An intro to the Amazon Appstore

As BlackBerry prepares to have the Amazon appstore preinstalled on their phones, I have already had my apps in the Amazon store for two years now.

First of all the best place to have your apps is in BlackBerry AppWorld. If you are writing a native Cascades app, there is no choice except to sell your apps through the BlackBerry store. If you are selling an app based on a cross platform framework such as Cordova or Unity you are better off compiling that code natively to a .bar file as it will run much better then packaging the same code as an Android app. If you have a native Android app, then you are still better off compiling to a .bar file and submitting the app to BlackBerry World. Taking this extra step makes the app easier for users to update and also gives developers the possibility of removing the back bar from apps.

However, simply having the ability to sell to Amazon’s own tablets and phones is enough reason reason to submit your apps into the store.

amazon

For the most part the Amazon store is pretty similar to what all other platforms offer with developers getting a 70% cut of all sales. Payments are made out to developers via direct deposit to a bank account. All apps are submitted as .apk files and like Android apps on BlackBerry, they must not be dependent upon any Google Play services. All apps submitted to the Amazon Appstore require a minimum of three screenshots (at one of a few specific resolutions), and are subjected to a rather comprehensive review policy. App reviews typically take around five days, with rejections usually a case of including a reference to the Google Play store (including something as simple as a link to your other Android apps).

The high praise that BlackBerry has given the Amazon store is mostly marketing fluff. The truth of the matter is that nobody cares about Amazon coins, and this store really isn’t all that different than all of the others…

Oswego Canal app released

IMG_20140617_132302Adding to the set of New York State canal apps, an app for helping to navigate the Oswego Canal has been released to BlackBerry World and Google Play.

Similar to the apps for the Erie Canal, and Cayuga-Seneca Canal that have been released earlier this year, this is an app that gives you the ability to see the locations of all locks and boat launches along the canal. Additionally the app also contains a map view to give a visual representation to where everything is.

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Stuff I Need now on Android

nexusScropThe Stuff I Need app is now available on Android through the Google Play store. This app gives you a simple checklist in order to mark of the stuff you need to buy or the stuff that you need to do.

About Stuff I Need

Originally conceived as a grocery list app, this minimalistic checklist app can be used to keep track of the stuff you need to get, or the stuff that you need to do. New items can be added to list with the ‘Add’ button on the bottom of the screen. Items on the list can be edited (or deleted) by giving them a long press. Lists can be switched by pulling down on the tab at the top of the screen. This will expose a spinner that shows all of your current lists. New lists can be added by using the “+” button on the right side of the expanded tab. Making use of three or more lists requires the use on a one time in-app purchase. Lists are automatically deleted if you delete all items in a list and restart the app.

Links & Information

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BlackBerry 10 Statistics

The month of May saw rather modest gains in the uptake of newer OS versions on BlackBerry 10.

2014May-Pixelated-BB10OSVersions

2014May-StuffINeed-BB10OSVersions

There was very little change among users of the Stuff I Need app, while there was a small increase in the percentage of Pixelated users on the newest OS version. Meanwhile relativity few users are running OS 10.3, with the newest leak being far less popular then 10.2 was half a year ago.

This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated and the free checklist app Stuff I Need. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of May 2013 through the end of May 2014.

OS7 exceeds 50% of BBOS marketshare

For the first month ever, March showed a majority of classic BBOS users running OS 7 on their phones. While the majority of BlackBerry 10 users have usually updated in the first month after the release of a new operating system, OS 7 has now been out for 34 months…

StatsMay2014

The most popular BBOS device in the month of May was the Curve 9320.

This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free BlackBerry strategy game Pixelated. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of May 2013 through the end of May 2014, and does not include BlackBerry 10 or PlayBook devices.

Mileage Tracker app updated

IMG_20140531_150152The Mileage Tracker app has been updated to version 1.7 in BlackBerry World. This update makes it easier to switch between a large number of categories, and ensure that the app will continue to work well once OS 10.3 is released later this year. The app has also received a 16.7% reduction in file size. Additionally, for users of OS 10.3 or higher Mileage Tracker has extended it’s custom color scheme through all of the native controls in the app.

About Mileage Tracker

Mileage tracker is a free app designed to help you track the miles you drive on each trip, so that you can use this information for tax deductions, accounting, or employee reimbursements. Instead of keeping this information charted on your computer, it makes much more sense to be able to track this directly on your phone, which you normally would have with you in the car already.

Trips can be grouped into categories, and edited (or deleted) at a later date. Following a one time in-app payment, you can also export your data into an Excel compatible .csv format and a pretty (and sortable) .html format.

Links & Information

Adding Cascades highlight colors (without losing the ability to theme 10.2)

PinkWith the release of BlackBerry 10.3 later this year Cascades apps will have the ability to set a custom highlight color. While this is typically defined in the bar-descriptor.xml file, doing so will prevent any theme from being applied when the app is run on phones running an older operating system. Fortunately there is a workaround. (Thanks to Derek Konigsberg for pointing out how to do this).

In short you can override the CASCADES_THEME environmental variable in the brief window between the app being launched, and the creation of the app’s UI. The following code sets a dark theme with pink highlights when run on OS 10.3 and sets a simplier dark theme for older OS versions.

Q_DECL_EXPORT int main(int argc, char **argv)
{
    bb::platform::PlatformInfo p_info;
    QString ver = p_info.osVersion();

    if(ver.startsWith("10.0") || ver.startsWith("10.1") || ver.startsWith("10.2"))
    {
        qputenv("CASCADES_THEME", "dark");
    }
    else
    {
        qputenv("CASCADES_THEME",
            "dark?primaryColor=0xF04FFF");
    }

    Application app(argc, argv);
    MileageTrackerApp mainApp(&app);
    return Application::exec();
}

The recently updated Mileage Tracker app (pictured above) is an example of an app that is using this technique.

