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Sugar Rush – a mobile game

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 09:14

We had a great opportunity this year to partner with a University of Saskatchewan associate professor, Dr. Regan Mandryk to develop a mobile game that would gather data in a naturalistic environment.  Sugar Rush is  a research project aimed at understanding whether crowd-sourced experiments embedded within a game experience would allow researchers to gather data in a naturalistic environment. In other games, players can purchase boosts; in Sugar Rush, players complete short tasks typical in lab experiments, such as measuring how quickly people can tap on targets on a touch screen. With the app in the wild, Dr Mandryk is now able to crowd source lab experiments to people across the world, providing more naturalistic results because people are doing the tasks on the bus, laying in bed, and sitting on the bus.

 

Help guide our sweet bouncing cupcake from candy cane to candy cane, avoiding the spiky sugar bugs, and gathering as much candy as you can to attain a high score! Use boosts to enhance your gameplay and push your score even higher!

 

Download the Sugar Rush app FREE on the Google Play Store.

 

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Best in Class – Back to school app recommendations

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 07:30

When I was in school there was nothing more exciting  as fresh back-to-school supplies. The crisp packs of lined and hole-punched paper, the sharp pencil crayons in all of their glory,  fancy new binders, and if you were lucky a fresh pack of Mr. Sketch smelly markers (grape is still my favourite to this day!).  I realize that many of these items are still student necessities, however in this modern-day of technology there are many digital tools that can also help students. I explored 3 of these apps for CTV’s “Best in Class – Back to School App Recommendations” today:

Flashcards

SuperCard Flashcards FREE for Android

Flashcards FREE for iOS

I am wiling to bet that every student in their lifetime has used some sort of flashcards. I found these two free flashcard apps for iPhone and Android and think they are a great alternative to the traditional recipe-card style flashcard. If you have your flashcards on your mobile device (or a parent’s device for the younger students) you can practice absolutely anywhere without having to worry about bringing a big stack of cards with you.  The nice thing about these apps too is you can create your own flashcards but you can also choose from pre-set categories to test your knowledge.

Supercard Flashcards for Android

 

Evernote

FREE for iOS & Android

When September rolls around there is no better time to get yourself organized. Summer is but a distant twinkle of a memory in your eye and it is time to put your sunscreen and shorts away and get back into the swing of things. Getting organized (whether you are a student or not) is essential! Evernote has been around for a while now and continues to impress the masses. It helps you remember everything you have to do across all of your devices. Evernote will let you take notes, photos, create easy-to-use  to-do-lists, scan business cards, create voice reminders and the best part is you can share this across all of the devices you use whether through an app or your desktop.

 

Google Drive

FREE for iOS,  Android, & Windows Phone

No matter where you go, keep your files close! There is nothing worse than being away from your desktop and having to access a file or edit something on the fly. Google Drive lets you keep all of your files in one places so you are never without access. Another great thing about Google Drive is that you can share files with others (perhaps classmates on the same team project) and you can allow access to edit, view, etc. Not a super exciting and glitzy app, but definitely very useful!

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the summer and I want wish good luck to all of the students going back to school!

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Why are Some Apps Released for iOS or Android First?

Wed, 08/13/2014 - 09:58

Mobile app developers are often faced with a critical choice. The endgame for any successful app is availability on both major platforms, Android and iOS. However, quite often neither the development nor release of a new app takes place simultaneously across both platforms. Sometimes one platform gets an app faster, and sometimes even much faster. It begs the question of which platform to develop an app for, first? Why do some companies or independent developers choose to work on one platform over the other?

Why Release iOS First?

Likelihood of Purchases. This is major. Although Android has a larger worldwide market share, from a profit-taking standpoint, that does not tell the whole story. As it turns out, iOS users are far more likely in the aggregate to pay money for an app they like. This consumer behavior is reflected in the numbers for the first quarter of 2014 for both major app stores, with the iOS App Store generating an astonishing 85% more revenue from purchases than the Google Play Store, despite the Google Play Store netting almost 50% more overall downloads.

Less Competition in the Marketplace. Profitable app development is a twofold challenge of trying to make an app a user likes or needs, while also making the app unique in its functionality or user experience, and therefore something a customer would want to buy. The relative ease with which a developer can release an app in the Google Play Store also means that there is a large assortment of free, redundant, or open source apps in that particular store that may all be trying to accomplish the same thing the same way, each vying for a download from all the same Android users. This can make standing out in the crowd and monetizing any one app a significant challenge. However, that is not the culture of the iOS App Store, where Apple’s stringent requirements for app release tend to weed out competition and give established app developers a significant advantage.

Why Release Android First?

Market Share. Android devices such as smartphones and tablets have an estimated 78% market share, worldwide, compared to less than 18% for iOS. If the goal is to create a new app with the largest potential customer base possible, then a developer can do no worse than Android.

Familiarity. Because Android devices are so ubiquitous, and the Android platform is relatively easy to work on, Android enjoys major support from the hobbyist and open source development communities. These people spend their idle hours tweaking and improving existing apps, or writing their own apps from the ground up. Sometimes, they do it to fulfill a need, and sometimes they do it because it is their passion. When the time comes to profit from that passion by releasing products in the Google Play Store, Android developers often already have a wealth of data to draw from.

