Learning to Ride a Bicycle, Again.

Over the weekend I watched this rather fascinating video where Destin Sandlin describes the process of learning to ride a bicycle with backwards steering. The underlying point of the video is to demonstrate how engrained our thinking can become, even without us knowing it.

The video is worth watching on its own, but I mention it here because it really got me thinking about the App Store. If you’ve been listening to my recent series of episodes on Developing Perspective you’ll know that I’ve done a lot of talking about how the App Store has changed over the last few years.

I’ve made my primary living from selling apps in the App Store for roughly five years now. In some ways that experience gives me an advantage over newcomers to the platform. My apps have a certain amount of momentum that helps keep them sustainable. But I’ve started to recently really worry about the skewed perspective that the last five years has engendered.

Am I still going along riding my old school App Store bike, when the steering in the modern App Store has reversed? The nature of mental biases is that they are insidiously difficult to recognize in yourself.

Take this past weekend as an example. There was a time when being in the App Store on Day One of a new platform launch would, on its own, generate a significant amount of interest, buzz, downloads, etc. From what I saw amongst my own apps (and comments from other developers) those impacts are significantly more muted these days. That isn’t a problem, in-and-of-itself, but it isn’t what I had grown to expect.

To stay competitive and continue to be able to make my living this way I expect I will need to make sure that I spend time making sure I know what kind of ‘bicycle’ the modern App Store is. My past experiences are still useful, but I cannot allow myself to lazily expect them to be predictive.

David Smith




Random Apple Watch Observations

I have now been in possession of an Apple Watch for about three days. Here are a few random observations I’ve made about using it:

  • Overall it slips rather seamlessly into your life. The improvement it provides is reasonably limited, but still felt. There is very little I’ve encountered so far where having a watch had a dramatic impact, but it is useful.

  • The wake on raise function (that turns on the watch when it thinks you are looking at it) has been a bit hit-or-miss for me. It has worked correctly maybe 75% of the time, pretty good but that 25% feels pretty annoying. I especially found it to be bad while driving—where it kept waking up as I turned the steering wheel. This was rather distracting especially at night where it kept drawing my eyes down.

  • Making a phone call from your wrist feels like the future. Not sure how practical it will be in reality but very cool either way.

  • I’m still bouncing back and forth between watch faces trying to find my favorite one. One thing that I did find kind of annoying is that you can’t show the time in the middle of the Modular face. I really wish I could put the time in this big middle box. Right now I’m going back and forth between that face and the Utility analogue face.

  • The fitness tracking stuff is really sweet. I love being able to get quick performance stat updates while out exercising by just looking at my wrist. Previously I’d used Runkeeper’s audio cues for this, which does the job but keeps pausing my podcast every few minutes which is less than ideal. The heart rate sensor seems pretty consistent with my experience with other dedicated devices.

  • The activity tracking gets really confused by walking while pushing a stroller (something I do a lot). It counted roughly 40% less steps than my iPhone in my pocket for a long walk we did on Saturday. Certainly understandable since my wrist isn’t moving much while holding onto the stroller but frustrating nevertheless. I wish it would have more intelligently combined the data from my iPhone with the Watch to get a more holistically accurate picture.

  • I kinda wish that Apple had setup a dummy account where you could send digital touches and heartbeats too (maybe to Siri?). I tried showing the feature to a few friends over the weekend but this requires the rather awkward decision about which of my Apple Watch equipped friends I was going to interrupt with my heartbeat.

  • Also, it is worth noting that the heartbeat you send with that communication feature isn’t your real-time heartbeat. Based on what I can gather it looks to be based on the last measured value the Watch has. This is typically within a few minutes but still feels slightly less ‘intimate’.

  • The latency of using apps is a bit more than I was hoping for. Overall you can get things done with it but given how short I’d like to keep interactions with the Watch waiting 3 seconds for something to load is not great.

  • I’ve turned off essentially all notifications to the Watch except for phone calls and text messages. Everything else just got annoying very quickly.

My general impression is that it is a very solid V1 product. There are still a lot of little rough edges but overall it achieves what it sets out to very well.

David Smith




My WatchKit Apps

WatchKit Series

For the last 5 months I’ve been hard at work on my Apple Watch apps. With watches arriving later this week, I’m delighted to finally show what I’ve been working on. I have eight apps ready for this week’s introduction.

