Flying Blind…

Posted: April 8th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Apps: Mobile, iPhone Development | No Comments »
Apple put developers in a rather awkward spot when they announced the introduction of the iPad. ‘Available in 60 days’ they said. ‘Download the Software Development Kit (SDK) and start coding now’ they said. So we did.
Apple were touting digital photo frame as one of the many uses for the iPad and since our PhotoFrame app had been so successful on the iPhone we decided this would be a great place to start. After all the iPad was that much bigger and would make a perfect photo frame when it was on charge. Of course Apple’s default Photos app can act as a photo frame just not a very good one. If you have the iPad in portrait mode then landscape photos display with large black bars at the top and bottom and vice versa. We knew we could do better than that and adding the ability to superimpose the time and date would certainly add value to the app.
The problems soon became apparent though. The first version of the SDK had lots of the core components missing – there was no easy way to get photos on to it (or off of it). Lots of the basic functionality was missing – could we have direct access to the Photo library or would we have to duplicate the images and bring them into our app (as we do in the iPhone version). Did the iPad photo app downsize hi-res images that were imported into it and if so by how much…?
So we started developing blind. Later builds of the SDK didn’t do much to clarify some of these issues although functionality like the image picker became available. Disappointingly it had the same limitations as the iPhone re. referencing the users photo library i.e. you couldn’t. You still had to duplicate the images and import them into your own app. This had already caused us memory problems on the iPhone – what on earth was going to happen on the iPad where users could potentially have much larger libraries of much larger images?
It became obvious that if we wanted to try and hit the launch weekend we’d have to launch with an app that we hadn’t been able to test on the actual hardware. To be fair all but a very limited number of other developers were in the same boat. Even so the idea of launching our app without having access to the iPad was daunting to say the least… Although our app (now named PhotoFramePlus) worked perfectly in the simulator it wasn’t quite the same thing.
Apple were actually fantastic during the submission process – much better than usual. Although they rejected the app several times it was always done very swiftly (sometimes within hours rather than days) and with specific feedback including screengrabs. But even so, they were finding issues that we couldn’t reproduce in the simulator. We imagined a scenario where the early adopters bought it and encountered problems that we wouldn’t be able to replicate and gave us good old flaming in the App Store reviews.
So we decided to try and turn it round and get those early adopters to be on our side – admit how nervous us poor iPad-less UK developers were and ask for their help. So we blogged about it, and tweeted about it and got the story out through a number of Mac related blogs that we were looking for testers. Luckily having developed so many iPhone apps already (20 at last count) we had a loyal fan base that we could tap into. We contacted some of them directly to find out if they’d be buying an iPad on day 1. We offered promo codes to handful of users on the understanding that would supply us with detailed feedback on any problems or graphical glitches they were experiencing.

Apple put developers in a rather awkward spot when they announced the introduction of the iPad. ‘Available in 60 days’ they said. ‘Download the Software Development Kit (SDK) and start coding now’ they said. So we did.

iPad - 1

Apple were touting a digital photo frame as one of the many uses for the iPad and since our PhotoFrame app had been so successful on the iPhone we decided this would be a great place to start. After all the iPad was that much bigger and would make a perfect photo frame when it was on charge. Of course Apple’s default Photos app can act as a photo frame just not a very good one. If you have the iPad in portrait mode then landscape photos display with large black bars at the top and bottom and vice versa. We knew we could do better than that and adding the ability to superimpose the time and date would certainly add value to the app.

The problems soon became apparent though. The first version of the SDK had lots of the core components missing – there was no easy way to get photos on to it (or off of it). Lots of the basic functionality was missing – could we have direct access to the Photo library or would we have to duplicate the images and bring them into our app (as we do in the iPhone version). Did the iPad photo app downsize hi-res images that were imported into it and if so by how much…?

So we started developing blind. Later builds of the SDK didn’t do much to clarify some of these issues although functionality like the image picker became available. Disappointingly it had the same limitations as the iPhone re. referencing the users photo library i.e. you couldn’t. You still had to duplicate the images and import them into your own app. This had already caused us memory problems on the iPhone – what on earth was going to happen on the iPad where users could potentially have much larger libraries of much larger images?

