Developers Dish Advice on Building Apps That Will Sell

December 14th, 2013 | Edited by | software


There’s a lot to juggle when developing an app: The expectations of your users, the demands of your boss and a multitude of other facets that need to be weighed — and possibly tossed.
These topics and more were part of a lively discussion during the “App development: the right way to build your tablet app” session at the recent TabletBiz Conference & Expo.
Panelists Andreas Pfeiffer, president of Pfeiffer Consulting; Joe Zeff, president of Joe Zeff Design; and Kevin Kim, co-founder of App Orchard discussed what they’ve learned about the not-so-nascent world of app development.
Zeff said he created Joe Zeff Design to bring current magazines to the iPad. He found Apple’s tablet a natural fit for the publishing industry. “The tablet is the ultimate storytelling device.
He advised, “It comes down to that core capability of that tablet device to present content. Take content that people already like and make it more likeable. Make it something that people want to spend more time with and present opportunities for them to interact with it.”
His work, along with an infectious enthusiasm, has attracted attention beyond the world of publishing. Now Zeff counts JP Morgan and Notre Dame Football among his clients.


Independent Developers Can Be Rock Stars

Kim shared his take on development, specifically on the developers themselves.
“Some of the best, most innovative developers aren’t working in the trenches of corporate America,” he said. Instead, the best ideas are “mostly coming from independent developers. They’re the ones who are pushing the envelope when it comes to technology.”
It turns out, for example, that the pull-to-refresh feature that is now the latest and greatest iCandy on the iPhone didn’t come by way of Cupertino, Calif. Kim said it originally was produced by an independent developer for his client. “Now Apple has made it a default behavior.”
Amusingly, he and his team like to create “quick and dirty” apps when a developers’ ambition may overreach his ability to deliver a seamless user experience. “We say it has to pass the Mom test. Whatever gesture she does [to the screen] is probably the one you should use.”

Don’t Count on Apple’s Help to Make Your App a Hit

And finally, Pfeiffer touched upon problems with Apple’s app store that developers need to be aware of.
“There are 1,000 to 2,000 app submissions a day. The real problem isn’t the distribution, but the promotion. You cannot count on Apple,” he said.
Apple calls out very few apps, and Pfeiffer mentioned a friend whose game was picked as game of the week. However, he asked, “How many are as lucky?” (Technically, 51 others. But we get the point.)
“Apple has a responsibility to inform,” he said, yet Apple has failed to provide a complete and easy-to-browse catalog of their apps, relying on the users to find apps on their own.
“Now the responsibility to reach the users falls directly onto the shoulders of the developers,” he said. “That’s your work, not Apple’s.”
Apple’s seamless user experience — which seems to be in inverse proportion to the bumpy ride of the developer experience — is just something else to consider when developing your next app.


Apricorn’s Aegis 3.0 portable drive offers an SSD option for better performance

December 5th, 2013 | Edited by | hardware


Apricorn’s Aegis Portable 3.0 is a handsome 2.5-inch, silver and black, USB 3.0 external drive with an integrated cable—and it ships in both hard-drive and SSD flavors.

If that isn’t a siren’s call to see just how much of a performance boost you get from a solid-state drive in an external USB 3.0 enclosure, I don’t know what is. Apricorn thoughtfully shipped us both versions so we could answer that call.
There’s no outward difference between the SSD version (outfitted with a 256GB SanDisk SD6SB1M256G1022I) and the hard-drive model (which comes with a 1TB, 2.5-inch Toshiba MQ01ABD100), aside from the fact that the SSD version weighs an ounce or two less.
The Lab ran both models through PCWorld’s 10GB-file stress tests, copying data to and from a 16GB RAM drive, and the differences were as vivid as Apricorn’s advertising claims—at least when writing data to the drives. The 256GB SSD version wrote our single 10GB file at 334 megabytes per second, which is almost three times faster than the hard-drive version’s 115.5 MBps.
With a 10GB mix of small files and folders, the difference in write speed was even more pronounced: 102.7 MBps to 22.6 MBps. But 22.6 MBps is poky, even for a hard drive. We saw similarly subpar write performance from Apricorn’s Aeigis Bio, so it might be the bridge controller. By way of comparison, Seagate’s Wireless Plus 1TB wrote the same test file at 93 MBps, and other external USB 3.0 hard drives we’ve tested typically measure anywhere from 50 MBps to 80 MBps.
On the read tests, on the other hand, the drives finished in a near dead heat. Both the SSD version and the hard-drive version of the Aegis Portable 3.0 read the single 10GB file at 263 MBps. In the 10GB files-and-folder test, the hard-drive version actually edged out the SSD version 214 MBps to 212 MBps.


Price and other factors

The superior write performance of the SSD versions of the Apricorn Aegis Portable 3.0 carries a hefty premium: The 256GB model costs $399 and the 512GB unit sells for $599, compared to just $79 for the 500GB, $109 for the 1TB, and $189 for 1.5TB versions. Clearly there’s some pre-purchase contemplation to be done.
That said, the SSD version weighs significantly less than the hard-drive versions, making it a boon for those who like to travel light. And with no moving parts, the SSD version is not subject to damage from drops, bumps, and other physical impacts; you can be as ham-handed as they come and still not have to worry about hurting the drive.
The SSD-based Aegis Portable 3.0 is a nice product for those who regularly back up or copy files onto an external drive, and need to do so in a hurry. In other usage scenarios, you might be better off buying an external hard drive and saving your cash for other purchases.
Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can grab an unpopulated 2.5-inch USB 3.0 enclosure and populate it with a bare 256GB SSD for considerably less than $400. It might not come with an integrated cable or a carrying case, and you’d have separate warranties for the enclosure and the SSD, but you would save a lot of cash.