Make two great games for iOS (iPhone-only if necessary, but universal iPhone/iPad if it works with the concept). Not ports of existing 3DS or Wii games, but two brand new games designed from the ground up with iOS’s touchscreen, accelerometer, (cameras?), and lack of D-pad/action buttons in mind. (“Mario Kart Touch” would be my suggestion; I’d buy that sight unseen.) Put the same amount of effort into these games that Nintendo does for their Wii and 3DS games. When they’re ready, promote the hell out of them. … Sell them for $14.99 or maybe even $19.99.
It’s a good idea, and one that Nintendo should probably do. But that’s not the problem.
Nintendo needs the profits of the high end, but they can’t compete there anymore. All of the growth is happening at the low end, which is mostly games that they can’t or won’t make. And even if they succeeded in casual gaming, it probably wouldn’t bring the kind of profit that they need.
I’ve previously argued that Nintendo shouldn’t make iOS games because it wouldn’t bring in enough money to solve their problems. But I was always thinking of making iOS games and making their own hardware as mutually exclusive. Gruber makes some great points that have convinced me that Nintendo could do both, and I no longer believe their theoretical iOS games would harm their hardware business.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about competition. The biggest lesson has been that in most cases, products and companies live and die by their own actions, not their competitors’.
Apple didn’t almost die in the ’90s because Microsoft was competing well: they almost died because their hardware was overpriced and their operating system was primitive and archaic.
Sega’s hardware business didn’t die because Nintendo and Sony kicked its ass: it died because Sega threw away the Genesis’ tremendous fanbase and success by sloppily releasing the Sega CD, 32X, and Saturn, all of which were overpriced, uncompetitive, and poorly supported by game developers and Sega itself. By the time the relatively good Dreamcast was released, most fans and game developers had lost all faith in Sega and moved on to other systems.
Nintendo’s strongest asset and greatest enemy has always been itself, its history, and its spotty record for making important decisions. Their hardware business is going to succeed or fail on its own, regardless of whether they release any smartphone games. Many people willing to pay a good price for a Nintendo iOS game would gladly also buy a Nintendo console or hand-held if it was good enough. And Nintendo still needs that, because they’ll make far more profit by selling people piles of $40 controllers and $25 plastic accessories than they could ever make on a $7.99 iPhone game.
The problem is that we aren’t seeing much evidence that Nintendo can produce any more hardware that’s good enough to compete with ubiquitous smartphones, cheap tablets, and their increasingly attention-competitive world of non-gaming killer apps.
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Thanks to Igloo for sponsoring Marco.org this week. I love their style — the “I thought this was food” heading at the bottom was particularly helpful, as I too assumed that “Scone” only meant a dry, dense bread triangle. Turns out.
In general, I’m not a fan of having an inkjet printer here at home. We don’t do a lot of printing, and the cartridges tend to dry out with disuse.
I used to have this problem a lot with an HP and a few Epson inkjet printers. With the HP, it was merely wasteful of the ink (and its cost), but with the Epsons, it would ruin the entire printer: while the HP design put the print heads on each cartridge so you got new heads whenever you changed them, the Epsons always had permanent print heads, and they would eventually reach a permanently clogged state in which no amount of ink-wasting “cleaning” cycles could unclog them.
In 2006, I read a tip somewhere (in that era, probably here) that Epson printers and their ink cartridges would actually last much longer than anyone else’s inkjets with a simple habit change: turn them off when not in use, rather than leaving them on and ready for print jobs all the time. Want to print something? Turn the printer on, print it, then immediately turn it off. Apparently, Epsons kept their heads primed and ready to go when powered on, and if you didn’t print very often, this would eventually “bake” the ink into the perma-clogs in the head.
We print almost everything here on a cheap color laser1 now, but we still need to make the occasional last-minute photo birthday card. The laser’s fine for documents and boarding passes, but for home photo printing, nothing beats a good inkjet, in good condition, on good paper. And in the world of inkjet photo quality, nothing beats an Epson, as long as its heads aren’t baked.2
So I bought a Stylus Photo R260 back in December 2006 for just $72 after reading that Epson power-off tip, and I still have it. It gets called into service three or four times a year to print a full-page photo or two, and it still works great. Amazon tells me I only bought two sets of refill cartridges — one in 2008 and one in 2010 — and most colors from the 2010 set are still in my closet, unopened.