It became obvious that if we wanted to try and hit the launch weekend we’d have to launch with an app that we hadn’t been able to test on the actual hardware. To be fair all but a very limited number of other developers were in the same boat. Even so the idea of launching our app without having access to the iPad was daunting to say the least… Although our app (now named PhotoFramePlus) worked perfectly in the simulator it wasn’t quite the same thing.

Apple were actually fantastic during the submission process – much better than usual. Although they rejected the app several times it was always done very swiftly (sometimes within hours rather than days) and with specific feedback including screengrabs. But even so, they were finding issues that we couldn’t reproduce in the simulator. We imagined a scenario where the early adopters bought it and encountered problems that we wouldn’t be able to replicate and gave us good old flaming in the App Store reviews.

So we decided to try and turn it round and get those early adopters to be on our side – admit how nervous us poor iPad-less UK developers were and ask for their help. So we blogged about it, and tweeted about it and got the story out through a number of Mac related blogs that we were looking for testers. Luckily having developed so many iPhone apps already (20 at last count) we had a loyal fan base that we could tap into. We contacted some of them directly to find out if they’d be buying an iPad on day 1. We offered promo codes to handful of users on the understanding that would supply us with detailed feedback on any problems or graphical glitches they were experiencing.

It looks like we managed to pull it off and that our fears were unfounded! Apple approved the app, promo codes were sent out and we eagerly awaited for feedback. Luckily all bar one of our testers couldn’t find any problems with it at all and were extremely happy!

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Innovative Pricing Model for World Cup iPhone App

Posted: March 2nd, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Apps: Mobile, Progressive thinking, iPhone Development | No Comments »
22 February 2010, London, UK:  agencyX, London-based digital application specialists, today announce their iPhone partnership with South Africa Tourism in the run up to the 2010 World Cup.
As the world’s focus shifts towards South Africa in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup, many spectators are also starting to plan their extended holiday while on the African shores.
agencyX and South African Tourism have come together to offer an innovative iPhone application that engages both football fans and potential visitors to South Africa.
Primarily the iPhone app (which is free to download) acts as a timer, counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to kick-off. However, the app also shows users that there’s more to South Africa than just football and provides instant access to leisure, entertainment and tourist options in and around South Africa.
‘We wanted to offer a product that not only delivers cutting edge usability and access to content, but we also wanted South African Tourism to feel comfortable that they were in fact only paying when they got results. Our pay-per-download model ensures a mutual risk and reward sharing between the agency and client’ says Craig Llewelyn-Williams, Director, agencyX.
The business model around the application is innovative in that it operates on a          pay-per-download basis – much like pay-per-click. The application will be available as a free download on iTunes to allow as many visitors as possible to have access to the delights of Africa while on their holiday. South African Tourism, however, only pay when the application is downloaded by a user, giving the organisation a low-risk model, at a time when close analysis of marketing spend is at its peak.
There are so many misconceptions around what there is to do on the leisure front in South Africa and this application allows South Africa Tourism to reach its audience through a platform that they are familiar and feel comfortable with.
Lebohang Mokhesi, South Africa Tourism says, “Innovation, in a mature market like the UK, is the feature that distinguishes a brand amongst its target audiences. We have taken advantage of the tremendous interest in the FIFA World Cup to communicate the powerful message that South Africa is the must-see destination for 2010. Our partnership with agencyX will deliver this message via a unique application. We want to educate and inspire potential travelers to pick South Africa as their destination of choice and what better way than through the iPhone.”
‘We would never create products that we don’t believe in or wouldn’t make use of ourselves. The pay-per-download model allows us to prove our confidence in apps as a valid part of the marketing mix. We take the risk on strategy, design and development and when the campaigns are successful, both the client and ourselves share in the successes’ concludes Llewelyn-Williams.
agencyX also has campaigns in development with a number of other global blue chip brands around this marketing model. agencyX publish their own consumer apps under the name of Chilli X in the iPhone App Store.