Freedom. Apple maintains an infamously tight stranglehold on what apps make it into the iOS App Store. Developers must submit their iOS app for approval, and then wait days and sometimes even weeks before Apple either accepts or rejects the app. If the app is rejected, even for the slightest reason, then it must be modified according to Apple’s whims, and resubmitted for approval, taking even longer. In the Android world, there is no such process. Rather, Google maintains detailed workflow documents and other materials intended to aid developers in releasing concise, bug-free apps consistent with their best practices. The difference in approaches is striking: “If your app is not great, you cannot release it at all” versus “Here is what you should do if you want to release a great app.”

Conclusion

Ideally, mobile app developers will release apps for both Android and iOS in order to reach the largest number of potential customers. However, when one platform receives an app before the other, there are often very logical justifications for it, ranging from things like financial considerations to sheer convenience. Hopefully, this article has provided a useful and cursory glimpse at some of the myriad reasons why an app makes an appearance on either platform first.

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Observe, think & sharpen your pencil – The user interface

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 10:17

The user interface is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. The first and most important element is the human, the person that’s using the system and the other people that they work and communicate with. Then you have the target device, that’s the machine that runs the system. Finally you have the interface that represents the system to the user.

At the early design stages of each project, we often don’t know what the problem is or what the space of possibilities might be. Consequently, real-world design is often iterative; they failed fast so designers succeed sooner with more experience. It is important to focus on the people who are going to use your system. “Good design brings people joy: it helps people do things that we care about, and helps us connect people that we care about. Good user interfaces can have a tremendous impact on both [the] individual’s ability to accomplish things, and societies’ ”. (Scott Klemmer) Graphical user interfaces help with computing a hundreds of millions of tasks, enabling us to do things like create documents, share photos and connect with family and find information.

Delivering a perfect pitch for clients needs to have a perfectly-organized and beautifully-designed presentation. Here are three major steps that help designers to present a convincing prototype:

Finding Requirements:

One effective starting point for designing new applications is to clearly identify an existing problem or need. Observing people can also help you build empathy and think from their point of view. Observation helps designers to answer the following critical questions:

  • What do people do now?
  • What’s the baseline that we’re starting from?
  • What values and goals do people have? Most often we want to build interfaces that align with what people care about and what they hope to accomplish.
  • What are similarities and differences that you can find across people?

User observation
(http://www.tadpull.com/dist/img/services/discover/mobile-user-observation.jpg)

 

Storyboarding:

One of the easiest mistakes to make in interface design is to focus on the user interface before you focus on the tasks that the interface is going to support. What is nice about storyboard is in just a few panels you can convey what the user interface will help a person to accomplish. Another thing you can see in good storyboards is that they communicate flow, like comic strips. They are showing what is happening at key points in time. One of the biggest worries about creating storyboards is that interface designers would say, “I cannot draw!” But storyboarding isn’t about beautiful drawings; it’s about communicating ideas, and I think that everyone can learn how to visually communicate ideas. In some ways, bad drawing is actually an asset, because then all you can do is focus on the content.

In general, storyboards should accomplish two things:

1-     First, it should accomplish the setting: Who are the people involved? What is the environment? What tasks are users trying to do?

2-     It should show the sequence: What are the steps that they do to accomplish the task? — Not necessarily what user interface is exactly, but what role the user interface plays in helping users to get their goal achieved.

Once you’ve got it out on paper, it makes it much easier for people to have common ground, and agree on how to move forward.

 

Using storyboards for user Interface design
(http://agilemodeling.com)

 

Prepare a Prototype

Once you’ve got a rough idea of what your application is going to accomplish, you can begin to plan your implementation. Implementation in this case means “What is it going to look and feel like to the user? What is the actual user interface going to be?” To figure out the user interface at an early stage, the very best technique that I know of is using paper prototyping. Paper prototyping is exactly what it sounds like: You are going to make a mockup of the user interface and instead of doing it on the computer, which can take a lot of time, you are going to use paper to sketch things out really quickly. Paper prototyping is not only fast and efficient; it is also really fun, and you can get really creative in figuring out different ways to convey interactions.

Paper prototype for User Interface design (http://images.sixrevisions.com)

 

Conclusion

As your prototypes increase in fidelity — from storyboards, to paper prototypes, to digital mockups — the kinds of evaluation and feedback that you’re going to get from people will be evolved as well. Prototypes can also be useful for critiques within your design team. And as you get to higher and higher fidelity mockups, you can have the opportunity to get to more formal experimentation techniques. Rapid prototyping techniques are probably the most valuable weapon you’ll have in a human-centered design process.

 

 

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What Can iOS 8 Tell Us About Future Apple Products?

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 11:06

This June, Apple announced the new version of their mobile operating system, iOS 8. This is the operating system that will power the upcoming iPhone 6, the new line iPads, and possibly be adapted to new products like a smartwatch or a new Apple TV. Although we don’t know much about these devices yet, some features in the new OS may point towards the direction Apple is going with their future products.

“Extensions” Could Remove the Need for New App Stores

When Apple releases new devices, people are going to want to run their favourite apps on them. Currently, Apple has separate AppStores for Macs and iOS devices, and it is reasonably easy to find apps for those devices. If Apple ends up expanding their product line to include more advanced Apple TVs or smart watches though, finding apps may become much more difficult. The AppStore would become more cluttered with each new device they release, not to mention, navigating the AppStore on your watch would likely be a frustrating experience.