It’s by far the longest-running printer I’ve ever owned, although it has also had the lightest workload. I don’t know how much longer it will last, but if I still occasionally need to print a photo when it finally breaks, I’ll buy another Epson inkjet. I hope they’re still designed this way.
The HP CP1525nw: it’s a decent color laser with AirPrint, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet that was only about $230 new. A color laser. I remember when those were thousands of dollars and as big as a dishwasher. (Fair warning, though: I told Gruber to buy this printer and it gave him trouble, so I don’t know if his was a lemon or if mine is unusually unmemorable.)
Since printer models change almost as often as GPUs, it looks like it’s been replaced in the lineup now by the HP LaserJet Pro 200 color M251nw, which just rolls off the tongue. ↩︎
I also respect Epson because, in the early 2000s, they resisted the trend of shipping printers without cables so the retailers could sell gold-plated ripoffs for $30. HP, Canon, Brother, and Lexmark (remember Lexmark?) all started to ship without cables, but Epson still gave you one.
As a Staples employee at the time, I was given a training pamphlet that prepared me for customers who asked, “Why isn’t there a cable in the box?”
The pamphlet instructed me to use “Response Mode ‘UNDERSTAND’”, and to reply, “I know it can seem strange not to have a cable but manufacturers determine whether or not to include a cable and not Staples.” Commas were apparently left to use at my discretion.
(Of course I scanned it and kept it all these years.) ↩︎
I bought a bunch of these after this review, but I discovered a flaw in one:
After just 3 months of being installed in a downward-facing, open above-sink bathroom fixture that’s only on for about an hour a day, the glue that holds the glass dome over the housing gave out. I found it dangling there one morning, about to fall and shatter. I poked a couple others that were in open fixtures, and while no others were this bad, the glass felt a bit loose on some.
I’m still happy with these bulbs overall, but I suggest keeping an eye on them in open fixtures and being careful when taking the covers off of enclosed fixtures.
(I was able to leave the glass off and swap this bulb with an intact one from an enclosed fixture.)
The basic idea is to use existing, cheap, well-established technology, and use it in new ways, thus allowing Nintendo to introduce new, innovative concepts at affordable prices. … Whenever Nintendo produced videogame systems that used established technology in surprising ways, it did well. When it tried to compete on specs, it did poorly.
I don’t think this is a reliable indicator:
The Game Boy won against better-specced competitors, because it used cheaply available parts in an innovative package. The better-specced Game Gear and Atari Lynx could not compete.
The Game Gear and Lynx were huge and heavy, and slaughtered batteries to power smeary, dim, horrible color LCD screens before screen or battery technology could pull that off acceptably. They failed because they sucked as products and never had any must-have games.
The Game Boy was just barely good enough hardware to be usable, and it came with a must-have, killer, once-in-a-generation hit game that worked well despite its hardware limitations and appealed to almost everybody: Tetris.
That’s why it succeeded.
It’s even more plain with the Nintendo DS and the Wii. Both used cheaply available components (the low-end ARM chips in the DS, or the cheap accelerometers and infrared camera in the Wii Remote) in interesting new ways, and were able to outsell technologically superior competitors.
These are the two best examples of Mathis’ theory. The DS nailed cheap, portable gaming especially for kids, and the Wii was cheap and surprising. But the DS’ success had a lot to do with the incredible popularity of its Pokemon games, and the Wii was successful almost entirely because of Wii Sports, which is almost as compelling of a mass-market, must-have game as Tetris.
The Gamecube’s specs were easily superior to the PS2’s, and roughly on par with the Xbox’s, but the console failed. It was just a better version of Sony’s console, with fewer games. The Wii U’s controller sports a huge screen and increases the price of the Wii U, but fails to turn the console into something unique.
Here’s where I think the theory falls apart.
Nintendo’s core audience, like most core audiences in tech, will buy almost any system they release. But that core audience is aging and shrinking, and there aren’t a lot of kids being added to it.
Game-system successes are made by specific, exclusive, new, mass-market, category-defining hit games. That’s it.
Like “killer apps” in computer parlance, game systems become hits from specific games that are so good that people see or play them somewhere (often at a friend’s house) and want them so badly that they buy the entire system.
Nostalgia isn’t enough. New editions of old franchises aren’t enough. System-defining games need to appeal to people who don’t know or care about long-standing franchises.
