Thursday, September 23, 2010

WordWise for iPhone Issues

WordWise was developed primarily on iPhone OS 3, and we tested it on iOS 4, but we're getting reports of issues in two main areas:

1) Error connecting to server
2) Crashes loading the game after several moves are made

The first issue is likely to do with storing and using authentication information. What's probably happening is that the authentication used to log into our servers is timing out, and we need to fix the app to either refresh or fetch new credentials.

The second is most likely a memory issue. Each tile is a separate graphic, and since the crash is occurring later in games, while attempting to load, it is likely because the memory required to render a larger number of tiles is causing the crash. This is probably mostly occurring on older devices.

Sorry for the issues. We're going to get them fixed as soon as we can. In the meantime, if you do have problems, if you could email us at and let us know what happened and what device and OS you're using, that would really help us troubleshoot.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WordWise for iPhone Released!

The wait is over...WordWise for iPhone is now available in the iTunes App Store for just 99 cents!

Judging by the amount of emails I get requesting Android/iPhone cross-platform play, there is pretty big demand for a game of this type. So if you've got an iPhone, check it out. If your friends have iPhones, tell them to check it out.

And remember this is v1.00, so it's not going to be nearly as polished or feature-rich as it will with a few more updates. But it will get you started on playing between Android and iPhone.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Polyclef is Interviewed for Newsweek Article

So a reporter from Newsweek contacted me a couple of weeks ago asking if I'd be willing to answer a few questions about the app business on Android.

It's not really an article...more like a featurette. It's called How to Build a Better App: Mobile app makers share tips on creating a successful app. From the intro:
So what does it take for a new app maker to get in on this action? We asked two entrepreneurs who have already done it. Ilene Jones, 38, is cofounder of Kitty Code, maker of iPhone’s Hurricane storm-tracking app, which has logged 60,000 downloads at $3.99 a pop. Derek James, 39, who runs Polyclef Software, has created paid games for Android that have clocked more than 50,000 downloads.
And my Android-specific advice that made it in?
1. Think local
When it comes to picking a developer, says James, it may be better to hire someone you can work with directly, as opposed to someone in Mumbai. To find the right person, he suggests checking out Craigslist, contacting local tech groups, and leaving fliers at nearby universities.

2. Go where the app lovers are
In 2009, James was a graduate student looking to make “pizza money” when he got into the app game. To figure out what to make, he began reading Android forums and looking for mentions of popular games that users wanted as apps. He started with card games—first Spades and then Hearts.

3. In chaos lies opportunity
Unlike Apple, Google doesn’t review every app. Developers basically upload and push “publish,” says James. And with fewer apps than Apple, Android has more unexploited niches. That said, any Android app will have to be written in multiple versions to accommodate various smart phones.

4. Experiment with pricing
James tinkers with his games to find the right price point. He’s started some games at $2.99, then lowered them to 99 cents for a week to see how that affects downloads. Most settle at $1.99, but WordWise, a game he invented, draws about 40% more downloads a day at 99 cents than at $1.99.

5. Use search to your advantage
James decided to make apps based on games consumers could easily identify. “Someone searches ‘domino,’ and my [Domino] app comes up,” he says. For WordWise, he put a mention of Scrabble in the description so it would show up in related searches.
I haven't seen the print version, but I'm assuming it's the same. Either way, it's nice to have the exposure in a national publication.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Would Anyone Choose Android over iPhone?

MG Siegler over at TechCrunch has a pretty stupid article in which he follows up on another silly article in which he rhetorically wondered out loud if the reason why Android was overtaking the iPhone in market share was because of AT&T exclusivity for the iPhone.

In that first article, he wrote:

While I obviously understand that people have different tastes, I can’t see how you can objectively say that the overall experience of using an Android phone isn’t worse than using an iPhone.

In response to this, people then proceeded to give reasons other than AT&T that the Android experience is better than the iPhone. In the second article, he picks what he perceives as the primary reason: openness. He then proceeds to say that the idea that Android is more open than the iPhone is "a load of crap".

