The evolution of an iPhone app interface

I recently released Starting 11, an iPhone app in which you can pick your own football team line up and share it via e-mail and Facebook.

From idea to app store submission took about 10 evenings of work. The lions share of that time was spent perfecting the user interface. Below are the design iterations from idea to App Store release, click the images for full versions.

Since I had the idea for this app just before the FIFA World Cup started, I quickly decided to use the Xcode template "Navigation-based Application" to simplify development, hoping to get it published before the World Cup had finished. By focusing on polishing the pitch view, which would be the view where the user spends most of his time, I figured I would get the most bang for my efforts.

Initial idea sketch

Starting11_idea.png

Using the brilliant and free Adobe Ideas app on my iPad i quickly sketched the basic UI and zoomed the resulting image to match the size of my iPhone. This gave me a feel for the size of the UI components, allowing me to decide that it would be feasible to have a full football team on screen at once.

Grass and scoreboard

To generate the grass for the pitch I followed Andrew Houle's Photoshop tutorial, ending up with a huge image of grass texture. My brother graciously provided me with the chalk lines marking the pitch and with the scoreboard graphic which has a nice detailed mesh effect only visible with the extra resolution available on the iPhone 4.

Player kits

I had decided to represent the players on the pitch by having their jerseys show the number on the back, the name would appear beneath. My first effort used a combination of rectangular UIViews to create the illusion of the jersey. I was hoping this would allow me to save time, but it just didn't look good enough to match my vision for Starting 11.

I had to implement my own UIView subclass to handle drawing the player using vector graphics. This allowed me to create something that more closely resembled a jersey.

I also decided to add a dark background to the player names.

After using the app in this state for some time I decided that the shoulders needed to be more rounded, and that a black outline around the player added some needed contrast, especially important when using the application outdoors in the sun. For the same reason the color behind the player name was darkened.

I also added a small line to indicate the separation of the player's legs, without which it looked like the players were wearing skirts.

Finally the flags for all countries had some shine added to them, then the Share button was added and I decided that instead of having the team's name appear on screen twice the navigation bar should contain the application's title.

And there you have it, the UI of version 1.0 of Starting 11. What do you think? What would you change?

Looking forward

After the World Cup is done and we have a new world champion team, the next step will be to add the possibility for customers to add and modify teams. This will make the app useful for the club competitions that start up after summer.

Regarding the iPad I think Starting 11 would be a wonderful fit for the larger screen, so I plan to make it a universal app that supports both the iPhone and the iPad form-factors.

Until these steps are done the app will remain free. I will eventually start charging.

Starting 11 for iPhone in HD

It has yet to be listed in the App Store, but I'd like to introduce you to my latest effort. Starting 11 is an app developed for the ongoing FIFA World Cup.

You choose which team you want to manage and position the players on the pitch in the formation you prefer. You can then share the resulting lineup via e-mail or Facebook.

Starting 11 has been in review at Apple for a over a week already so it should hopefully go live shortly.

Retina Display ready

This is my first attempt at an app supporting the full resolution of the Retina Display of iPhone 4. The difference in detail level is simply astounding, as you can see for yourself below.

Click the image for full size comparison.

iPhone Video Output

There are a couple of options available when preparing to perform a demonstration of an iPhone app to a larger group of people. All these options have flaws, however. The "gather around" method, for example, doesn't work well for groups of more than a few people. Any more and you would ideally want to project the iPhone screen contents onto a big screen.


The "iPhone simulator method" is probably the most used method. It's simple to set up but limits your app navigation to the mouse, making multitouch gestures difficult to perform. Also, there is no way to show off accelerometer functionality like "shake to undo".
The "camcorder method" avoids the simulator's issues, but can be a hassle to set up. It also restricts your movement as you have to make sure to keep the device on screen and avoid reflections as best you can.

Doing it Steve's way
Why don't we take a page out of Steve Job's playbook and mirror the iPhone screen directly from the device onto the big screen?
Sadly this is not straight forward. So far only the iPod application supports video output via Apple's AV cable, at least that's what I thought until I stumbled upon Rob Terrell's iPhone App Video Mirroring blog post (go read it now, I'll wait).