This problem may be solved with one of iOS 8’s major features, extensions. Extensions are separate, mini apps that can come bundled with apps downloaded from the AppStore. At launch, iOS 8 will support notification centre widgets, extra keyboards, and more as extensions, but this idea could easily be expanded to include “apps” for peripheral devices as well. In this way, when you download an app for your iPhone, it could come with an extension for your watch that communicates with data on your iPhone, and you could avoid having a new AppStore all together. Your smart watch would be automatically populated with content based on the apps you have installed on your phone.

 

“Size Classes” Will Allow Devices to Vary More in Size

Up until now, Apple devices have had very consistent sizes. Since it’s release in 2007, the iPhone display size has changed very little. It doubled the resolution for the iPhone 4, and added some extra vertical space for the iPhone 5, but both of these changes were carefully planned to ensure old apps were compatible with the new screens. When the iPad was released, developers were typically expected to make an entirely new interface for the new screen size, and maintain it separately when changes occur. This system was manageable, but it doesn’t scale well, and something new is needed if more products are to be added to the mix.

 

The solution to this problem has been introduced in iOS 8, and it’s called size classes. Size classes make it easier for developers to create apps that work well with different screen sizes and shapes. Without getting too technical, the new features allow developers to design a single interface that can automatically adapt based on what kind of screen it appears on. It is now much simpler to design apps that look good on the iPhone and the iPad, and can scale well to different sizes in between. Although this feature was most likely added to work with the expected larger screen of the iPhone 6, it could also help with developing apps for new devices. Apple could introduce a watch that comes in various different shapes and styles, and developers could easily make apps that will adapt to the screen they are presented with.

 

“Continuity” Makes Sharing Between Devices Easier

One of the biggest arguments against smartwatches and other peripheral devices is that they are unnecessary.  Buying an expensive watch seems like a waste of money when you have the same information on a bigger, more powerful computer right in your pocket. Current smartwatches try to replicate the experience of a smartphone, but it will always be less satisfactory due to the size constraints a watch presents. For example, if you’re reading an email on your watch, but you want to type up a response on your larger phone screen, you have to open up your phone and find the email before responding. Having the extra device on your wrist just makes things more complicated if you end up doing the same thing on your phone again anyway.

With the new continuity features in iOS 8, transferring between devices is much easier. A new feature called “Hand Off” allows you to open exactly what you’re looking at on another one of your devices. When you’re using an app that includes Hand Off functionality, a new icon will appear on the lock screen of all nearby devices, and tapping on it allows you to open up the same app to the same content you were just looking at. This allows you to seamlessly switch between devices without thinking, and your content is always in front of you. In this way, your devices can compliment each other, instead of replicating each other.

Continuity also lets devices share features with others near by. For example, if you want to make a phone call from your Mac, it can automatically connect with your iPhone and use it’s hardware to perform the call. Using this kind of hardware sharing, your smartwatch could provide many of the features of your larger devices, without having to include all the bulky hardware. It could also have sensors of it’s own that it could use to share data with your other devices. In this way, a smart watch could collect new data that can’t easily be gathered by the iPhone in your pocket, (like health information, for example) and transparently share that information with other devices in your network.

 

Although these features may or may not make it into Apple’s upcoming devices, they definitely show the direction Apple is going. With iOS 8, your devices will work together better, and it will definitely be exciting to see what’s coming next.

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iOS 8: HomeKit

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 13:36

Huge for developers. Massive for everyone else.” reads the tagline on Apple’s iOS 8 Preview webpage. With all the focus on how much iOS 8 will benefit the developer, it is easy to lose sight of the benefits for the end-user. It is important to remember that a better environment for developers will lead to more innovative and creative apps for users to enjoy. Home automation is a market that could see a lot of improvements in usability because of iOS 8, and more particularly, HomeKit.

Home automation enables a user to control different parts of their home with a remote or a mobile phone. The market is growing at a rapid rate.1 HomeKit isn’t a new entry into the market but it will unite home automation accessories in the eyes of the users and allow the creators to focus on their product and not how it will tie together with other products.

HomeKit will provide a way in which accessories can be integrated into a whole without vendors having to coordinate with each other. This allows vendors to focus on making the best product they can. HomeKit will give users a wider selection of apps to control their home automation accessories because they will no longer be restricted to the vendors application. This will undoubtedly lead to the implementation or more creative and innovative ideas.

Home Kit will provide apps with a centralized space for users to add and manage the home automation accessories (for example, a user could control both their Nest Learning Thermostat and their Philips Hue lights from a single app instead of having to use multiple apps). Accessories can be grouped by room (living room, kitchen, etc.) or zones (upstairs, downstairs, etc.). A user could then perform an action such as turning off the lights downstairs. A user will also be able to issue these commands using Siri.

Nest Learning Thermostat

 

Philips Hue

With iOS 8, I believe Apple is betting by providing the developers with a more powerful and simplified development experience that the end result will make great leaps for iOS users. I think it will lead to endless innovation and great user experiences throughout the lifecycle of iOS 8 and into the future. HomeKit is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

1. The market is currently worth roughly USD 3.6 billion and expected to grow at a rate of 24.5% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2013-2019.