Pedometer++

Pedometer++ has been updated to show your progress towards your activity goals right from your Apple Watch. You can quickly check how active you have been over the course of the last week on the graph shown. The app also includes a Glance view that shows your current step count for the day. (App Store Link)

My Recipe Book

My Recipe Book has been updated to now let you manage your Grocery List directly on your wrist. Perfect for when you are out at the store. You can quickly check your wrist to see what else you need to pick up. You can also add items via dictation directly on your Wrist. The Glance view gives you a quick reference without ever leaving your clock face. (App Store Link)

Audiobooks

Audiobooks has been updated to let you control playback of your audiobooks right from your Apple Watch. You can also manage playback from the main Now Playing Glance. Your library is also shown below the playback controls letting you easily switch books. (App Store Link)

Feed Wrangler

Feed Wrangler has been updated to let you skim your RSS feeds from your Apple Watch. While probably not the best venue for long-form reading it is perfect for quickly catching up on headlines. You can preview the article, mark it as read, or send it right to your read-later service. (App Store Link)

Pod Wrangler

Pod Wrangler has been updated to let you control playback of your podcasts from your wrist. Force Touch controls let you change playback speed and activate the sleep timer. You can also manage playback from the main Now Playing Glance. (App Store Link)

Watch 2048

Watch 2048, play the beloved game 2048 right from your Apple Watch. Watch 2048 scales down your favorite number puzzler into a package that fits on your wrist. Perfect for quick games when you have only a moment or two. (App Store Link)

Watch & Repeat

Watch & Repeat is a beguilingly simple yet challenging game you can play right on your Apple Watch. Four colored buttons light up in increasingly complex sequences. Your job, just remember the pattern and repeat it back. Sounds easy right? But each time you get the pattern right it gets longer, taxing your memory and attention. A perfect diversion for those spare moments. Just raise your wrist and start playing. (App Store Link)

Watch Tip Calculator.

Watch Tip Calculator is well…a tip calculator. The very first app I ever wrote back in 2008 was a Tip Calculator. Building on that, I have since gone on to build my entire livelihood from app development. So it seemed only fitting to make one of my first apps for the Apple Watch a Tip Calculator too. The app lets you easily calculate the tip for a given meal with a variety of tip rules. (App Store Link)

David Smith




Pending an Apple Release

WatchKit Series

Last night I woke up bleary eyed at 3am to put in my order for a pair of Apple Watches. I got a 42mm Sport in Underscore Blue for me and a 38mm Sport in Pink for my Wife.

Nearly coincident with getting my orders submitted I got notification that all my WatchKit apps were approved. They are now in the “Pending an Apple Release” state waiting until sometime closer to April 24th to be released to the App Store.

I thought this would be a good point to take a look back at this As I Learn WatchKit series. In the five months since I started the series I have posted 34 posts chronicling my progress and understanding of the platform.

Back when I first started the series I said my hope was to “trick myself into writing more”. On that score the series has been a wild success. It is the most I’ve written in a long time. Giving myself permission to just post whatever seemed interesting at the moment and worry less about it being “perfect” was a powerful motivator.

The feedback the series has received as been genuinely amazing. So many folks have reach out to me to say how helpful it was in getting them up and running with the Watch. I’m expecting to continue the series going forward. In the very near term likely slowing down a bit, but probably ramping back up in June if we see Watch announcements at WWDC.

Last week I submitted 8 WatchKit apps to the App Store. I’ll cover the details of these more as we get closer to the launch from a marketing perspective. They included:

  • 5 updates to existing apps (Feed Wrangler, Pod Wrangler, Audiobooks, My Recipe Book, Pedometer++)
  • 1 new utility app
  • 2 new games

It has been a lot of fun…now I just can’t wait until April 24.

David Smith




Telling.

This past weekend I roasted coffee for the first time in a few months. Nothing too fancy but notable because it was the first thing I’ve done since the launch of Periscope that seemed potentially worthwhile to share with the world.

While I’m futzing with my iPhone trying to get things setup, my Daughter comes over to me and asks to help. So rather than sharing my morning roast with the world I decide to share it with her instead. Lovely, right.

Once I get the roaster going and we enter into the more boring part of roasting coffee where you wait for First Crack, she asks if I want to play chalk on the sidewalk next to where the roaster is going. I say yes, but only half heartedly. I’m still stuck on how good it was for me to put my iPhone down and be in the moment with my Daughter rather than focusing on sharing it with the faceless masses online.

The trouble is…I’d already pulled out my iPhone to tweet about the experience and how important it is to still ‘be in the moment’ in the face of things like real-time video sharing. I finish my draft, look up, and see my Daughter already drawing with chalk without me.

Yeah.

So it turns out I hadn’t even come close to learning my own lesson.

I struggle with the degree to which I feel compelled to share my life online. The reinforcement you get from posting something is genuinely addictive. Thankfully, in this instance I caught myself before it was too, too late and put my iPhone down to played until we heard the coffee start to pop. But nevertheless I thought the experience was rather telling.

David Smith