WWDC 2015

As always, WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference, is a bit of a firehose even when you’re sitting at home just reading the blogs and watching the occasional session video. I’m not sure how people in San Francisco actually keep up!

What I’m trying to say is that this post is far from complete. I’m sure that I’ve missed something important. But here is my top four things that I’ve taken away so far.


I list this one first because this is the one I’m most concerned about. The gist is that instead of compiling apps down to ARM and ARM64 code and sending that to Apple for review and release, we send a “partially compiled” app to Apple. When a user downloads it, Apple’s servers finish the job, compiling this intermediate code down to the specific hardware that they have.

Clearly this is Apple’s way of saying that new hardware is on the way — also see App Thinning — and they don’t want us to have to recompile our apps before they’ll work on it.

Why is that bad? Well, I have no idea what code will be executing on my users machines. What optimiser settings are Apple using? What compiler are they using? Are there any bugs in it?

Or put another way, Apple put an invisible step between the developer and the user. If it works, users get an optimised app. If it doesn’t, the developer gets a bunch of one star reviews for something that they had no ability to test. It doesn’t seem to me that the upside outweighs the risks.

Let’s hope they do it well and cautiously. Or that the new hardware is worth the hassle!

iPad multitasking

This one is going to sell a lot of iPad Air 2’s to developers in the next couple of months. I love this both as a developer and as a user.

As a user, being able to run two apps side by side suddenly makes the iPad far more useful. Can I say, finally?

And as a developer, it’s not even terribly hard to implement as long as the app is relatively new. With the caveat that more testing is needed, I got Yummy up and running in the Simulator without changing any code.


It’s basically a “Safari view controller” that developers can use to show web content in their apps.

I thought that this would be ideal for Yummy. The value of the browser in Yummy is diminished by its lack of autofill (of password, addresses, credit card details, etc.) and log in details. SLSafariViewController, which suffers from none of those disadvantages, sounds like the solution.

However, in the first beta at least it’s limited in two important ways that means it won’t work in this scenario. Firstly, it’s modal. Secondly you can’t edit the URL. I’ve raised bug reports about both. We’ll see.

Still, I can see uses for it in its current form.

Spotlight searching inside apps

This is another good one, both for users and developers. Using Spotlight search — which has had lots of other nice improvements too — it will be possible to find things inside apps.

For example I was able to use Spotlight to find bookmarks that had been indexed by Yummy. This is more work that the multitasking but is not super hard.

In summary…

Yeah, I didn’t mention Swift or the Apple Watch. I think both have a great future but I don’t have any immediate applications for either right now. (For what it’s worth, my first app with Swift in it will probably ship before the end of the year.)

Like the multitasking, the Spotlight searches are going to create more reasons for more users to keep using compatible apps. But, more than that, it’s going to make apps considerably more useful without having to invest vast amounts of time to get the benefits.

This contrasts greatly with the last two releases of iOS. With 7, a huge amount of work was required just so that apps didn’t look out of place in the New World. For many apps, that work resulted in no new features or stability improvements. Version 8 required none of that, but it was a huge release for developers. Extensions were brilliant, but required a lot of work, especially since the development tools were flaky.

iOS 9 appears to be a stability release for Apple and the new features seem to give a lot of “bangs per buck” for developers. That’s my kind of release.


The tale of www.cut 3.3

This should have been a short, dull story unworthy of a blog post. It may still be dull (you be the judge if that) but I thought it was worth documenting.

So, www.cut. It’s our smallest, simplest app, designed to shorten URLs with barely any user interface. It’s simple almost to the point of being barren. If you launch it with a URL on the clipboard, you don’t even need to tap a button for it to do its magic. Its USP is its lack of interface.

Back when iOS 8 was new, I wanted to add one of the new “Action extensions” (so you wouldn’t even need to open the app). While I was at it I made a few small internal changes and hit submit. The plan was for it to be available a couple of weeks after iOS 8.

But it wasn’t to be. Apple rejected it saying that the UI wasn’t of sufficiently high quality, pointing out the large amount of white space on the iPad version.

Unfortunately, that lack of UI is kind of the point. Also, it hasn’t really changed since 2010. I didn’t have an immediate response and, because it was just a small update otherwise, I decided to concentrate on Yummy and CameraGPS instead.

