TapsBook App Review

This past Thursday, at the local Triangle Cocoaheads meeting, the creator of the app TapsBook showed his app and asked for feedback.  Sherwood (the developer) expressed that his love of photography and desire to tell stories with all the pictures he came up with necessitated a better way of build photo books.  The app is iPad only (sorry iPhone people), and allows you to tap and swipe your way thru building photo books that can be shared either on the web, on social media, or thru printing at your local Walgreens drug store.

I too take way too many pictures, and having just spent a few days at Kennedy Space Center watching the launch of the MAVEN mission, I thought this would be a great test.  I had recently used Google+’s AutoAwesome features to create some really exciting pictures of the launch, so TapsBook sounded like a perfect way to print a book of the picture.

As I mentioned above, it was iPad only, so I had to wait until I got home to test it. I hope they resolve this soon, as I don’t always carry my iPad with me, but the iPhone is my constant companion.  I was a bit surprised that the app was sluggish on my iPad Air, I had a full photo stream (1,000 pictures) and the UI stuttered a lot when working with the pictures.  I was able to grab a share I had created of the MAVEN launch and start working on the swiping up and down to say which pictures were the best.  So after getting over the sluggishness, I felt the design was pretty cool.

Modifying the pictures within an auto created storybook, did not work as I expected.  I had hoped I could just grab a picture and move it to a new location.  Also, the algorithm ignored the large group of pictures I had taken of the launch sequence itself.   It scattered the pictures over the last groups of pages, interspersed with other pictures.  I am sure I need to do a bit more study and hopefully I can correct this.  But given the ease of auto creation, I would expect an option to say respect sequence of the pictures.

When I wanted to share the book, it required that I create an account.  The app itself is free, but you are limited to 500 pictures uploaded and shared.  I get this, storage is not free and I respect that Sherwood and team need to get paid.  I also tried to print the TapsBook to Walgreens and was surprised by the 20 page limit.  I have never used their service, so I am sure that is a limitation of Walgreen and not of the app.

Overall, I think the app does well in making creation of picture books (or  stories) easy for most people.  It is free to start with, and if you find that you like it, I would certainly buy a subscription to support the developers and cover the disk space costs.  As for printing, my test book was 65 pages long, and I couldn’t choose which pages to cut, so I didn’t get that done.  Maybe I will find a good 20 page book to print soon.

I hope Sherwood and team come out with more apps, since the interface design is certainly intuitive.

G-Wizz! Plus Review

While I was at the Google Glass event a few weeks back, I met the developer of G-Wizz! Plus (Google Apps Browser Plus). He has written this app a while back, before all the really great Google apps were made available for iOS. We had a nice / brief discussion and I decided to see what his app was all about. There is both a free version called Google Apps Browser, and the paid version I picked up. I picked up the paid version and was amazed by all the apps that this app supports: Gmail, Facebook, Google Maps, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Google Voice, Google News, Google Music, Google Drive, Tasks, Blogger, Google Calendar, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, Yelp, Google Finance, Google Groups, MySpace, YouTube, Picasa, Images, Places, Books, Translate, Shopping, Offers, AccuWeather, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail!! Wow that’s a ton of Apps. If you only could install one app, this would be the one.

Having said that, the basic approach of this app is that it provides you with a single app that keeps you logged into the website for each of these services. This would be a fine app a few years back, but I have found a few problems that make it less than useful. For example, the Twitter tab prompts me with a screen to either install the twitter app, or sign-up for twitter. This is probably a problem with the Twitter mobile site, because if I say create account, I finally get to the sign in option.

Given the great apps that are available for each of these services, I may still play with this app, but it doesn’t hit a need for me. I love supporting local developers but this is an app that has outlived it’s value.

It’s all a matter of public record

I recently had the chance to review a locally developed app called Public Record. This application provides search capabilities for legal documents and court records in the state of North Carolina. There are multiple applications that provide this capability, but I cannot compare the functionality as I have not tried them. As a supporter of locally developed apps, I was happy to take a look when Richard Brown (the developer) reached out and asked for me to take a look. I am currently working on a video for the site; but wanted to my impressions here.

The appeal of this app is to those who need access to the data but do not have the time to travel to each county courthouse to go get the records. If you have the citation number and the county, you can pull most information. If you are just testing the app, and haven’t been the system (that you are aware of) it is a bit daunting…but no more daunting then back-end county/state systems it is pulling data from. The app seems very complete for the scope it covers, and I like the fact that it includes a built in dictionary of many of the legal terms related to the data you may be searching for.