New app for the Cayuga-Seneca Canal

IMG_20140529_152107A new app has been published to BlackBerry World, Google Play, and the Amazon App Store in order to help users navigate down the Cayuga-Seneca Canal.

Similar to the Erie Canal app that was released in April, this new app gives you the ability to see the locations of all locks and boat launches along the canal. With an additional map view to give a visual representation to where everything is.

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Cascades code change in BlackBerry 10.3

There is a slight change in Cascades 10.3 dealing with conditional variables based off of the length of the hint text of a field. For example the following code (designed to only show the TextField when the hint text is not an empty string) would work on BlackBerry 10.2 but fails when run on BlackBerry 10.3

Container
{
    property alias hint:newTextField.hintText
    property alias text:lbl.text
    Label
    {
        id:lbl
        multiline:true
    }
    TextField
    {
        id:newTextField
        visible:
	{
            if(hint.length>0)
            {
                true
            }
            else
            {
                false
            }
        }
    }
}

Fortunately the work around for this is extremely simple. You just need to create (and set) an additional alias for the visibility of the field. This is shown below…

Container
{
    property alias hint:newTextField.hintText
    property alias text:lbl.text
    property alias showTextField:newTextField.visible
    Label
    {
        id:lbl
        multiline:true
    }
    TextField
    {
        id:newTextField
    }
}

Developing apps for Five Years…

Today marks the five year anniversary of my career as a mobile app developer. On May 31st 2009 I sold three copies of Pixelated Plus for less than nine dollars. Five years, and few million downloads later, I have come a long ways since then.

As I enter year six, pretty much everything has changed since when I began. I just hope that five years from now, my apps can see the same rate of improvement that they have seen over the past five years…

Xploding Boxes updated to version 4.11

cropXploding Boxes has been updated to version 4.11 in the BlackBerry, Google, Amazon, Windows, and Nook app stores. This new version adds levels 441 through 450 to the game.

It is important for BlackBerry 10 users to upgrade and run this version of the app at least once in order to ensure that their game progress will still be available on future updates to the game. Version 5.0 of Xploding Boxes will bring some major changes to the BlackBerry 10 version of the app and will be unable to read data from versions prior to 4.11.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry, Android, Nook, Windows 8, and BlackBerry 10 where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of touches, and requires a different strategy to solve.

The game itself, and the first 25 levels are available for free, while a one time in-app purchase can be used to access the rest of the levels for just $2.99 while maintaining your progress from the free levels.

Links & Information

More levels for Starbeams

Q10The Starbeams game has been updated to version 1.7 for BlackBerry 10 and Windows 8. This update increases the number of levels to 170.

About Starbeams

The object of the game is to assign colors to each star in order to ensure that none of the stars are connected to another star of the same color. The game starts off easy, but quickly gets more complex, adding more colors and seven pointed stars that can not be changed.

Links & Information

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BlackBerry’s 2014 release schedule

With the announcement of the 10.3.0 beta SDK earlier this week, BlackBerry filled in the remaining questions about their plans for 2014. However, the company refuses to be honest or clear about their plans which has resulted in much confusion. Why BlackBerry does this is a complete mystery. In a paradoxical move BlackBerry has shipped a simulator for the Q30/Windermere phone while still refusing to acknowledge the existence of the device.

In order to clear up the confusion I have created a page at ebscer.com/blackberry2014 in order to simply layout what BlackBerry’s plans are for the rest of the year. The pivotal month for BlackBerry is going to be November, when they launch BES 12 along with the Q20-Classic and upgrade all existing devices to OS 10.3.1.

Using the Ionic framework for BlackBerry apps

ionic_logoI have made claims about my Erie Canal app being the first BlackBerry app to make use of the Ionic framework, so it should be worth pointing out how this was done. Technically the Ionic framework only support iOS and Android, but it is based off of Cordova just like BlackBerry’s Webworks framework is. Knowing how well BlackBerry 10 supports HTML5 I assumed that it was likely that supporting this new framework would be no trouble at all.

Using either BlackBerry Webworks or the Ionic Framework require quite a bit of set up involving the installation of Node.js and Cordova but once everything is set up, the process is fairly simple. First create two separate instances of your new project, one with the Ionic framework, and one with BlackBerry webworks. Then copy over the www/lib folder from the Ionic project to the BlackBerry project. This folder includes all of the css and javascript that make up the Ionic framework (and also includes the libraries needed to support angular.js). Once this folder is included, BlackBerry HTML5 apps can be compiled as normal.

In fact the entire www folder can be shared between BlackBerry, Android, and iOS versions of the app with the platform differences mostly taking place in manifest files and the actual compilation of the apps.

Erie Canal app updated

IMG_20140405_145935The Erie Canal app has been updated to version 1.1 in BlackBerry World and Google Play. The new version is smaller, with a 25.5% reduction in file size for BlackBerry 10 users, and a 22.4% reduction for Android users. Additionally this version of the app also automatically refreshes its data once every month.

The app is designed to help out those traveling along the Erie Canal by showing the Boat Launches, Locks, Lift Bridges, and Guard Gates along the canal’s path. The primary view of the app shows a list of all the landmarks along the canal, with their distance along the canal along with a phone number that the app can dial in order to contact the marinas, and locks on the route. In addition to this, there is also a map view that precisely shows the location of everything along the canal’s path. An options page allows you to filter out the types of landmarks that the app shows (on both the list and the map), as well as allowing you to switch the list to an east to west orientation.

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