Friday, December 10, 2010

Announcing Lab for iOS

It is been a while since I last posted here. I am happy to do so to announce our newest product, Lab. Lab is an app that I wanted. I found myself often wondering when and where this or that picture on my iPhone was taken. So, now, using Lab, you can get detailed information about the picture in your iOS device's photo library. That way, you don't need to transfer your photos to a computer to find out details about your own photo library. Sporting a gorgeous design, Lab is the perfect complement to your iOS device's photo album. Using Lab you can:

  • Find out the resolution and size of your photos.

  • Let Lab remind you when and where a picture was shot. The location, when available, will be displayed for you in a map.

  • Examine advanced info including histogram, exposure and shooting details, right in your device.


Lab 1.0 is available now for iOS 4 in the App Store. If you like to take photos, give it a try for just $0.99. We hope you like it.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

iPad: 7 Things to Love, 7 Things to Improve

To Love

Size. If there is something I like is to be able to use the iPad practically anywhere. I am writing this on a plane where it would be hard to fit a laptop, given their "fit as much people on an aircraft as possible" policies. The iPad fits nicely and allows me to get the job done. It is very portable and you do not even need to take it out on security controls.

Screen. Colors are vivid, resolution is nice and the overall usage of the screen is a joy. At 768x1024 pixels games look great, but almost all other applications can benefit from the screen too. Sketches 2 has even more potential here than on the iPhone given the screen real estate.

Sound. Due to its thin size, I was not expecting to get good quality sound. I am glad I was wrong. For my ears, the speaker on the iPad is practically of the same quality of those on my 2007 Macbook Pro.

No heat, no noise. On most laptops, and computers in general, CPU or graphic intensive applications cause the temperature to raise. In the case of laptops on your lap, it can get uncomfortable. But it is not only that, raising temperatures imply heat dissipation mechanisms, which are normally noisy. Not with the iPad. Even while playing games, the iPad is cool and quiet.

Battery life. You can play games, watch videos, listen to music, browse the Internet or whatever you like to do. The battery will last for at least 6-7 hours. In my experience, it can even surpass the 10 hours of the Apple specifications. Amazing.

Instant on. Casual use feature never one. No waiting for your computer to boot up. Want to google something? Grab the iPad fire Safari and surf away. Look up an article on Wikipedia? Play a game? Same thing.

Safari. If there is a killer app that comes already installed in this device, I would say that is Safari. Browsing the Internet with this is a joy. It was not long ago that many Internet sites read "this site looks great at 1024x768". Here you have it in the palm of your hands.

To Improve

Memory. The iPad has 256Mb of RAM, the same as the iPhone 3GS. I find this the weakest point of the iPad. Checking the crash logs, running out of memory is the primary cause for most of them. Having much higher resolution than the iPhone, this is not strange. I would have guessed that Apple had placed at least 512. Maybe on the next version.

Weight. Obviously, at 1.5 pounds (680 grams), it is much lighter than a laptop. However this machine is supposed to be easily held with your hands. Reading a book or playing a game can easily get tiring given the heaviness of the device.

Battery charging. If you connect your iPad to your computer it will take a while to get it charged. In my tests 5 hours did not get me a full charge. Fortunately, the charger included with the iPad, even with the same size and aspect of those of iPhone and iPod, is more powerful, so it is able to speed the charging process. Still long.

No protection included. With such a big screen, the iPad can easily get harmed if unprotected while traveling or if handled carelessly. A simple cover to protect the screen would have sufficed to keeping the screen safe in most situations.

Screen becomes dirty. Oleophobic or not, the screen easily gets full of fingerprints. This is not much of a problem while working with the device, but does not look good when the screen is off.

iPhone Apps. I am glad that I can run iPhone apps on my iPad, don't get me wrong, but they do not look good. At 1x apps look too small, at 2x they look pixelated. I believe we could see a better 2x mode in the future.

Mail app. While email look good, navigating between accounts takes several steps. In addition, there is no mail list while reading your mail in portrait until you hit the email list. Then, there comes a popover, you select a new message, the popover goes, and you have to repeat this process again. Personally, I want to be able to switch messages and accounts quickly independently of the device orientation.