Using the private MPTVOutWindow class in the MediaPlayer.framework API, Rob's code mirrors the iPhone screen onto the AV cable. For demonstration purposes this is a great solution, but being based on a private API it should not be left in the app when submitting it to the App Store.

Originally the code did not support on-the-fly orientation changes and touch indicators, both of which I needed. Thanks to Rob posting the source code I was able to implement these changes and have since submitted the updated code back to him, although I haven't heard back after doing so.

Get your hands on the code
In the spirit of sharing I have prepared a sample project, TvOutputSample, which shows you how to add video output to an Xcode project. This is the application shown in the video above, it should build and run out of the box, using iPhone SDK 3.0.

Download the code: TvOutSample.zip
[UPDATE: The project has moved to github]

I should mention that since the video mirroring is software based it affects application performance somewhat. On an original iPhone 10 fps works well, on an iPhone 3GS I have had no problems running at 20 fps. The fps setting is near the top of the UIApplication_TVOut.m file, do your own tests to see what works best for your app and hardware.

The current version (as of October 2009) of the code does not support OpenGL video output.

 

How Apple can improve iPhone scrolling

I want to mention a UI issue I have with the iPhone OS implementation of scroll indicators, the unobtrusive bars that appear on the right side of the screen when scrolling through a list.

My hand obscures the scroll indicator

Like most people, I tend to use my right hand to interact with the iPhone. This means that my hand obscures a large part of the extreme right of the display, making it hard to see how far down the list I have travelled.

Proposed UI enhancement

My proposal is to have the scroll indicators appear on both sides of the screen.

The effect is illustrated in the photoshopped screenshot below, based on the settings screen in my Hiragana application.

 Note how the scroll indicator appears on both the left and right sides

Note how the scroll indicator appears on both the left and right sides

Is this really a problem?

This issue tends to bother me the most while reading longer articles at RoughlyDrafted Magazine or Daring Fireball. I often want to quickly check how far I have to go, in order to decide if I have time to finish the article or if I should save it for later.

In these cases the scroll indicator tends to be pretty small and a fair distance down the screen, right where I am least likely to easily see it.

What about panning?

Mobile Safari, and other applications that allow you to pan around a larger view in two dimensions use a horizontal scroll indicator in the lower part of the screen. This can can also be partly obscured by your hand, and should thus be supplemented by a scroll indicator across the top of the screen.

Speculation on the scroll indicator's background

I suppose Apple's decision to limit the scroll indicators to the right and bottom of the screen is based on how scrolling works in the classic desktop applications where scroll bars remain on screen whether in use or not.

To minimize wasted screen real estate and avoid UI clutter, it makes sense in a desktop application to chose a single place to present the scroll bar. The standard seems to always have been to place it on the right, and along the bottom for horizontal scrolling.

However on the iPhone scrolling works differently. There is no screen real estate wasted by showing the indicators on both sides since they are only visible while you are scrolling.

The appeal

So Apple, please add support for dual scroll indicators. It just makes sense.

iPhone SDK development on multiple computers

Sometimes it's good to be able to use several computers to develop your iPhone app. In my case my main development machine is the iMac, but summer is coming up and I may not want to stop developing just because I go out of town. Luckily I have a MacBook, on which I have also installed the iPhone SDK.

In order to test on the device when I develop using the MacBook I have to move my certificate, private key and provisioning profile to it. Here's how I do that.

1. Launch Keychain Access on the iMac (main development computer).

2. Under the Keys category I Ctrl-click the private key that has the certificate for 'iPhone Developer: ' attached to it.

3. In the context menu select 'Export ...'.

4. When saving provide a password, which will be required for importing on the other computer.

5. A .p12 file was saved, transfer it to the target computer.

6. Grab the development provisioning profile (either by downloading from the iPhone Program Portal or by grabbing the right one from ~/Library/MobileDevice/Provisioning Profiles/) and transfer it to the target computer.

7. Double click the .p12 file on the target computer. If you provide the correct password the key and certificate will be installed into the Keychain on the target computer.