Five months later, with Yummy 3 submitted and CameraGPS already available, I decide to revisit www.cut.

With iOS 8 now being on the vast majority of devices, I decide to drop iOS 7 support. I also update some of the APIs and, only to address the review rejection, add a web preview of the shortened link on iPad and landscape iPhone 6+. I am not convinced that this actually improves the product, but there’s no point of all the other changes if I can’t get the app in the store at all.

I submitted this update the same day as Yummy 3, which was a compete, ground up rewrite of a much more complex app. One update was approved and one was rejected. Can you guess which?

They rejected it again for exactly the same reason. This is, to say the least, frustrating. They show the same screenshot, showing a blank screen. The web preview being blank because no URL a had been entered.  In hindsight I probably should have anticipated this however that’s not why this rejection was frustrating.

My crash reporter tells me that www.cut crashed while it was in review. However, the reviewer didn’t mention this.

There are lots of high profile app rejections but “little” ones like this are at the heart of the problems with app review to my mind. To summarise: users who are apparently happy with the UI have missed out on neat new Apple promoted features and bug fixes for five months but the a crash in the new version isn’t considered important enough to mention.

But back to www.cut. I figured if the web preview neither improved the product nor managed to get the app past the reviewers it wasn’t worth keeping. I removed it. But that still left the user interface.

The reviewers kept talking about “not using the full screen” but it’s quite tricky to make two text fields and three buttons fill an iPad screen. What could be done? I was skeptical that it would work, but I re-worked the www.cut logo, placing the text under the buttons as usual and the red border all the way around the screen. This “uses” the screen without adding extra, superfluous interface elements.

That feels like a lot of work just to get the action extension — the whole point of which is that you won’t ever see the apps interface! — but in the end we got there. I hope you think it’s worth it.


KSBDA International Spring Exhibition

I’m very late writing this, but I thought it was worth commemorating even very much belatedly.

Rootn Tootn‘s icon and logo were shown in an exhibit last year. In the words of the designer:

Rootn Tootn graphic artwork was shown at the 2014 KSBDA International Spring Exhibition, May 31st through June 5th, 2014, at University of Seoul in Korea. It hung among works of designers and professors from more than 5 countries beside Korean designers and professors. Totally 300 plus works were exhibited.

(Bonus points if you can find the icon in any of the pictures in the link!)

Rootn Tootn Logo
Rootn Tootn Logo

I’m really happy with the design work for that app and I’m glad it was put on display for a much wider audience. Next time I’ll try to find out about it beforehand!



2014 was a busy year for us. Of course, we never completed everything we hoped to but we’ve achieved a lot.

  • Two new apps, CameraGPS and ShareEverywhere
  • Two further big updates to CameraGPS, and a couple of minor ones
  • Two further updates to ShareEverywhere
  • Four updates to Yummy
  • Five updates to Rootn Tootn, including the big, new 2.0 release

All that, plus some changes to www.cut that we’ve not been able to release.

For various reasons, it’s unlikely that we’ll get quite as much done in 2015 but we already have some exciting updates in progress. 2015 should be good.


EU Tax Changes

On 1st January 2015, the EU changes how VAT is calculated in cross-border transactions. How does this affect you as a consumer of apps and as a developer?

The short version: Apple have not announced changes of app pricing in Europe, so consumers will see no difference in 2015. Developers, however, will make slightly less money for each sale.

Following is the longer version.

Two important things. One is a change, the other is remaining. The status quo is retained on app pricing. Apple have not announced price changes and prices shown to consumers in the EU, unlike the US, always include tax.

The change is on how the tax is calculated. Previously, tax in the EU was calculated at the rate where the company (rather than the consumer) is located. Apple’s iTunes European base is Luxembourg, which is famed for having a relatively low tax rate of 17%.

From next year, the tax will be calculated at the rate of the country where the purchase is made. That is, when I’m buying from iTunes UK I’ll be paying 20% tax and when buying from, say, iTunes DK I’ll be paying 25% tax.

To work out your final figure the simplest way is just to read Apple’s documentation. But if you really want to do it yourself, take the figure seen in the App Store, say £1.49, take off the tax (20%) and then take off Apple’s split (30%). If there’s anything left, it’s yours. The worked example in this blog also still works.