His justification? Recent demo models of Android phones he has received come with a bunch of pre-installed apps he doesn't want.

There's also this:

From what we’re hearing, Verizon is also planning to launch this store on their Android phones as well in the future. Obviously, this store would be pre-installed, and it would likely be more prominently displayed than Android’s own Market for apps.

Um, V Cast is already included on Verizon phones, as a channel in the Android Market alongside existing ones. I guess it's possible that Verizon would replace the official Android Market with their own, but I highly doubt it. I don't think Siegler has a clue what he's talking about here.

Then he talks about how certain models of Android phones don't allow the installation of non-market apps. Then he talks about how tethering is not available via the native support for it in 2.2. Hint: You can buy EasyTether and tether away to your hearts content.

Then he goes on to bash the carriers for not updating Android to the most current OS version fast enough. Look, I wish every Android phone was running 2.2, but here's the situation: Android devices are coming out at a breakneck speed, with bigger and better specs all the time. Older devices (and we're just talking 6-12 months old) often don't have the hardware hefty enough to run the latest version of Android optimally. There's a trade-off here. You can either have rapid innovation and a certain amount of buyer's remorse when the phone you bought 6 months ago is eclipsed by the newest phone with much better specs, or we can just slow down the pace of innovation so better devices only come out once a year or so. Which would you prefer? I'll take the rapid innovation, personally. As a dev it makes compatibility a bigger problem, and as a consumer you may feel like you're getting left in the dust, but I'd take than any day over a much slower pace of increasing specs.

Realistically compare this to the PC market. If you buy the newest PC, within a relatively short amount of time it will no longer be the best and brightest. You can upgrade the OS and hardware yourself (though your average consumer won't), but you certainly don't get automatic updates to an entirely new version for free, mediated by your ISP. I think it is reasonably for the average Android user to expect 1-2 full version upgrades in the lifetime of their device.

Anyway, back to one core question: Is Android more open? Of course it is.

You can tether on Android, without rooting, either by being on a support OS/carrier, or buying a tethering app (which would never make it onto the iTunes market). Steve Jobs derisively talked about a "porn store" on Android, and guess what? A lot of people like porn. If you don't want Apple to be your nanny when it comes to app content, you might just prefer an Android device. It is simply an irrefutable fact that in terms of functionality and content of apps, Android allows a wider range than the iPhone. No one in their right mind would dispute this, and it is a far more sensible metric of openness than any that Siegler gives.

So what about the other big question originally raised by Siegler: Why would anyone in their right mind choose an Android phone over an iPhone?

Here are a few:

1) Choice. The iPhone only has a few models, and only one newest model. With Android, besides having your choice of carrier, you also have your choice of hardware. Do you want a hardware keyboard? Do you want a huge display? A small one? Is the camera especially important to you? The point is that with Android you have a vast array of choices in terms of specs, features, and price, and that spectrum is only getting larger.

2) Price. You can get a budget Android phone or go for top-of-the-line. Not everyone wants to fork out the max amount for the best available phone. In this respect, Android has a huge edge that is analogous to the PC market. Some consumers prefer to trade features and specs for a bit of money in savings.

3) Google. Yes, the iPhone allows some Google apps to run (but apparently not others, such as Google Voice). If you are already an avid user of Google's web-based services, you just might want the tight integration with things like GMail and Google Calender that the Android environment provides.

These are three big ones off the top of my head. There are others, such as the liberal Android Market return policy that is very consumer-friendly. But look, the iPhone is a great device, very well designed and very user friendly. But it is not perfect, and it is currently no longer the objectively best smartphone on the market. In terms of specs and functionality, the newest Android devices, such as the Evo and Droid X are better. The gap has closed, and the scary thing for Apple is that soon there will be Android devices that are clearly superior to the iPhone in virtually every respect. Android innovation is not on a yearly schedule like the iPhone. By this holiday season, there will be new Android devices with specs that outperform the iPhone in every category. Android 3.0 (Gingerbread) will be released this year as well, along with the improved Android Market with over-the-air purchases and installs and integration with Google's new music service. Apple apologists can currently continue to make arguments that the iPhone is at or near the top of the heap, but very, very soon that argument will simply be made obsolete by the steady march of better and better Android devices.