Tetris sold a ton of Game Boys. Super Mario Brothers sold a ton of Nintendos. Street Fighter II sold a ton of Super Nintendos. Goldeneye, Mario Kart 64, and Super Smash Brothers sold a ton of Nintendo 64s. Pokemon sold a ton of DSes. Wii Sports sold a ton of Wiis. These games were all so good, and so compelling to the mass market, that people who didn’t care about any other Nintendo games would buy the systems just for them.
The Gamecube never had one of those games, and the Wii U doesn’t have one yet. It has nothing to do with their hardware.
There were great Gamecube games that Nintendo’s core fanbase loved, but none of them made a bunch of other people rush out and buy Gamecubes. We’ll see if the Wii U has better luck, but it’s not looking great so far: Nintendo can produce new editions of old games, but what will they do to bring new people in?
Continuing my dubious pattern of receiving new Kickstarter-ordered iPhone docks just before new iPhones are announced, the Dock+ that I ordered on Kickstarter last November arrived today.
Its design is extremely simple:
It consists of a heavy steel top, a flexible silicone (I think) base, and very-low-friction Lightning plug inside another blob of the same flexible silicone.
The Lightning plug is very well-done: the phone mounts and dismounts very easily. The plug also easily flexes in its rubbery mount, so you can pull the phone slightly forward while removing it and it doesn’t snag, resist, or pull the dock with it. It works far better than the Elevation Dock’s Lightning kit.
Minimal assembly is required: the steel top lifts off the silicone base (sometimes unintentionally — don’t plan on picking it up a lot), revealing configurations for four possible phone thicknesses. And you need to connect the internal Micro-USB plug yourself, but this is actually a feature: the cable is easily replaceable. The simple construction is great compared to the Elevation Dock: one could reasonably do an entire cable swap or phone-thickness change with no tools in about 10 seconds.
Build quality is mixed: while the steel top is smooth and seemingly well-made, the top silicone gasket seems poorly fit, with inelegant, abrupt edges and a small lip sticking above the top of the steel:
I also couldn’t get my phone to charge at first unless I pushed down firmly on it each time. The plug on mine is set slightly too low to make good contact. I don’t know if this is a design flaw or imprecise manufacturing of the silicone base.
Fortunately, the flexible design let me fix that in 10 seconds, for 10 cents:
The entire design feels squishy and imprecise. It doesn’t feel like a hundred bucks, that’s for sure.
But functionally, I like it a lot. If you want a dock, I tentatively recommend it. (I’ve only had it for an hour and don’t want to spend a week reviewing a dock, so take that with a grain of salt.)
And it works just as well with an iPad Mini as it does with my iPhone 5. The design is simple enough to accommodate both.
The Elevation Dock is much better-made (and better-looking, in my opinion), but it rigidly defined an inflexible design that failed miserably when a new iPhone came out.1
The squishy, imprecise design of Dock+ should actually reasonably future-proof it. In that way, this is actually the best-designed iPhone or iPad dock I’ve ever seen: it’s the only one that I’d expect to last at least two or three device generations.
You can preorder one if you’d like — the current shipping estimate is 3–5 weeks, but I wouldn’t count on that, so I’d suggest ordering soon if you want one. On the other hand, with the next iPhone due to be announced in just two days (and the next iPads pretty soon), it may not hurt to wait.
To be fair, this was much more because of the Lightning connector than the new physical dimensions of the iPhone 5. But it didn’t hold up that well to the physical change, either. ↩︎
Why does it take one click to follow you on Twitter, but a dozen clicks on acronyms or copying and pasting URLs between apps to follow your RSS feed? Ask a non-geek which one is easier, and you’ll quickly see why the web is now owned by silos. We can do better.
At Superfeedr, we thought hard about the “follow” problem and came up with a simple button called SubToMe:
It’s fully decentralized (no app server involved), runs in your browser (HTML5 FTW), and is completely open source. It’s also integrated with many feed readers and remembers your favorite choice.
The iPhone 5C has nothing to do with price. It probably does have something to do with manufacturing costs (which are lower for Apple), but not price. Apple’s years-long strategy hasn’t really changed.
But how is any of that going to help Apple sell more iPhones in China or India or in the developing world? It’s probably not. It appears now that this was always misdirection triggered by clueless reporting. Oh, Apple is working on a new, plastic iPhone? It must be a cheap one to sell in the rest of the world. Nope, it mustn’t.