It’s 100 days to the Football World Cup and we have formed an iPhone partnership with South Africa Tourism in the run up to the kick off.

100Days

As the world’s focus shifts towards South Africa in anticipation of the FIFA World Cup, many spectators are also starting to plan their extended holiday while on the African shores.

agencyX and South African Tourism have come together to offer an innovative iPhone application that engages both football fans and potential visitors to South Africa.

Primarily the iPhone app (which is free to download) acts as a timer, counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to kick-off. However, the app also shows users that there’s more to South Africa than just football and provides instant access to leisure, entertainment and tourist options in and around South Africa.

‘We wanted to offer a product that not only delivers cutting edge usability and access to content, but we also wanted South African Tourism to feel comfortable that they were in fact only paying when they got results. Our pay-per-download model ensures a mutual risk and reward sharing between the agency and client’ says Craig Llewelyn-Williams, Director, agencyX.

The business model around the application is innovative in that it operates on a pay-per-download basis – much like pay-per-click. The application will be available as a free download on iTunes to allow as many visitors as possible to have access to the delights of Africa while on their holiday. South African Tourism, however, only pay when the application is downloaded by a user, giving the organisation a low-risk model, at a time when close analysis of marketing spend is at its peak.

There are so many misconceptions around what there is to do on the leisure front in South Africa and this application allows South Africa Tourism to reach its audience through a platform that they are familiar and feel comfortable with.

Lebohang Mokhesi, South Africa Tourism says, “Innovation, in a mature market like the UK, is the feature that distinguishes a brand amongst its target audiences. We have taken advantage of the tremendous interest in the FIFA World Cup to communicate the powerful message that South Africa is the must-see destination for 2010. Our partnership with agencyX will deliver this message via a unique application. We want to educate and inspire potential travelers to pick South Africa as their destination of choice and what better way than through the iPhone.”

‘We would never create products that we don’t believe in or wouldn’t make use of ourselves. The pay-per-download model allows us to prove our confidence in apps as a valid part of the marketing mix. We take the risk on strategy, design and development and when the campaigns are successful, both the client and ourselves share in the successes’ concludes Llewelyn-Williams.

agencyX also has campaigns in development with a number of other global blue chip brands around this marketing model. agencyX publish their own consumer apps under the name of Chilli X in the iPhone App Store.

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We create the apps for that…

Posted: March 1st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: iPhone Development | No Comments »

Introducing our new key marketing image for 2010…
appsforthat
Let us know what you think!

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Year of the Tiger!

Posted: February 12th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Apps: Mobile | No Comments »

Tiger_BeerWe recently worked with the creative comms agency Exposure on an iPhone app for Tiger Beer. They are doing lots of brilliant work with the brand to celebrate the fact that 2010 is the year of the Tiger.

We were involved at the start of the project providing consultancy at the strategy and feasibility stage and the work we did is a good case study of how we approach projects. We divide our process into three phases – consult, consider & create.

The consulting phase involves workshops to fully understand a business, brand or marketing campaign. The objective is to understand objectives and to then consider how they might be achieved given the creative & technical options available. In this case the accelerometer functionality on the iPhone provided a number of options for engaging game play. At this stage of the project we sketch out interfaces and develop prototypes.

Tiger_Consider_Phase

The next stage is to consider how the application might actually look. We will use the feedback from the prototyping to work up and develop the creative side of the application to deliver the best user experience possible.

Tiger_Consider_Phase

Once these phases are complete, we then create the app. Although, in this case Exposure developed the functionality and published the app to iTunes themselves. This is what the final product looks like.

Tiger_Final

Go download the app, its free and a great way to celebrate the Year of the Tiger!

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Creating Apple Home Screen Icons

Posted: January 30th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Apps: Mobile | No Comments »
Icons on iPhone Home Screen

Icons on iPhone Home Screen

One of the mobile strategy basics that seems to be often overlooked is creating an icon for your website that makes an app style icon on an iPhone, iPod Touch and soon the iPad home screen when saved.

In this example – the icons for RandomPlay and Juiced boot up the apps, but the icons for agencyX and chilliX simply link to the websites.