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App Review: my BBQ timer

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 08:37

Since we are well into summer and the days are still long and the nights are hot there is no  better time to gather your friends and family,  throw some meat on the bbq and sit back and relax! Whenever my family comes over for a bbq we always have this confusing moments when my husband will say “How do you all want your steaks done?” This will undoubtedly be met with “Rare!” “Medium please.” “Blue!” “Burnt to a crisp please!” (the last response coming from my mother who likes her meat extremely well done!). As you can see this may make the cook sweat a bit as he/she has to know when to put on all of the steaks/meat to ensure everyone eats at the same time! I recently found this handy app for iPhone called my BBQ timer. It has a few flaws but overall is very handy when you need to cook any type of meat on the bbq.

When you first go into the app you are shown a simple tutorial page with 3 easy to follow steps. When you click on the “+” symbol you can “add a new item” or “select a favourite”.  When you add a new item you can choose between beer, chicken, pork, lamb, fish and seafood.

my BBQ timer – selecting what type of meat you want to grill

 

Once you have selected a type of meat you then select the type of cut followed by the size and then how you would like it cooked (if appropriate, obviously you shouldn’t ever eat uncooked chicken so it doesn’t even give you that option). The nice thing about the last step is that is has little tips for adding flavour to your meat and neat cooking tips for the type of meat (example cook chicken beside a tray of water to keep it moist).

Selecting the cut of your meat

 

Once you have set your preferences you are shown a summary page to confirm your choice or adjust it. From this screen you can also add it to your “favourites” to access easily the next time you grill.  Once you have confirmed your choice you can give it the final add and then go back through the process to add all of the other pieces of meat you are grilling! One thing to note is that the above may seem like a lot of steps but it is actually extremely quick and takes a few seconds to add each piece of meat. Once you have every piece of meat added you start the cooking time and it tells you what piece to put on the grill, when to flip it and when it is done. The nice thing is that it has notifications to alert you every time you have to flip the meat or add another one to the grill.

Overall this is a great little app. The only limitations that I can see are they only have pre-set sizes of meat to choose from you. So if your piece of meat was larger or smaller than their pre-set amounts you would need to do a bit of guess work to cook it. Hope you are all enjoying the summer!

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How to do recommendations based on your app usage

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 13:59

I use a news aggregator app called Zite. It is excellent, allowing you to choose from a set of topics that interest you and making recommendations based on your choices. The app collects news articles from sites based on your topic choices, aggregating them together into a single news stream. You can ban particular sites as well, in case Zite pulls from particular news outlets that you are not interested in.

What makes Zite special, though, is that it watches which articles you are tapping on and uses this to learn the kinds of articles you are interested in. Even within the category of “Healthy Living”, Zite knows that I am less interested in recipes, and more interested in articles about exercise and research on food production techniques and their impact on human health. My wife also uses Zite on her phone, and you can clearly see how Zite is able to narrow down to particular interests. Her Zite is filled with pop culture articles, and articles about animal welfare. Every now and then, we’ll have the same article pop up on your Zites, prompting discussions of why this would be relevant to both of us (e.g., a pet food recall, which actually is relevant to both of us).

 

Lessons from Zite’s recommendation approach

What can we learn from Zite’s approach to help other apps?

First, personalization has always been known to be important to make users feel like the app is “theirs”. Allowing people to “theme” the app, like changing background and text colours, is a basic yet effective way to help users feel that this is their app. The lesson from Zite is that personalization can go beyond the visuals, and actually into the content of the app itself.

Second, recommendation algorithms are getting really good (think Netflix and Amazon), but they aren’t perfect, so apps should allow users to personalize the actual recommendation algorithm. Zite deals with this by allowing you to “thumbs up or down” particular articles, and even ban a whole news site if you want. This extra level of control reinforces the personalization of the app, making it feel even more yours.
Overall, Zite is one of my favourite apps. It is actually the only app I use every day, which is saying a lot given that building apps is what I do for a living. What makes it so great is a combination of providing content that I’m interested in, while ensuring that I feel the content is personalized for me, and only me.

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New Year, New Us ~ New Sign!

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 15:42

One of the most exciting parts of this rebrand is seeing the physical transformation from our “old selves” to our shiny “new selves”.

Last week I talked about our online transformation on our various social media platforms. This week we had our sign on the outside of our office changed over and it is still thrilling to see that our new company name is being seen by thousands of people as they drive by our office every day.

Our brand new sign on the outside of our building. Honk if you approve!

Here are a few other items that we have changed over:

Our “Wall of Fame” – Apps that we developed

New greeting cards and business cards beside the first award we ever won as “Push” (SABEX Small Business of the Year)

 

Our banner sign that sits proudly in our board room

New Push pens and mugs

 

As I have said in previous blog posts, we loved our CollegeMobile name and branding but it was time to move on and have a new name and image. Every time I see a new physical or digital piece come into place with our Push branding I feel proud of our company for the success we have had and also excited for the future success as Push Interactions.

 

 

 

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iBeacons will Change Retail

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 17:17

One of the early uses of iBeacons was in Major League Baseball (MLB) for helping people to find their seats in stadiums.

With the recent announcement by Hillshire that iBeacons showed at 20X increase in purchase intent (intent to purchase) products it really shows that iBecons will change retail. It will give the retailers the motivation to adopt the technology as well as the great features that will change shopping experiences. It has already been adopted by Macy’s and adopted in various forms by other stores.

iBeacons are a technology that solve the problem of knowing exactly where a user is in a store. It is fully compatible with iPhone and Android phones and is already supported in 200 million devices.