Instead, what we get is a replacement for the iPhone 5. …
As a result, Apple can now offer customers something substantially sexier than “last year’s model” when they walk into a store looking for a $99 (subsidized) phone. At the same time, it eliminates the confusion that would have been caused by the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5 looking nearly identical to one another (subtle gold, notwithstanding). And it likely keeps their high margins on the device intact. It seems like a win-win-win for Apple.
It’s hard for Apple to surprise us with iPhones anymore. The supply chain has grown so large that parts start to leak months in advance, and by the time Apple holds an event to reveal them, we’ve already seen fully-assembled models on rumor sites.
Before yesterday’s event, we thought we had the 5C all figured out: a brightly colored, plastic, cheap iPhone 5 revision to push for marketshare in lower-priced markets. And while we were correct on the hardware (which wasn’t hard), we were all proven wrong on the purpose of this device.
The iPhone 5C1 isn’t the new low-end model: it’s the new mainstream iPhone. It’s the one Apple’s promoting more, marketing more, and making available for preorder. This is the new iPhone, and as customers and the press have repeatedly shown, a new external design is all that really matters when defining “new”.
The 5S is the Retina MacBook Pro of the iPhone lineup. Many of us will buy them, but they won’t be the best-selling model, and Apple doesn’t want them to be.
Apple’s intentionally pushing their flagship product downmarket. They’ve lost a lot of sales over the years because the iPhone was too good: people who didn’t want to spend $200 and up for a contract phone, people who thought they didn’t need a high-end phone, people who thought the iPhone was too fragile for their lifestyle.
The new 5C, and iOS 7, looks more casual and costs $100 less. The message is clear: this is a phone for everyone. Whether that holds up remains to be seen.
While the 5C looks solid and they’re going to sell an assload of them, I’m skeptical of some parts of this strategy: in particular, I think not making a larger-screened iPhone yet is a mistake. Not addressing the lower-cost market might also prove to be a poor investment in future marketshare. And the 5C doesn’t seem cheap enough to take a smaller subsidy and develop strong carrier-retail incentives, a strong growth strategy employed by manufacturers and carriers for Android phones for years.2
The biggest surprise at yesterday’s iPhone event was how unsurprising it was, even relative to my own low surprise-expectations having seen the leaked parts.
(Of course, the 5S looks awesome and I can’t wait to get one. But that doesn’t matter as much as it used to.)
I’m going to stick with “5C” and “5S” instead of “5c” and “5s” for a week or two to see if Apple relents, like they did after a few days with “3G S”. ↩︎
Anyone walking into a Verizon store in the U.S. asking about the iPhone since 2010 has probably had a salesperson try to talk them out of it. This is why: salespeople make more from the higher commissions on most Android phones.
This has been one of the biggest drivers of U.S. Android marketshare. (It’s also why Windows Phone never took off — it had neither Android’s carrier retail incentives nor the iPhone’s strong customer demand to overcome their absence.) ↩︎
The only 5s review I need to read, packed with tons of analysis of the A7.
At its launch event Apple claimed the A7 offered desktop class CPU performance. … We’re not talking about Haswell or even Ivy Bridge levels of desktop performance, but rather something close to mobile Core 2 Duo class. …
There’s more graphics horsepower under the hood of the iPhone 5s than there is in the iPad 4. …
The iPhone 5s is quite possibly the biggest S-update we’ve ever seen from Apple. …
Apple’s Touch ID was the biggest surprise for me. I found it very well executed and a nice part of the overall experience. When between the 5s and the 5/5c, I immediately miss Touch ID.
I’ve been using it full-time for well over a month. It’s solid on the iPhone. (I hardly use my iPad, so I can’t judge that version, but I hear it’s a bit less solid.)
It took me a few days to get accustomed to the new look, but after that, I loved it. Beyond the appearance changes, I’ve been greatly enjoying a lot of other features that I thought were stupid during the keynote, like Control Center.
Give iOS 7 a chance and let the new look sink in for a few days before you judge. You’ll probably like it. And then you’ll see iOS 6 somewhere and think, “That looks so old.”
If you like Dropbox, you’re going to love Transporter.
Transporter is a private cloud storage drive that you own and control. There are no monthly fees: you just buy the hardware up front, then you get great benefits of cloud storage including syncing between multiple devices, easy file-sharing links, and shared folders with coworkers, friends, and family.