The great story behind this app, like many developers, Richard built the app after dealing with the frustration of trying to get these types of documents thru other means. Developing an app for your own needs, and then seeing the value of it, allows users to benefit from your hard work! I hope to post a demo video soon,

App development and promotion

One of the big things I keep trying to figure out is why so many of the popular apps tend to be developed on the west coast of the US. I don’t mean the Angry Birds of the world (which are built and grow so popular due to their first in class status), but I mean the popular utilities, camera apps, and other various social apps,

Years ago, when I was working on my MBA, a classmate of mine created a site called EZ2FindMe. It was a social network for business and college students to keep up with each other. It was built right before Facebook was being built at another college. Why didn’t it catch on?

I believe it has a lot to do with the network effect. And given that the West Coast is also the global media capital of the world – thank you Hollywood, the network economy is strong. This means that people are used to self promotion. That self promotion mind set is how you make it in Hollywood.

Those of us who are working on mobile apps need to realize that you can’t just right the best app. You have to work hard to code, but you have to work even harder to promote your app. For many this is not our natural tendency, we like the instant feedback if the compiler. The code we’ve
been working on has magically transformed into a tangible app and we can play with it. In promotion, we spend time tweeting, blogging, going to events, and talking about our app – or our vision if the app, and we have to wait for the network to take hold.

Yes it’s hard, but you have to do it. Go out there and talk to people about what you are doing. Show off your hard work. It can be fun…and the more people who see and get your app, the more opportunity you will have to get back to writing the code.

WordPress on iPad

Well, as happens, the day job is consuming more and more time. Luckily the latest update to the WordPress for iPad app addresses many of the problems I’ve had recently. So I am able to write up a quick Huzzah! while getting ready for dinner.

I know work is getting busy when I don’t have time to download any new apps in an entire week. I tried this morning to find a good example of a DigDug game. The old Atari game where you would use a small pump and blowup fire-breathing dragons! Someone should make a good version of this.

Reflections App and reviews

I want to thank Tim for introducing me to Reflections App. This mac app allows you to share your iPhone or iPad screen to your Mac, just like Apple’s AirPlay. The really nice feature; however, is that it also will record that session, including sounds from your iOS device. I am going to start using this application to do quick reviews of some of my favorite apps that I use from local developers. Hope to post my first one this week.

Today’s app

Today, in honor of Pi day, I will be looking at calculator apps. I find it amazing that the iPad did not come with a calculator app, so I find myself launching numbers for some calculations. On the iPhone, I use the basic calculator app that comes with iOS.

A quick google search recommends calculator HD for the iPad, this feature rich app has a great looking interface. The team over at www.crowdcafe.com has done a lot of nice work on the look of the app.

I have been using calculator 7thg, which I bought as an impulse buy some time ago, but I have been disappointed in the past that it required I use the screen even when I am using a Bluetooth keyboard.

What is your favorite calculator app, and are they developed locally?

Free vs. Paid in the AppStore

One decision you need to make when you are developing an app is how do you monitize it. I won’t talk about pricing specifically in this post, but on the decision should you charge a user to buy your app. Let’s think thru a couple of options you have:

  • Paid app – if you have an obvious value prop, and there are a lot of other apps in the market which are priced, you may wish to just price the app. This will reduce the initial uptake of your app, but you can get mired direct feedback thru purchases.
  • Free app – this may make sense if you are just getting started, and you just want to get an app in the store. Note, a truly free app won’t make you money, this is a learning opportunity.
  • Free app with ads – it this group I include both directed ads and any app that uses information about the user to drive market insight or non app related revenue. Knowing the real reason for your app and want that data is worth makes this a very attractive option. This includes apps which actually require accounts on other platforms, like the web, where you want to drive more enablement.
  • Freemium app – this is usually used if your app has a simple use, which gains additional value to users thru in app purchases. This can be a very attractive offer, if you can parse the value to you users. However, don’t get into the trap where the base app is not valuable or so valuable that they don’t see the need for the in app purchases.
  • These are you four basic pricing decisions… They are not exhaustive… Are there other models that you favor?

    Security and your Mobile App

    There’s an interesting perspective when it comes to mobile apps, people writing games don’t necessarily think about security. Enterprise app developers must consider security in their apps. And if you are developing social apps, security is even more important, there is no faster way to kill a social platform than to violate your users trust and security (unless your name is Facebook).

    If you are writing a game, do your players care that they can get in and hack your high scores? Probably not if it is a stand alone game, but if it has leader boards and multiplayer, you don’t want to allow this… it will ruin the game play and lose you gamers.

    How do you handle security?