The video below shows a good example of iBeacons in use:





Using iBeacon a user can get notifications of sales and coupons based on where they are in the store and what items they are near. They can also find out more information about products such as where a piece of clothing was made for example by holding up their phone near the iBeacon.

It will change retail and allow things like helping people find what they need quicker, get more information about a product including if it is on sale.

But more than that it is a way for the retailer to speak directly about a customer about a particular item. For example to show recipes that are used with this type of food. To make the shopping experience more interactive then it has been in recent memory.

Related link:
Apple’s iBeacon Is Gaining Momentum

Company rebrand ~ A quick update

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 15:18

Back in February we unveiled our new company name to the world! It had definitely been exciting leading up to that point, and the unveiling topped that with all of the positive comments and support coming in from clients, friends, and family. We wanted to do a “soft launch” of our new brand name so we wouldn’t confuse anyone with the new name. Here is what we have switched over  since the big unveiling:

  • Email accounts to be @pushinteractions.com
  • Facebook account
  • Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ & YouTube account
  • Email signatures
  • Outdoor office sign

Our new look!

We are still developing our new website and expect that to be launched later this year. One thing we noticed right away is that all new clients call us “Push” and about 50% of our existing clients call us Push and the other 50% call us CollegeMobile still. I think this is a pretty good conversation rate considering that our name was CollegeMobile for 5 years prior! I compare it to when you get married and take your spouse’s last name, it takes a while for not only others to recognize and accept your new name, but for you yourself to get used to the change!

Stay tuned for more updates on our company rebrand! Also a big thank you to everyone for your continued support!

A “Swift” justification

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 10:03

At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), a new programming language was announced. A programming language is a language that allows a developer to construct an application. With a language developers can communicate with the device hardware to get it to perform tasks for us, like getting the user’s location using GPS, or display things to the user. The language used for iOS development up to this point has been Objective-C.

Objective-C is an old language. Originally built in the 1980s, Objective-C is an extension of an even older language, C. Although Objective-C was groundbreaking for its time, it has aged significantly since it was first introduced. Apple has attempted to keep it up with the times by adding features from other modern languages. But such patchwork solutions can only take a language so far. At some point a clean slate is required. Swift is that clean slate.

The Swift programming language is a composite of ideas and concepts from other languages. It’s core foundations are safety, readability and conciseness. The increased safety involves enforcing rules that prevent errors and crashes. With better readability the code is easier to follow. This is particularly useful when a programmer has to look at somebody else’s code. Conciseness is closely related to readability. A language shouldn’t be too concise, as that can hurt readability, but it shouldn’t be overly verbose either. Swift attempts to find a good middle ground between the two. If the language is too concise, it becomes to difficult to understand what any particular statement is doing because it encapsulates a large amount of behaviour. Too verbose and the language becomes hard to follow.

One of Swift’s most important features at this stage in its life is its interoperability with Objective-C. Apple has written a large number of their frameworks (collections of code that developers use to help them build software) in Objective-C. Developers outside of Apple have also written frameworks to help each other write software as well, almost all of them written in Objective-C. It is critical that Swift work with these frameworks in order to allow developers to write the best software in the least amount of time.

Swift is a well designed language. Many of its smaller details are still in flux, and it is in fact still changing. But its core foundations are strong and it’s ready to use today by developers today.

“I read it in a book”

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 14:38

I have started reading a book titled Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders. I’ve been enjoying it immensely, but found myself falling for two “book learning” traps.

1) Getting excited for a book because it agrees with your worldview

When I read the preface – which was by an author and leader whom I respect very much – I immediately fell in love. This wasn’t like those other management books which contained facile stories and analogies where everything turned up perfectly rosy in the end because people shared their feelings.

This book acknowledged that management and leadership is difficult because humans are complex creatures, and as a group they form an extremely complex system. This matched my experience and my view, so I was immediately going “Yes, yes. Of course! This book is brilliant!”

I hadn’t even started the actual book yet, but I was already excited because it conformed to my beliefs. I had to consciously take a step back and reset my expectations. I wanted to learn from this book, so if it just tells me things I already know or believe, why would I read it?

In this case, rather than setting it aside and finding a book that challenged my worldview, I realized that my worldview was largely anecdotal and experience driven, and this book promised some science and logic behind it. So I’m going in not because it agrees with my worldview, but because I want to understand it better.

If it wasn’t for that, there would be no point reading the book except to nod in agreement with the author and not actually learn anything.

2) Preaching a practice you have not tried to implement yourself

I also found myself ready to start holding the “truths” in the book to be self-evident. Well, self-evident to myself, but not to others. I now had to help spread the word of truthiness to the others.  But I had not yet actually put any new practices to the test. How could I recommend or preach something I hadn’t tried myself?

Clearly, the person(s) who wrote the book practiced and implemented it, so learning from that is paramount. Not every experience needs to be personally repeated to be valuable.

But until you’ve experienced the good and bad of any system or technique – and they all have good and bad sides – you should not be holding it as the One True Way™. In fact, once you’ve experienced it for yourself, even if it worked well, you’re unlikely to hold it as the One True Way™ because you have seen the good and bad of it.