It is a really simple quick win.

This is how you do it:

1. Get an icon designed (get in touch if you need one). Note that your icon will automatically receive the glossy treatment as well as those rounded corners, so keep that in mind!

2. Name it “apple-touch-icon.png”

3. Drop it in the root folder of your website. Not the root of your server, the root of your web documents.

That’s it.

Now, if that icon linked to a mobile optimised version of your site or to key functionality you will effectively have a mobile web app!

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Mobile opens the Internet to the world…

Posted: January 21st, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

I was reading an article about txteagle a couple of days ago – a great idea where everyone wins. Essentially txteagle is a service that enables mobile phone subscribers to earn money and accumulate savings by completing simple micro-tasks for large corporate clients.

The article mentioned how txteagle was harnessing the 2 billion literate mobile users out there and it struck me that mobile is going to open the Internet to the world.

We talk about the Global Community that the Internet has enabled but this is really only a community of people that can afford a computer and live in a country where the telecom infrastructure extends to every household.

Mobile significantly drops the cost barrier to entry.

You only have to look at the stats from World Internet Usage to see the potential impact. Imagine if regions such as Africa and Asia with Internet penetration rates of 6.8% and 19.4% respectively started matching North American rates of 74.2%!

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Apple Tablet / iSlate / iPad / iGuide

Posted: January 8th, 2010 | Author: admin | Filed under: Apps: Mobile | No Comments »

appletablet

We’ve been having some fun imagining what our apps might look like on an Apple tablet device. Read the full article on the ChilliX Blog.

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iPhone Publishers Meetup: an Augmented Reality special

Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

ar

Last night agencyX went to the November iPhone Publishers Meetup: an Augmented Reality special, and had a great evening.

The venue was suitably cool (great lighting, touch sensitive tables etc) and the talks were brief but interesting. Ravi Damani from acrossair talked about getting started, their future plans for their Augmented Reality engine and their views on competition.  Mark Cummins from PlinkArt gave a fascinating talk about their visual image recognition system. It’s not available on the iPhone yet (Android only so far) but the potential is enormous.

We’ll be watching with interest to see where these technologies go. Personally I’d like to see some open standards that everyone can plug in to, rather than everybody developing their own different solutions. For example Plink’s image recognition works only on images that have been entered into their database – they already have competition of a sort in the form of Kooaba. I’d hate to see a future where images from some companies are exclusively held in one database so can’t be recognised by a competitor’s software.

The virtual augmented reality future only looks bright if everybody plays nicely together. I don’t want to be standing in London holding a phone in front of my face looking for a restaurant only to find that Wagamas are exclusively licensed to one app and Burger King another.

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Augmented Reality FAIL

Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Apps: Desktop | 1 Comment »
The Times is running its first augmented reality campaign, as part of a sponsored supplement to promote the DVD release of the family film ‘Night at the Museum 2′.
Was it just us or did the hype surrounding the ‘first augmented reality campaign’ fail to live up to the reality?
Apparently The Times was going to include a pull out supplement in the Nov 6th edition so, being huge AR fans, we all dashed out and bought copies only to find that the promised supplement was going to be in the Nov 7th edition instead – FAIL #1
So, the next day we wasted more time and money on The Times. By the time I got around to looking at it my better half had already thrown the tacky looking insert in the bin. Much verbal banter ensued as we trawled through the rubbish bin to find and uncrumple it.
Next we visited www.nightatthemuseumcomestolife.co.uk (haven’t they heard of short urls?) and downloaded the required ActiveX plug-in (which the small print assured me was going to work on my Mac running Snow Leopard). Then we quit Safari, installed the drivers and eagerly booted up again waiting to see the tiny miracle of some sort of living T. Rex living on my desktop.
Pressing the big red ‘See Rex’ button bought us nothing but a big black rectangle to stare into. We waited and waited… and waited some more. Maybe there’s a problem with the web cam? So we opened up Photo Booth only to find that the web cam was dead – no signal at all… Damn, reboot the computer, check that the web cam is working now (it is) back to Safari, back to the site with the really long url and… nothing. Again. FAIL #2.
By this time we’ve invested enough time and money into this to really want to see this bloody dinosaur cavorting around on my desk. Maybe Firefox will work? Download the latest build, install, reboot everything again just for good measure and back to the site. Now things are looking more promising – there’s a progress bar in the black hole where something interesting should be happening. But it’s stuck at about 20%. Nothing’s happening. Has it crashed? Restart Firefox and a new progress bar appears and says ‘Initializing’. The bar fills up and then… fills up again… and again. After filling up about 10 times Firefox crashed. FAIL #3
So, we re-launched Firefox which gave as a very cute ‘well, this is embarrassing – something seems to have gone wrong’ dialog. I couldn’t have put it any better myself…
We still haven’t seen any augmented reality dinosaurs and the whole sorry thing left a bad taste – I’m just glad we didn’t have a bunch of disappointed kids to deal with afterwards…
On last gripe – I’ve now installed a bunch of useless ActiveX drivers into my browser which will probably do more harm than good and cause all sorts of problems in the future. Guess what, the installer didn’t have an ‘uninstall’ option either… FAIL #4
Did anybody get it up and running and if so, was it worth it?