Overall the iPad is an amazing machine, more taking into account that this is version 1.0. These are just some of the small things I would like for Apple to improve. However, I must say that I am very happy with it both as a user and as a developer.

Written on an iPad, using Pages.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sketches 1 and 2: Two Products in the App Store

As some of you might already know Sketches 2 is available on the App Store. Also, the original Sketches is still available as a different product.

When Sketches was created, it was a simple drawing application. It had no menus, no color or line width selection, or anything else. You were able to draw using a red line of fixed width. When the application was closed, it stored the document. When the device was shaked, the drawing was erased. With each new update, thousands of downloads occurred, a clear indication that there was interest for such a product.

In version 0.3 of this jailbroken world, we added several options to choose color and make some simple geometric shapes using the multitouch capabilities of the iPhone. This version was a big push, and made Sketches even more popular.

When Apple announced the SDK, along with the App Store, Pedro and myself seriously considered the idea of making this our way life. For several months we worked in making Sketches a more complete product, while converting it to the official SDK.

On July 10th 2008, Sketches was among the initial group of apps to make it into the store. It was also featured on Ars Technica and promoted by Apple in the European Union. For us, it was a big success. We made $150,000 during the first three weeks of sales.

During the next months we worked on adding the features we had originally designed for version one, while resolving any bugs that appeared. We added text shape creation, tooltips, additional stamps, web sharing, improved image flattening, fixed memory issues, fixed map rendering issues on certain locations, improved mail sending of drawings, added ink opacity options, added corkboard rearrangement, improved zoom, improved saving performance, etc.

At the same time, we received many different requests to make Sketches a more professional product, featuring an advanced color picker, transparency, brushes, more zoom and so on. As we designed these features, we realized that the existing UI was not able to hold them. In addition, we would need to change the way things are done to fit this new functionality (for example, a progressive zoom that worked like in the photo album would need the shape placing mechanism to be changed). Finally, we were taking little advantage of the new 3.0 SDK functionalities. It was time to move onto version 2.

When we designed Sketches 2, we decided to make it 3.0+ only, and to change the menu system, looking to achieve 2 things:

  • 1. Be able to work while having the menus open, so you could change the ink color or other options without having to reopen the menu every time.

  • 2. Keep the original simplicity, while adding the advanced options


(example of Skeches UI evolution)

Once the product was almost ready, we saw that the changes were many, and made it a different product, with different usage. So, for the time being, Sketches 1 and 2 are going to be living together in the App Store. We probably could have called them something like "Sketches" and "Sketches Pro" or "Sketches Classic" and "Sketches Advanced", but we liked "Sketches" and "Sketches 2" better.

We did not want, however, to forget those users who welcome change and are looking for the new Sketches 2 features. So, for a few more hours, we are still promoting Sketches 2. The promotional price is just $1.99. Take advantage of it!

For us, it is time to get Sketches 2 onto the iPad!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

LateNiteSoft Contribution to Haiti Relief

Unfortunately, it seems that only through big tragedies we are able to gain perspective on our lifes, and are reminded how extremely lucky we are that our families are healthy and safe.

As we were talking about this during lunch, our twitter stream showed a couple of great help initiatives from the Mac and iPhone communities. The guys at OmniGroup are donating more than $45,000; Mike Piatek-Jimenez will donate all proceeds from Seasonality for the rest of the month; Daniel Jalkut and others are calling for action on an initiative being put together by Justin Williams. We decided to adhere to Justin's idea, but we thought we'd also like to do something by ourselves.

Although we are not able to provide such a substantial up-front help as OmniGroup's, we thought we could just keep half of our income from the sales of Sketches (versions 1 and 2) during one week, and donate the other half to a non-profit aid organization. If you like our products and would like to help us on this, please consider buying Sketches or Sketches 2 now.

On a personal note - since we created LateNiteSoft, I have frequently considered how lucky I am to enjoy the best job I could ever dream of. However, I also get anxious or sad about work issues or personal situations, and those feelings sometimes obscure the rest. I will try to approach the future with a better scale, to be permanently aware -and not just during a crisis- of how mundane and small my problems really are. I hope this resolution, my only one for 2010, will make life a bit easier for those around me.

Update: We finally donated $1510 to Save the Children. Thanks very much everyone for helping us with this!