You now hold experience and there is no substitute for that. Experience is what allows you to better understand and tailor ideas to your situation. Often, things are more complex than they seem, and blindly following someone else’s experience can be a recipe for failure.

Looking back on this, I’m not sure these are only book learning traps. They’re simply life traps that we experience in our quest to grow. As long as we’re aware of them, we can gain a step as we keep improving ourselves.

App Review: Out of Milk

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 08:36

I’d like to tell you about an app that will make your life a little bit easier. It’s called Out of Milk and I use it every day.

Out of Milk is an app that coordinates your shopping, grocery and to-do lists in one place. The app is currently available for Android mobile devices and will soon be available for the iPhone. Also, once you have an account you can update your lists on any computer. I’m currently using the very full-featured free version of the Android app but there is also a Pro version that can be purchased for $1.99 that will give you a few additional ways to customize the app. In addition to pros such as widespread availability and low cost, I find Out of Milk really easy to use and feel comfortable recommending this app to any level of user.

A quick run-down of the things I use most in Out of Milk:

  • create your own custom lists – for example, create a to-do list for each project around the house, or a separate grocery list for an upcoming camping trip

  • reorder the items in a list – this is a quick drag and drop and is great if you’re like me and find it helpful to order your grocery list based on the route you usually take through the store so you can lower the chances of going back to an aisle that you were just in

  • add and manage categories in each individual list – I keep one main shopping list and have categories for each of the main stores I shop at (Co-op, Walmart, Costco, etc)

  • add reminders to to-do list items

  • add comments, quantities, and prices to shopping list items

Saving the best for last:

My absolute favorite feature of Out of Milk is that you can share lists with other people so they’re also able to see and edit them from their own mobile device or computer.

I find this especially useful if my husband is picking up a few groceries on the way home. This gives me a way to pass along all of those little details without overloading him with information on the way out the door in the morning. (Although I would never do that.) Another useful scenario – if he knows that I’ll be picking up groceries later that day, then he can add items to the shopping list throughout the day and my phone will automatically sync with the latest information so that I have the most up-to-date version of the list I need with no extra effort at all!

Of course, we still occasionally get home from a shopping trip and realize that we’ve forgotten one obvious item that wasn’t on the list, but because Out of Milk allows us to always keep our lists with us (who doesn’t have their smartphone with them everywhere they go these days?) and we can both add items to lists with ease, those days are rare and the overall shopping experience has been much more efficient.

 

Push on CTV ~ July 15th 2014

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 11:41

I was excited this month when CTV asked me to find the coolest health apps for July’s app segment. Here are the 3 apps that I reviewed:

Fitocracy

FREE for iOS & Android

Developer: Fitocracy, Inc. 

One successful technique in mobile app development is gamification. Gamification applies game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more engaging and fun. Fitocracy has taken the gamification concept and applied it to their mobile app to take your fitness routine to another level! With Fitocracy you track your workouts to earn points which unlock achievements. When I went into this app for the first time it helped me to not only set up my profile with my personal fitness info (height, weight, age, etc) but it also had a pretty nice little tutorial which guided me through the app. I will admit I needed this tutorial as the app was a touch confusing at first. Once I started exploring the app it all became much clearer! One of the cool things about this app is that you can build your workout. It has hundreds of exercise to chose from which include a detailed description and a nice quick video demonstration. Once you complete the exercise you record how many reps you completed and enter in the weight of your dumbbells (dependent on the exercise of course). You will level up with points from completing the exercises. When I finished my first workout (which was a 60 minute 5km walk) I received 113 points for and 1 Quest. Another way this app keeps you engaged is by adding a social element to it. You can share your progress through the app with other “Fitocrats” or through your own social media networks like Facebook. Overall this is a nice little app that will keep you motivated to get or stay in shape!

Cardiio

Free for iOS

Developer: Cardiio, Inc.

What a handy (and surprisingly fun!) app! Cardiio measures your heart rate by simply placing your finger over the camera! The app will then give you insight into that your heart rate numbers mean. Cardiio will also tell you what your fitness level is based on your heart rate and you can calculate your endurance score. A cute little surprising feature was the fun facts that popped up while the app was taking your heart rate! It takes about 10 seconds for the app to produce your heart rate and during that time it shows you about 5 interesting facts about you heart and heart stats across the globe. Definitely a handy app to have on hand to make sure your ticker stays in tip top shape!

Taking Stephanie’s heart rate this morning on CTV Morning Live

Glow

Free for iOS and Android

Developer: Glow, Inc.

 Glow is a tracker for your menstruation and ovulation cycles. Glow takes a woman’s menstrual cycle and gives accurate, personalized predications of the their most fertile window and future period dates. Glow can help you avoid pregnancy, prepare for pregnancy and of course help conceive by predicting exactly when ovulation will occur. The app has nice little reminders and fun suggestions to help improve reproductive health nd fertility. A really nice feature is the ability to print off your historical data for your doctor. This app also has a great tutorial when you set up your profile for the first time. For those trying to preparing or trying to conceive I would defiantly recommend this helpful and thoughtful app.

 Hope you enjoyed these three health-related apps! Stay tuned for our August App Segment on CTV Morning Live!

Who will win the 2014 Tablet war?

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 10:31

Push is excited to welcome a guest blogger to our blog. Robert Cordray is a former business consultant and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience and a wide variety of knowledge in multiple areas of the industry. He currently resides in the Southern California area and spends his time helping consumers and business owners alike try to be successful.