With Transporter, you get complete privacy: you control where the drive is located and who else (if anyone) can access specific files or folders. End-to-end encryption ensures security whenever files are sent or received. And Transporter’s software makes it easy to access your files on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android (beta).
Usually, you need to listen to ATP to get this special offer, but now, it’s coming to Marco.org: Buy any Transporter through September 29 and use coupon code ATP50 before checkout for $50 off.
Thanks to Transporter for sponsoring Marco.org this week.
Instapaper 5.0 has a updated look and feel, new features for sorting, filtering, and managing your reading queue, and is translated into 13 languages.
Betaworks is getting a ton of work done on Instapaper. With this and the awesome website update recently, I don’t know how I ever could have done all of this myself.
I’m especially glad to see this make it into the update:
Our new Popularity sort is probably the most interesting feature in this update. We used a variety of Instapaper data signals (how many times an article was saved, how often it’s been opened, how often it gets read, and how many likes, saves, and shares it got from users) to calculate a popularity score for each article. Our algorithm then takes that data, applies some weighting and time decay functions, and ranks your queue.
I had a popularity-relevance algorithm ready and running behind the scenes since August 2012, but I never made an interface to it. (I don’t know if they based this on mine, but it sounds similar.) My goal was to anchor a 5.0 update around a few useful applications of it, and bundle in a redesign and some other improvements.
But whenever I started working on 5.0, I was discouraged by the daunting task of doing a major update to an app of Instapaper’s ever-growing scale and complexity, especially as other parts of the service (like the website) were so neglected. I also didn’t have the data-mining or statistical background to implement some parts of the relevance algorithm very well, so it would sometimes yield poor edge-case results and couldn’t live up to its full potential. I was hitting walls everywhere I turned.
Betaworks is doing everything to Instapaper that I wished I could have done. I should have sold it to them a year earlier.
Twitter is such a simple service overall, but look at a few screenshots of these apps, especially the recent ones, and you will see some very different UI designs, not only in terms of visual style but in terms of layout, structure, and flow. …
Less obvious is the fact that different people seek very different things from a Twitter client. … There is so much variety because various clients are trying to do very different things. Asking for the “best Twitter client” is like asking for the “best shirt”.
Since then, weather apps have also clearly become UI playgrounds. I believe podcast apps are, too.
The “now playing” screen is the biggest design challenge by far. Everything’s in conflict: as many common controls as possible should be easily accessible, but you also don’t want too much clutter, and the touch targets shouldn’t be so close that people often hit the wrong controls. If you don’t display the square artwork at full width, it doesn’t look very good, but if you do, you lose the majority of the screen’s vertical space (especially if you care about fitting on the smaller pre-iPhone-5 screens).
Here’s how the top podcast apps handle this:
Apple Podcasts, Downcast, Instacast, Pocket Casts, Stitcher
They’ve all made different choices, and your opinion of each will depend on how much your priorities and preferences align with each respective developer’s. And, of course, that extends beyond the now-playing screen to the overall style of each app, the navigational structures, the major features each chooses to implement, and the hundreds of tiny design and implementation decisions each developer made along the way.
Overcast offers another take on most of the same problems and features by applying my priorities, design preferences, and implementation decisions. You might like it, too, but I don’t expect to “kill” any other apps in this market.
Since these other apps have been in development for years, I won’t be able to match them in feature-checklistcomparisons for a long time, if ever. Rather than try poorly, I’ve decided to dramatically simplify. For instance:
Overcast 1.0 will be an iPhone app. I plan to get iPad support done relatively soon, but probably not for 1.0. I may never do a Mac app — that’s still up in the air, but definitely not for 1.0. And I have no plans to support Android — if you want an Android app, I hear Pocket Casts blows away everything else available, and they’re nice guys.
I have no plans to support video podcasts. That’s an entirely different medium with very different consumption habits, priorities, and needs. I can make a better app for audio podcasts by not supporting video at all.
I don’t plan to support streaming in 1.0, and may never add it. Overcast 1.0 will only play downloaded files. iOS 7’s background downloads, faster cellular networks, and larger-capacity phones have greatly reduced the need for streaming, and by not supporting it, I’m able to add some cool features and simplify a lot of the code and interface.
If you need tons of features or anything I’m choosing not to do, you’ll probably be happier with one of the others. (Before I started using Overcast full-time, Downcast was my podcast app of choice.)