The rates, taken from iTunes Connect, are as follows:

Country VAT Rate
Austria 20%
Belgium 21%
Bulgaria 20%
Croatia 25%
Cyprus 19%
Czech Republic 21%
Denmark 25%
Estonia 20%
Finland 24%
France 20%
Germany 19%
Greece 23%
Hungary 27%
Iceland 24%
Ireland 23%
Italy 22%
Latvia 21%
Lithuania 21%
Luxembourg 17%
Malta 18%
Netherlands 21%
Poland 23%
Portugal 23%
Romania 24%
Slovakia 20%
Slovenia 22%
Spain 21%
Sweden 25%
UK 20%

(I hope you don’t have any Hungary-exclusive paid-for apps.)

I would assume that at some point Apple will start to adjust App Pricing to equalise around the world. If nothing else, some changes in the Russian store are likely very soon!


Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal For Life!

From 1 August to 7 August it is World Breastfeeding Week 2014. Since 1991, WBW has been all about promoting breastfeeding:

WBW came up with the goal to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life which yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia and fostering growth and development

The rationale this year is:

In 1990 eight global goals, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), were set by governments and the United Nations to fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015. There are regular “countdowns” to gauge progress in achieving the goals. This year’s WBW theme responds to the latest countdown by asserting the importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding in the post 2015 agenda, and engaging as many groups, and people of various ages as possible.

If you can please help support this worthwhile campaign. My small contribution continues to be my baby timer and reminder app, Rootn Tootn.


What you forgot from your Computer Science Degree

On Wednesday evening I did a quick presentation at the London iOS Developer Group meeting at the Regent Street Apple Store in London.

What you forgot from your Computer Science Degree from Stephen Darlington

It’s about how I implemented a small feature in both Yummy and www.cut.


LiDG Presentation

Last night I did a short talk at the London iOS Developer Group meeting at the Regent Street Apple Store. It was based on some of my experience working on Wandle’s apps (and other non-iPhone-related work I’ve done previously) and so, while it’s a little technical, I thought you might be interested to see a little about it.

You can get a copy of my slides here and I’ve put a short write up about it on my personal blog.


Dear Amazon

Amazon Email
I got this email from Amazon…

Dear Amazon,

Many thanks for your recent email. Unfortunately, your normally very accurate data mining and customer relationship management software seems to have turned up very much the wrong product recommendation for me.

You see, as great as the Itzbeen is, Wandle Software now has something even better for any mums (or moms) to be or those with recent new-borns: Rootn Tootn.

Not only do you always have your iPhone with you, making it much more convenient, but Rootn Tootn does more too! You can set as many timers as you like and rather than just telling you when your last feed and your next feed will be, it also keeps a history. And who’d want an Itzbeen with its green plastic when you could have a sleek iPhone and Rootn Tootn which allows you to use your own pictures as a backdrop?!

So I’m sorry Amazon, but I’m going to have to pass on your recommendation. Rootn Tootn is more useful, prettier and cheaper. Maybe you could recommend that next time? Take a look on the App Store

Kind regards,



news trivia

Privacy Pledge

I signed the App Maker’s Privacy Pledge. It was easy to do since the first paragraph pretty accurately summarises my thoughts:

We… value a long term relationship with customers who trust us over selling those same customers out to other companies for short term gains.

It says that I pledge:

  • To be clear about what information our apps need to provide the features we offer.
  • To only collect information required to implement our apps’ features.
  • To allow our customers to opt in to only those features they are comfortable with; never to enable features that enable information-sharing without explicit agreement.
  • To allow our customers to review the information we have collected about them, and to delete information about a customer when that person requests it.
  • To present in clear language our relationships with other businesses, and the information we share as part of that relationship.

This philosophy filters through all Wandle apps. They do exactly what they say they do. They don’t collect personal details (so there’s no need to out-out), they don’t “phone home,” I don’t have any information about you. They don’t even collect anonymous statistics.

I especially like the last paragraph of the pledge:

In short, our apps – not our customers – are our products.

I think this is important. These days Google and Facebook make huge amounts of money by selling your attention to advertisers. That’s not the kind of business I want to be in. I think it’s much fairer to sell something of value. This is why last year I transitioned www.cut from being ad-supported to being 99c and that’s partly why the next major version of Yummy won’t have a free version.
There are  lot of companies out there trying to dupe their customers, but  I have no intention of being one of them. I’d rather have your trust than make a quick buck at your expense.