 

 

 

Tablets are perhaps the most exciting computing platform available today. Manufacturers are scrambling to come up with faster, sleeker, more visually spectacular models that will make their tablet the next big thing. Industry watchers are looking closely at the slate of tablets to be released in 2014 and making their predictions as to which one will come out on top. Here is a look at three contenders and a pick as to the likely winner:

Google Nexus 8: Scheduled to be released around July, this Android-based tablet will be running Android 4.5, which has yet to be officially named. Specs are still hazy at this point, but the tablet is said to be powered by the newest Intel 64-bit mobile chip, the Moorefield.

Intel has been working hard to earn a place in the booming mobile chip market, and the Moorefield represents their most impressive offering to date. It is a quad-core, 64-bit chip that runs at 2.33Ghz, which should make it an instant leader in its segment. Add in the improved graphics power and the ability to work with faster memory, and the chip should help make the Nexus 8 a mobile powerhouse.

Rumors surrounding Android L hint that it will improve speed, lengthen battery life, and use a non-compiling app system that translates code to machine language upon installation. This should help to make processing faster while at the same time using fewer computing resources. It will be interesting to see how mobile app developers utilizes these new features.

LG Tab-Book 2: Many tablets have taken to incorporating physical keyboards into their design, and this device from LG is no exception. Rumored to hit stores later this year, the Tab-Book 2 utilizes a sliding hinge to roll out the keyboard from under the tablet. While this is not new, the LG version of this setup seems to have succeeded where others have failed.

The tablet slides out smoothly and can be locked to avoid accidental opening. Like most products from LG, this feels quite sturdy and is relatively slim considering that the chief version sports an Intel i5 chip. The Tab-Book 2 will be running Windows 8.1, which Microsoft hopes will foster interest in Windows-based mobile computers. There are plenty of business people and Microsoft loyalists that have been waiting for a serious non-8.0 version of Windows that will handle all PC applications.

While all the hoopla surrounding the purported “fixes” of version 8.1, only time will tell if consumers are willing to embrace a Windows-based tablet that can serve as a true notebook replacement. Users looking for such a machine may will find that the Tab-Book 2 satisfies every need.

InFocus New Tab F1: Attempting to not get lost in the shuffle, the folks at Firefox have come up with a tablet operating system, and the F1 will be the first tablet to run it. While the platforms of iOS, Android, and the Kindle OS are the main mobile operating systems available, there is a market for an inexpensive tablet running different OS, providing it is simple and quick.

While it is still early, the Cortex A-7 processor should easily power this 10-inch tablet. Specs are still slim, but there are a sizable number of tablet aficionados who don’t want to spend the money to buy an iPad and who are disappointed with Android-based tablets. If the F1 and subsequent Firefox tablets prove popular, they may carve yet another niche in the already crowded tablet market.

Conclusion

Each of these three tablets has something unique going for it: The Nexus 8 will feature the latest version of Android, the Tab-Book 2 will be a Windows 8.1 powerhouse, and the F1 will introduce an entirely new operating system to the tablet world. However, when push comes to shove, the Nexus 8 will likely dominate the pack in 2014 due to its combination of price, power, and usability.

Feature Friday – 8tracks

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 08:00

I was at a BBQ last month and I posed the question to all of my friends “What is the app you use most often?” 3 out of the 6 people said “8tracks“. Intrigued I got them to explain what this app was about and why they loved it so much. I downloaded it the next day and fell in love instantly! There is nothing that I love more in this world than music, other than actual human beings in my life of course! But this app gives me something that I haven’t found in other apps yet; the ability to type in descriptor words and have playlists suggested. I also love the fact that I am exposed to so many different artists and up-and-comers that I wouldn’t normally hear on the traditional radio or through other radio apps. So if I feel like listening to something “sleepy” and “bedtime”, No problem! 8tracks has something to suggest to me. As I am writing this blog I explored playlists tagged with “Inspirational” and “motivational”and am listening to a great mix of songs from an album called “Tough times don’t last; tough people do”.

8tracks is internet radio created by people, not algorithms.” Users make online mixtapes with 8 or more tracks. You can then customize your album by adding a title, cover art and tags. And what would this app be without the ability to share your awesome mixtape with your friends? Your mixtape will also be shared with the 8tracks audience.

If you want to just listen to the music you can do so by searching for playlists “for any mood or occasion, from every genre and country”.  The best thing about this app is finding playlists that exactly match your mood. The playlist will also tell you how long the playlist is in minutes and how many songs the playlist has. This is especially nice if you are doing something for a set amount of time like going for a run for 45 minutes or driving in the car for 60 minutes, etc. Once your playlist has played all of the way through you will see a list of all of the songs played, you won’t see a list beforehand though due to 8tracks’ music license. You also can’t replay a song once it has been played or skip through too many songs. This doesn’t bother me too much though because if I want to hear a song again  I will just play the playlist again and it will eventually play again. This inability to select songs and replay favourites has also forced me to be more open to new music, genres, etc.

I am always intrigued to learn about the team that built my favourite apps and through their website I found out that 8tracks was founded by David Porter in 2008 and developed by a small team. Congrats to your team on a very successful music app that i’m sure brings a lot of joy!