8. Drag the provisioning profile onto the Xcode dock icon.

The application can now be installed on the device from the target computer, which in my case is the lovely black MacBook.

Not announcing the Kinetic Battery Charger app

I had hoped to announce the release of my latest iPhone application on the App Store, sadly that's not happening here.

Lately I've been experimenting with the built in accelerator and wanted to put the code to use in an actual app, so I decided to make an app which simulates charging the phone battery when you shake it. Like you would shake your kinetic wristwatch to keep it running.

I designed a battery graphic and added a bar that grows when the phone is shaken to simulate charging. I thought it turned out really well, and the people I've shown it to have said it's hilarious even though they weren't fooled for long.

kineticscreenshot.jpg

I submitted the application as a freebie to the Entertainment category on the App Store, but it turns out Apple's reviewer didn't find it entertaining. Instead I received a letter stating that it wouldn't be allowed on the store.

Unfortunately, your application, Kinetic Battery Charger, cannot be added to the App Store because it uses standard iPhone screen images in a non-standard way, potentially resulting in user confusion. Changing the behavior of standard iPhone graphics, actions, and images, or simulating failures of those graphics, actions, or images is a violation of the iPhone Developer Program agreement which requires applications to abide by the Human Interface Guidelines.

Now this is obviously a form letter as I am not using any standard iPhone screen images at all, except for the info-button which works as expected by revealing a settings screen. I sent a reply stating this fact but have not heard back.

I also spent a few hours poring over the Human Interface Guidelines in search for anything explaining why my application would not be acceptable but came up empty handed.

I find it a little frustrating that the feedback you get from the App Store reviewers doesn't contain any actual information about what they are objecting to. How hard can it be to take a screenshot of the application and draw a circle to point out the offending piece?

Oh well, back to updating the apps I already have on the store, that will hopefully be time better spent.

Analyzing App Store sales for 2008

Way back in October I wrote a post analyzing the sales data from the first three weeks of my applications in the App Store. Things were looking good, with over 250 sales in those three weeks.

Now that we're a little bit into 2009, it's time to take a look at how the sales performance evolved over the rest of 2008. Interestingly the combined sales of the 13 weeks since my previous report have failed to even equal those of the three initial weeks.

Click the images for higher resolution.

Sales Growth

All in all my two apps, Hiragana and Katakana, racked up a total of 467 sales during 2008. As can be seen the sales have leveled off to just a few per week, it will be interesting to see if the release of the free Hiragana Lite has any effect going forward.

Biggest Markets

Like before just under half the sales were generated through the US App Store, with Germany coming in second.

Payout

So far the sales have generated the following payouts:

$ 609

€ 207

¥ 5690

It seems Apple don't strictly follow the $250 minimum revenue per region rule before paying out. The Japanese amount above is way less than $250, and the dollar amount actually includes three separate payouts of $430, $91 and $88 respectively.

Announcing Hiragana Lite

I have decided to make a free version of my japanese study aid application, Hiragana available on the iPhone App Store.

This free version is exactly like the paid version except for 3 small differences:

  1. It's called Hiragana Lite.
  2. It contains the 46 basic hiragana characters, as opposed to the full set of 104 hiragana caracters available in the full version.
  3. Buttons on the info screen which open the App Store using the technique described in my earlier post Launching the App Store from within your iPhone application.

I'd be very happy if you gave it a try and leave me your feedback.

Hiragana Lite (App Store link).

I have also decided to mark the occasion by lowering the prices for the full versions of Hiragana and Katakana to $2.99.

Launching the App Store from within your iPhone application

Today I decided to figure out how to launch the App Store application from within an iPhone application using the SDK.

It turns out this is pretty simple, but you have to beware of a few issues.
  • First and foremost, it doesn't work from the iPhone Simulator, in all probability since the App Store application is not available on the simulator.
  • Second you need to provide a valid URL to an application in the App Store. You can access the URL to an application by simply right clicking the Application in iTunes and selecting the "Copy iTunes Store URL" menu item.

Here is the core code needed.

[[UIApplication sharedApplication]
 openURL:[NSURL
  URLWithString:@"http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=291170459&mt=8"]];

The above URL points to my Hiragana application.