Last weekend The Times was running its first augmented reality campaign, as part of a sponsored supplement to promote the DVD release of the family film ‘Night at the Museum 2′.

Night

Was it just us or did the hype surrounding the ‘first augmented reality campaign’ spectacularly fail to live up to the reality?

Apparently The Times was going to include a pull out supplement in the Nov 6th edition so, being huge AR fans, we all dashed out and bought copies only to find that the promised supplement was going to be in the Nov 7th edition instead – FAIL #1

So, the next day we wasted more time and money on The Times. By the time I got around to looking at it my better half had already thrown the tacky looking insert in the bin. Much verbal banter ensued as we trawled through the rubbish bin to find and uncrumple it.

Next we visited www.nightatthemuseumcomestolife.co.uk and downloaded the required ActiveX plug-in (which the small print assured me was going to work on my Mac running Snow Leopard). Then we quit Safari, installed the drivers and eagerly booted up again waiting to see the tiny miracle of some sort of living T. Rex on my desktop.

Pressing the big red ‘See Rex’ button bought us nothing but a big black rectangle to stare into. We waited and waited… and waited some more. Maybe there’s a problem with the web cam? So we opened up Photo Booth only to find that the web cam was dead – no signal at all… Damn, reboot the computer, check that the web cam is working now (it is) back to Safari, back to the site with the really long url and… nothing. Again. FAIL #2.

By this time we’ve invested enough time and money into this to really want to see this bloody dinosaur cavorting around on my desk. Maybe Firefox will work? Download the latest build, install, reboot everything again just for good measure and back to the site. Now things are looking more promising – there’s a progress bar in the black hole where something interesting should be happening. But it’s stuck at about 20%. Nothing’s happening. Has it crashed? Restart Firefox and a new progress bar appears and says ‘Initializing’. The bar fills up and then… fills up again… and again. After filling up about 10 times Firefox crashed. FAIL #3

So, we re-launched Firefox which gave as a very cute ‘well, this is embarrassing – something seems to have gone wrong’ dialog. I couldn’t have put it any better myself…

We still haven’t seen any augmented reality dinosaurs and the whole sorry thing left a bad taste – I’m just glad we didn’t have a bunch of disappointed kids to deal with afterwards…

On last gripe – I’ve now installed a bunch of useless ActiveX drivers into my browser which will probably do more harm than good and cause all sorts of problems in the future. Guess what, the installer didn’t have an ‘uninstall’ option either… FAIL #4

Did anybody get it up and running and if so, was it worth it?

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It’s Device Time!

Posted: November 9th, 2009 | Author: admin | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

time_deviceTimeDevice 01 is our first iPhone app collaboration with Rian Hughes. Rian brings his love of type and colour to this unique designer clock. The hour and minutes are displayed in a bold black font while the seconds display darkens slowly over the course of a minute. The background colour can be left to automatically fade through a spectrum, or a quick shake will select a random colour.

Click here to get it!

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