0.  Stay tuned for more information on that in the coming weeks.  But right now I will be telling you about our other new in-house app.  We’re really excited about it.  And, like all great apps, it begins with a problem.

It’s all a matter of time

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Keeping track of your hours can be frustrating and sometimes infuriating.

Every week day we go to work.  Most of us are obliged to keep track of our hours. Innumerable small headaches, pains, and inconveniences accompany this. Some find logging hours tedious because they are constantly switching tasks (lawyers, for example).  Other find it tricky because they opt to fudge it and may not record their hours until the end of the day or the end of the end of the week; they often cannot remember exactly what they did and when. Everybody does it differently and everybody has their unique woes.

Bosses, employees, and self-employed entrepreneurs all wrestle with this issue: how to reduce the tedium and trickiness of time-tracking to an absolute minimum.

Is there an app for that?

Yes—sort of.  There is a throng of time-tracker apps.  But in our experience none of them are satisfactory.  We have tried to use a number of them, only to abandon them in favor of timesheet and pencil.  We find that generally the cure kills more than the disease and the side-effects are worse than the sickness.  There is no alpha dog in this space.

We have identified three areas that none of our competitors deals with successfully:

1. Starting, stopping, switching between tasks and remembering to do so—all via a simple and coherent interface.

2. Identifying errors and fixing them.  All the apps now make it extremely difficult to edit your time once you record it.

3. Back-end integration with billing and invoicing systems such as FreshBooks.

Where we come in

We believe that it must be possible to create an hours-tracker app that is simple, intuitive, and simultaneously powerful.  Having failed to find any such app available today, we have decided to make it ourselves.  We want to create an app that will cover as many use-cases as possible—from the programmer who switches tasks twice a day to the lawyer who switches clients continually.  We want to serve the meticulous time-tracker as well as the guy who fudges it.  And we want to do all of this via a UI that is clear, crisp, and delightful.

That is the vision.

And we’ve decided on a name.  In keeping with our other product names inspired by Apple’s Pages—Grades and Languages—we are calling our time-tracker “Hours.”

We are already deep into interaction design and are laboring on it furiously in the hopes of launching it ASAP.  Now back to work!

What our next app does

Friday, November 4th, 2011

We’ve announced that our next product will be called Languages, created in partnership with Sonico Mobile. I’m sure you’d like to know what this app does. But first, a story.

Once upon a time

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Build a universal app.

The idea occurred to Sonico after their success with iTranslate. Drawing from Google’s translation engine and featuring a crisp UI, iTranslate garnered millions of downloads, rocketing into the stratosphere of the most-downloaded apps. Clearly they had done something seriously right. Part of this something was universality: apparently apps that serve translation needs have massive universal appeal. And, if well-executed, universal apps, such as Angry Birds and iTranslate, can get an insane number of downloads.

Sonico’s CEO, Alex Marktl, told us that, as the months passed and Sonico studied their analytics, they discovered something interesting. A high percentage of iTranslate users were primarily translating one word. Furthermore, these users had to (1) type in the entire word before getting a translation and (2) had to wait for iTranslate to pull the translation down from the internet. So, although Sonico will continue to improve and push iTranslate as the premier translation app, Alex felt that there must be an app that can better serve the one-word use-case.

Words, Words, Words

Well, there are tools for finding the meaning of words. They’re called dictionaries. And the App Store does have a bunch of these. But they had several problems. First, they were generally either online and cheap or offline and costly. One of the best translation dictionary apps, Larousse, costs $5.99. Others range as high as $19.

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Most of the translation dictionaries on the App Store are too expensive

Another problem was that all of these dictionaries had only one language-pair. So you break open the piggy bank to afford a down-payment on a dictionary that only helps you with Espanol, or whatever. None were like iTranslate, which features myriad language pairs.

And the final problem was that none of these apps were as well-designed as they could have been. Some, like Larousse, were functional. But none had the wow factor. None went that extra mile or had that extra dash of pizzaz. None of them used a real-world metaphor.

And so…

The idea was conceived: an offline translation dictionary with around twelve language pairs and a killer UI—all for a killer price of $1. Our responsibility is the design. And we are extremely excited about that because we want to innovate this space into the future. We want to create an app that will set the standard and define the genre. Basically, we want to create the translation dictionary app.

Languages: our next product

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
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"Polly voos Fransay?"

In the spring of 2010 we launched Grades. In the spring of 2011 we launched Grades 2. Now the summer’s over and gone. Autumn is here. And powered by pumpkin pie we’re barreling ahead into our next big thing. It’s called Languages.

sonico-mobile-logo-blogWe’re extremely pleased to be partnering with the awesome guys over at Sonico Mobile. They won fame and fortune creating iTranslate, which has gotten over twenty million downloads and was featured as an all time top 100 app. They’ve also created other cool apps such as iRadio and Music-Quiz.

After the success of Grades 2, Sonico contacted us. They wanted to know if we were interested in helping them bring one of their ideas to life. We were honored and happily obliged. In the coming weeks and months we will reveal more about what the app is and does. Suffices to say it has something to do with language, but is different from iTranslate.

We are currently strategizing, in coordination with Sonico, about what kind of app this will be specifically (personas, use-cases, and all that jazz). Then we will design it, Sonico will build it, and we will both market it together. We will be documenting the process with blog posts and videos, recording our app development process from strategic design through launch. We’ve learned a lot since the last time around and we hope these scribblings will be of interest and maybe even of help to app designers and developers everywhere.

So pull up some pumpkin pie, snag an apple spice latte, throw another log on the fire, and stick around for this new and exciting story.

Learning from Steve Jobs

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Steve JobsFolks all over the world are shocked by the passing of Steve Jobs, even though we all knew it was coming. I think the shock is from the realization that the Edison of our time is gone. As we recover from the shock, it is fitting that we ask, what can we learn from Mr. Jobs? On one hand, the combination of creative, marketing, consumer, and industrial genius that resides in a Jobs (or an Edison or a Disney) cannot be studied and mastered. On the other hand, I believe we can learn and master aspects of Jobs’ pattern of genius.

The best summary I have seen of what we can learn from Steve Jobs is Guy Kawasaki’s post: “What I learned from Steve Jobs.” The fact that Guy knew Steve directly is notable, but I think it more important that Guy is a great learner and does a terrific job of articulating what he has learned. So I highly recommend his post.

Well worth a view is “A Tribute to Steve Jobs,” hosted by Charlie Rose. His first interview with Eric Schmidt at the beginning is particularly good. Schmidt’s emphasis on Jobs’ ability to marry art and technology is very insightful.

At Tapity, we hope that our focus on designing apps that respect, delight, and serve the people who use them will demonstrate that we have learned a little bit from Steve Jobs.

Q&A Event with Ken Yarmosh

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Recently, Skookum, the place where Jer works, held a special event. Ken Yarmosh, author of App Savvy, came and answered questions on iPhone app development. Jer served as moderator. The story made it into the Charlotte Observer (you can find the article here).

The great people over at CLT Blog filmed the event. I have embedded the video below.