I then chose to store the App Store URL in the info.plist file under a key named TEBAppStoreLink, so that I can use the same code for any future applications.

I ended up with this method for launching the App Store with the URL in the info.plist file.

- (void)goToAppStore
{
  UIApplication *app = [UIApplication sharedApplication];

  // Get the url from info.plist.
  NSString *appStoreLink = [[[NSBundle mainBundle] infoDictionary] objectForKey:@"TEBAppStoreLink"];

  // Open the url if it was available.
  if(appStoreLink){
  [app openURL:[NSURL URLWithString:appStoreLink]];
  }
}


What really happens is that Mobile Safari is launched with the provided URL, and upon realizing that the link is an App Store link it in turn launches the App Store application.

Of course, if you provide any other URL it just opens in Safari as usual. I haven't tested what happens if a YouTube URL is used, but I imagine the YouTube app would launch. That, however,  is not the problem i set out to solve today.

A few thoughts about the Cocoa Bootcamp

This fall I attended Aaron Hillegass' Cocoa Bootcamp at Big Nerd Ranch. I had planned to write up my thoughts about the experience earlier, but life (and work) interrupted.

After being confirmed for the class I made travel arrangements to arrive in Atlanta one day early to adjust to the time difference, and also to get a chance to see a little of Atlanta itself. I ended up having time to both visit the Apple Store at Lenox Square Mall and visiting the Georgia Dome for a taste of the NFL (the Broncos visiting the Falcons). I'm really happy I made the decision to fly in early, as I had a very good time in town.

 NFL action

NFL action

On Sunday I ventured back to the airport via the subway to be picked up by the Big Nerd Ranch shuttle. While waiting at the baggage claim area I met a few other attendees and then the shuttle came by to pick us all up for transport to The Historic Banning Mills, where dinner was waiting for us. We were provided with a nice room each, overlooking a beautiful valley.

 The Historic Banning Mills

The Historic Banning Mills

 Spectacular views all around

Spectacular views all around

The next morning the Bootcamp got going, and within minutes Aaron had us coding our first app. The class followed Aaron's book Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X, with Aaron explaining some concept from each chapter and then having us using the learned concepts in code. There were also a couple of things covered which aren't in the book, for example an iPhone project. The frequent coding assignments and the opportunity to raise any questions with Aaron or any of the other students was a very efficient way of learning.

The pace in the classroom was intense, but every afternoon also provided the chance for a brief walk around the beautiful scenery, with Aaron himself as guide. This was a good opportunity to catch your breath, think about what you had just learned in a broader perspective, and to take a few photos.

 Aaron goes for a walk

Aaron goes for a walk

Every day we were provided with no less than three huge and delicious meals, I think I ate more good food during the Cocoa Bootcamp than I will during Christmas, which says a lot. There were also snacks and soft drinks provided in the classroom, so no risk of going without energy. A good thing, since it did take quite a bit of energy keeping up with the learning tempo.

I think it would probably have been possible to learn pretty much what the class teaches by yourself by spending a couple of weeks or months with the book. I tried to go down that route this summer, but kept getting side tracked. Nevertheless I must reiterate - the book is a must buy for any newcomer to the platform. 

I'm really glad I took the class since it propelled me right past the first plateau in the learning curve and I now feel comfortable using Xcode and the Interface Builder. The opportunity to ask questions and have Aaron and others help debugging problems encountered during the assignments totally eliminated the frustrations encountered when trying to learn from reading a book on your own. The distraction free surroundings also helped me focus my mind on the task at hand.

I would say the Cocoa Bootcamp is probably the perfect way to get started with Cocoa development for the Mac. I'm happy, though, that I asked my employer to cover the costs when negotiating my contract for employment, as it is not exactly cheap. Nevertheless, if you can afford it I think that the Cocoa Bootcamp provides good value for the money spent.

A further advantage was that I got to meet a great, and diverse, group of people dedicated to software development and the Mac platform. The attendants were from all over the US, even some local to the area, as well as a couple of us Europeans.