I’m adding some new stuff that I haven’t seen before in podcast players, and implementing what I think is the best set of core features from the existing apps. It’s my ideal podcast app.
I’m looking forward to showing it to you. It’s probably 3–4 months from 1.0. And, of course, I have years worth of ideas for future versions.
Overcast plays podcasts. It does not produce podcasts. Pedants have suggested that I should be using the term “podcatcher”, but that’s a stupid word that nobody knows, so I’m not going to use it. Most people will correctly assume that a “podcast app” plays podcasts. ↩︎
People keep asking whether Overcast is the original name I wanted, or the alternative I picked to avoid a potential trademark conflict, a process I had tweeted about a few months ago.
It’s the original one I wanted.
The naming process might be interesting to other people, though, so here’s what else I came up with and why I decided not to use any of them.
I brainstormed many potential names in a giant text file over a couple of weeks, enlisting help from friends, Invent-a-Word, Wordoid, and lists of English prefixes and prepositions. Even if I knew a name was bad or unusable immediately, I still wrote it down in case it could later inspire a usable variation.
Instacast was taken, of course,1 but I wouldn’t have used it anyway. A business of mine that has nothing to do with Instapaper shouldn’t have a name that suggests otherwise, and the “insta-” prefix is so crowded today that I don’t think any new products should be named that anymore.
I was looking to satisfy as many of these as possible:
Easy to pronounce
Easy to guess its spelling if you heard someone say it
Related to podcasts somehow
Available on Twitter
Domain available on a major TLD like .com or .net, or at least .fm
Naming a podcast app is tricky. First, I went through words ending or containing “cast”. Here were the top contenders:
Monocast: This was my chosen backup if I couldn’t get Overcast. It’s audio- and podcast-related (and most podcasts are mono), short, easy to remember, easy to spell, and easy to pronounce; yet it’s not a real word, so it was available everywhere except Twitter — I even registered monoca.st and bought the .com from a squatter for $750 because I was so sure I was going to end up settling for this name. But it wasn’t memorable and, somewhat fatally for a podcast app, evokes poor sound quality.
Castaway: My original prototype was named this, but it’s a bit lonely and sad, there are tons of conflicts, and I’m afraid of movie-studio lawyers.
Procast, Protocast, Ultracast, Viacast, Unicast, Epicast, Outcast, Polycast, Transcast, Upcast, Hypercast, Bitcast, Omnicast: Boring, undifferentiated, a little too geeky. Many of these already had computer-related meanings or uses. Some had fatal trademark conflicts.
Since the app has a server component, I explored more cloud-related names (which is what originally led me to Overcast):
Nimbus: A top contender. A few conflicts, but nothing fatal. The cloud relationship is good, but I was afraid people would have a hard time spelling or remembering it since it’s not a commonly used (or known) word.
Nimbostratus: Same benefits and drawbacks as Nimbus with fewer conflicts, but longer, harder to remember, and harder to spell.
Overadio:.com available, but a bit too weird for me.
Since I didn’t have a lot of good options, I took a different route: trying to evoke qualities of podcasts or the experience of being a podcast listener. But it was hard to find words that didn’t also evoke loneliness and weren’t already taken.
I tried references to dialogue and commentary:
Comment or Commentary: Both .fms were available, but I hate web comments, so I couldn’t get excited about this homonym.
Remarks, Analysis, Debate, Articulate, Pronounce, Rhetoric, Eloquence, Dialog, Dialogue, Audience: None stood out, all were very crowded, and some had fatal conflicts.
I then explored terrestrial radio, audio hardware, and mastering:
Headphonic: One of the only good names that didn’t contain “cast”. It was widely available, and I love the headphone reference, since podcasts are so often heard through headphones. But it’s hard to spell — it’s the kind of name that you couldn’t just tell someone about aloud (such as… on a podcast) without also spelling it out. And, fatally, it was uncomfortably close to Auphonic, a podcast-related service.
Driver: Great Phish/headphones cross-reference, but nobody would ever get it, and it has a very crowded meaning.
Audiosyncrasy or Audiosyncratic: Long, hard to spell.
Antiradio: Not quite the right idea, and a bit awkward.
Upgradio:.com available, but a little too cute and gimmicky.
Remaster, Mastered, Engineer, Amplify, Amplitude, Amplicast, Decibels, Clearly, Auditory, W: Too far removed from what most people know about audio, and many conflicts.