So while there are already good reasons to prefer an Android device over an iPhone, right now to a large degree it is personal preference. Over the next 6 months that will no longer be the case and the chasm will widen. The iPhone won't fall away, but it will be relegated to a much smaller market share, just as in the PC market. And I'm sure guys like Siegler will be whining louder than ever.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Android Market and Taxes

A fellow developer wrote me today and said:
I have had some success with one of my apps and I'm starting to get concerned on how I should be handling taxes. Do you have any links you could suggest on how I should be reporting income and sales tax?
Disclaimer here: It is entirely possible I have no clue what I'm talking about, so you should take everything I say with a huge grain of salt.

Near the end of 2009, when my apps started doing reasonably well, I began to investigate tax issues. It's hard to find decent information and get clarification from Google, so your best bet is to find either a good tax attorney, CPA, or both if you are generating enough revenue to be worried about it. If your apps are making less than $5K a year, then you're probably well under the radar.

Anyway, last summer I formed an LLC as the sole member, and basically my taxes on my company's income were treated the same as an individual. This year I've hired a local CPA who advised forming an S corporation, which will supposedly save on paying self-employment taxes and end up costing me less in taxes than I would as an LLC. No matter how you handle it, if you're making a substantial amount of money, you need to be declaring it and paying taxes on it.

As for sales tax, that's pretty murky. I searched around quite a lot in various forums, and ended up with the following understanding: Developers selling apps through the Android Market are responsible for collecting any associated sales tax as a result of each sale. I am based in Louisiana, so I contacted the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the representative I spoke with confirmed that I am responsible for collecting sales tax on transactions that take place in the same state in which my company is based. So basically I collect the 4% sales tax on app sales in Louisiana. I file monthly sales tax reports through the LDR website, basically reporting $X in gross sales minus $Y in interstate and international sales, which are exempt from taxation in Louisiana. The sales tax can be set up in the Google Checkout console (Settings tab, Tax Setup). Then, because reporting is so abysmal in Google Checkout, I manually look up the number of sales of a given app at its taxed price. In other words, at the end of each month I search Google Checkout for all apps sold at $1.03, which are all my $0.99 apps plus the 4% sales tax. I manually count these sales because I am not able to generate a CSV report and export it from Google Checkout. This is, of course, a crapload of fun. I should probably just be thankful I only have to collect sales tax in my state, and not for every state, country, and territory.

So I do business under the assumption that I do not either need to collect or pay sales tax in states or countries other than the one in which I am based. Google has not done a good job communicating tax liabilities to developers, so if this information isn't correct, I'm not in very good shape, and neither is the Android Market. Hopefully it is the way we're supposed to be doing business. This is one area where the iPhone app market is clearly superior. Apple apparently collects any necessary taxes associated with sales, handles currency conversions, and provides developers with very clear itemized monthly sales reports. Google is taking a much more laissez faire approach, and if it ends up biting some developers in the butt because they're not handling their taxes right, that would be damaging for everyone. I just figure I've done due diligence and look at potential unforeseen tax liabilities as a mitigated risk.

Anyway, that's my understanding of how things work and a description of how I currently handle taxes. I'd be interested in hearing other stories or getting any clarifications from anyone who knows better.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Update: WordWise for iPhone

So we submitted WordWise for the iPhone to Apple about 10 days ago. After about a week, the first version was rejected. Turns out we had a nasty bug to do with the login process.

We fixed that, but in the process found another bug. So we spent another day fixing that. This morning we resubmitted to Apple. It looks like the review process is taking about a week these days, so we should know something next Wednesday. It's a fairly complex app, so it wouldn't totally surprise me if it takes multiple rounds of submissions to make it through the process. Hopefully not, but for those who are looking forward to playing across platforms, between Android and iPhone, thanks for your patience.