You can download 8tracks FREE on the Apple App Store HERE, on Google Play HERE or on the Windows Store HERE.

 

 

App Review: It’s as easy as one, two, THREE!

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 09:12

Threes! is one of the winners in the 2014 Apple Design Award, it rose to the 25th spot on the top grosing apps list on the App Store.  This slick puzzle game was released on  February 6, 2014, the point of the game is simple, players must slide the numbered tile on a grid to combine addends and multiples of three, until there are no moves left on the grid.

 

One of the best features in this app, is the tutorial.  The useful tutorial demonstrates the simplicity of the game, it teaches you which tiles can be combined together: “Blue” (1) and “Red” (2), but the “White” (multiples of 3) can only be combined by the same numbered tile. As soon as I finished the tutorial I was instantly hooked on this wonderful game.

 

Each white tile has a unique face or personality at the bottom, by personality I mean when a “six” tile is side-by-side with another “six” tile, they would greet each other = very adorable.  When two white tiles are combined to introduce a new tile, the game will make a special announcment of the tile with a name and small introduction about the tile.

Threes! is available on the App Store for $0.99, 33.3333% off for a limited time! For our American readers, the app is currently free at Starbucks as its App Pick of the Week.

Tap App – Convenience at your fingertips

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 10:38

Have you ever opened up your phone for the 100th time to dial someone and wished there was an easier way to quickly call them or send them a standard text message? Well one of our clients came up with a great idea that allows you to create phone short cuts by tapping or gesturing pre-set taps and gestures.

Tap App for Android devices was conceived by Spark Innovations and we were delighted to help them bring their vision to life.

With the Tap App you save time by creating customized short cuts for your favourite mobile activities. You can create your customized gestures (taps or patterns) and program these gestures to call or text someone, email someone, or even activate a voice recording. For example, you could program a heart shape to be your unique symbol to call your special someone.  Or if you often find yourself texting “On my way home!” you could use a tap sequence to bypass the hassles of unlocking your phone, opening up your message centre, finding the contact in your phone and finally typing out and sending the message. The app gives you the control to set your special gesture that will save you time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cool thing about how Tap App was created is it is completely customized to the user. You set your own tap pattern or gesture and set a custom label which will be displayed whenever you perform the gesture. The app also allows you to set the level of accuracy that the gesture must be performed at, making it even more secure and customized. The app also has a guided tutorial that will take you through the app the first time and show you how to set up your gestures and taps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can download the Tap App on the Google Play store HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What kind of sharing should your app support?

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 10:58

It is becoming more common for apps to support sharing to social networks, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google+. The major smartphone platforms have been integrating these social networks deeper into the operating system. For example, Apple’s iOS platform has system-level support for Facebook and Twitter, providing an easy way for apps to share out to the social networks.

But why? Why should apps share out to social networks? If you’ve spent any time on these social networks, you know that the steady stream of app-based posts can get annoying pretty quickly (and no, I will not help you with FarmVille, so stop asking).

Though some apps may have overused social sharing, there are legitimate reasons why apps should support social sharing. When done well, social sharing can increase use of your app by allowing your users to express themselves through your content, as well as providing an avenue for their friends to learn about your app.

Your app is a social network

There is a large class of apps that form small social networks within the app. For example, the whole point of apps like Instagram, Happier, and GasBuddy are to create and post content to the app user groups (whether that be pictures, moments in your life that made you happy, or your local gas prices). In these apps, sharing is essential to the success of app, but this kind of sharing is typically done only within the app’s social network, not out to the larger social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

“Progress” as bragging rights

Turning from social network-like apps, when is social sharing an important feature that should be included, while not being annoying? One kind of app is where sharing could provide people a way to brag about some progress. This one is overused, and quickly becomes annoying. People are often really proud when they finally passed that level on Candy Crush, but sharing this every time to Facebook will quickly fill up your feed, and cause your friends to start to ignore you and the app. This is particularly bad, because any of their friends who might have otherwise downloaded your app out of interest are now completely turned off by your app.

There is one kind of bragging rights that is more appropriate. Apps where social pressure or encouragement are useful, such as charity donation apps or fitness trackers, make better use of social sharing, though they should be infrequent and only for large goals. For example, after meeting your goal weight, that would be a great milestone to “brag” about to social media. In addition, this is great advertising for your app, as people were able to use your app to meet their goals, encouraging their friends to try it out.

For rewards

Another good use of social sharing is through a rewards system, though again, it should be used sparingly. For example, apps where sharing a product review to the social networks may provide bonus “points” you can use to purchase more products. This can be easily overused though, such as in Candy Crush, where you can ask your Facebook friends to help you skip a level.

Tell others about your app

Probably the best use of sharing to social media from apps is the “tell others about this app” feature. If you have a really great app, people will spread the word through word of mouth with their friends. People will probably just talk about it, and may not use a “share” feature from your app for this use, but if even a very small percentage of your users do, this is essentially free marketing for your app. This kind of sharing is not difficult to build, so the cost is likely worth it even if it is only used a couple times. Why not make it as easy as possible for your users to market your app for free?

Conclusion

Previous apps have often overdone sharing to social media, but there are legitimate uses of social sharing that can increase your app usage. When done correctly, social sharing increases your app’s reach by being publicly shared, and can increase people’s positive feelings towards your app when people see their friends successfully meeting goals through the use of your app.