I didn’t love any of these. Absolutely none. I showed lists to a few friends, and they all agreed: Overcast was better.
None of the other names made me excited to work on the app or announce the name in public. “Here’s my new app, Mediocrity!”
So I decided to take the hard road to get the right name, and arranged with the other trademark’s owner to use Overcast legally.
I love Overcast. It’s great on so many levels, and it’s practical, too: simple, memorable, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, relates to podcasting easily by ending in “-cast”, and not too crowded in commerce or Google despite being an English word.
The owner of @overcast on Twitter wasn’t interested in selling, and I couldn’t get it on Tumblr, Pinterest, or Facebook. So I registered @OvercastFM on Twitter, App.net, Tumblr, and Pinterest, and facebook.com/OvercastFM.2 I also took @overcast on App.net just in case, but I’m not going to use it unless I get the matching name everywhere else in the future — consistency between services is more important than having the best available name on just one or two of them.
I couldn’t get the .com — its squatter wants $100,000,000 for it. That’s right, a hundred million dollars. I tried to get him to come down a bit, and he said he’d take $95 million. I offered him $1,000, which quickly ended negotiations.
I decided instead to register the .fm for $70, and I don’t think it will ever really matter that I don’t own the .com.
Last week, when Instacast’s iOS 7 update was announced, I had to get a new icon made very quickly. But it was for the best — I like the new one better. ↩︎
A presence on Facebook and Pinterest really isn’t my style, and it’s going to take me a while to figure out how to use them (now I understand why a business might hire someone to use social networks for them). Here’s why I’m trying it. ↩︎
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Lauren is just one anecdotal data point, but you would not believe how many people I’ve met over the last few years who have said the exact same things to me. This is definitely the majority opinion:
Everyone outside of the immediate Apple tech sphere assumes, since I make apps for iOS, that I work for Apple. People with iPhones and iPads. Professionals, including my lawyer, accountant, and doctor. Relatives. Everyone.
It’s therefore non-obvious why I need to charge money, and it’s not widely understood that I get most of that money.
Nobody thinks iOS software is worth more than a few dollars, if even that much. It’s “just” a little app on a phone.
Almost everyone, when presented with a paid-up-front app, will first seek a free alternative. (Usually, they’ll find one.1) Many people with iPhones and iPads full of apps have never bought a single paid-up-front one.
Customers hate the current method of paid “upgrades” (pulling the previous version from the store and putting up a new, separate paid-up-front app).
These objections don’t apply nearly as much to in-app purchase.
I’ve gone back and forth on what Overcast’s business model should be. I’m definitely charging customers directly (rather than venture-capital or ads), but I’m still debating where, how, and for what.
I’m sure of one thing, though: the market for paid-up-front apps appealing to mass consumers is gone. If you have paid apps in the store, you’ve probably seen the writing on the wall for a while.
That model made sense when there were fewer apps available, but now that there are plenty of free and good-enough versions of almost anything, it’s a different game. Apps targeting niche markets can still find enough paying customers to stay alive if they’re much better than any free alternatives, but the number of apps in that situation is always shrinking.
I’m going to have a hard time justifying an up-front purchase for Overcast — that’s the fastest way to ensure that nobody outside of our upscale-geek world ever uses it. (Quick quiz: What would you guess is the most popular podcast app on iOS besides Apple’s? Check the footnote for the answer:2)
This is the real reason why Apple doesn’t care about upgrade pricing: there’s no demand from customers. The market has shown that free apps will be downloaded at least an order of magnitude more than paid-up-front apps, and smart use of in-app purchase in a free app is likely to make more money. Over time, this trend has only become stronger and more clear.
Paid-up-front iOS apps had a great run, but it’s over. Time to make other plans.
This is why killing Instapaper Free actually increased Instapaper’s sales: I removed the closest, most “good enough”, free alternative to the paid app. But that only works as long as you don’t have much free competition. ↩︎
You probably guessed Instacast, since people like us have talked about it for years. Nope. Maybe you guessed Pocket Casts, since they just had a big, well-reviewed update. Nope. For as long as I’ve been paying attention, Downcast has outsold both of them by a wide margin in both quantity and gross.
But the most popular podcast app besides Apple’s, by far, is Stitcher. And it’s terrible. But it’s free. And I’ve had people in real life tell me, over and over again, that they “just use Stitcher because it’s free.”