If you attend the Cocoa Bootcamp, you'll leave having the confidence and understanding necessary to take on true Cocoa development projects. Let's hope something like that comes my way eventually, even though my day job is currently strictly .NET.

I'll make good use of my newfound knowledge in my spare time either way. Stay tuned...

En route to Atlanta for the Cocoa Bootcamp

I'm just now at the airport, waiting to board the plane which will take me to Atlanta and the Cocoa Bootcamp. This is a trip I've been looking forward to for over a year.

I have prepared for the course by reading most of Aaron Hilegass' book Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X, and of course by meddling with iPhone development. But I have always found it easier to learn by interacting with knowledgeable people, so this will be my big chance to really get to grips with the parts of the Cocoa framework which I haven't been able to grasp. 

The Interface Builder has been my biggest stumbling block so far, leading to me writing all interfaces in my iPhone applications in code. So I hope to come away from this week with new insights into how it's supposed to be used. Interface Builder is a very different beast compared to the .NET Visual Studio experience I'm used to. However, I fully expect it to be superior once I can wrap my mind around it. It is an Apple product after all.

Judging by his book, Aaron has a knack for systematically introducing progressively more complex concepts in a very clear and easy to follow manner. I thoroughly recommend his book to anyone new to Objective-C and Cocoa. I think I may be able to finish it during the flight.

I'll summarize my experience at the Big Nerd Ranch in an upcoming post.

Japanese navy flag and the App Store reviewer backlash, an apology

As you may remember from my previous post Analyzing App Store sales data, the vast majority of sales I've seen for my iPhone applications have been in the US market. 

My applications have been available for well over a month now and I had been wondering why I barely saw any reviews in the store. As it turns out, reviews are not combined worldwide but instead tied to the store the reviewer is in. This makes sense I suppose, avoiding any language problems. Sadly there is no way for a developer, as far as I can see, to get a summary of the reviews left worldwide. Instead you have to go into each and every store to see if any reviews have been written for the specific markets.

I just realized this fact the other day when I switched over to the US iTunes store to see what movies are available for rental there. I then did a search for my app Hiragana and noticed that all of a sudden there were a couple of reviews that I hadn't seen before. Almost none of them positive!

My applications are marketed towards students of the Japanese language, and apparently people were taking offense with the Japanese navy flag that I was using both for my icon graphics and as a background image for the flash cards in my applications.

 Version 1.0 look

Version 1.0 look

Some review excerpts:

"I don't know if you know what it means but it is like using Nazi flag for learning German application icon."
"Are you even aware of the gross political incorrectness of that imperial military flag you're using as an icon and background? People don't even dare fly that thing in Japan anymore."

Read more reviews here (App Store link, make sure you are in the US iTunes store)

The second review above hits it on the spot. I was not at all aware that the flag I was using is considered politically incorrect. In my eyes it is a very neat design, I even bought a jacket featuring it as a design element when visiting China last year. I guess now I know not to bring that jacket when going across the Atlantic to Aaron Hillegass' Cocoa Bootcamp at the Big Nerd Ranch this winter (more about this in a later blog post). 

I did know the flag was/is used by the Japanese navy and i know that the Japanese committed a bunch load of horrible war crimes during WWII, but it never crossed my mind that people may equate it to the nazi flag. Is this really true? Wouldn't the App Store staff have considered this before clearing the applications for release? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section, I would really appreciate it.

Measures taken

Of course I could not let the current state stand, so here are the measures I have taken to try to rectify the situation.

  • Redesigned icon
  • Removed card background
  • Half price during the full month of November!

Also I would like to express my apologies here to everyone offended by my using that flag in my applications.

Shameless plug

Introducing version 1.1 of my Hiragana and Katakana apps.

Now containing:

  • 100% less Japanese navy flags
  • Refined transition animations
  • Other minor fixes
 Version 1.1 look

Version 1.1 look

These have already been available for a couple of days, and a few more positive reviews have trickled in. If you own the previous versions i recommend getting them updated via the App Store, unless you really want to hang on to that navy flag of course.

If you have avoided purchasing these applications for any reason, now is your chance to get them at a discount; $1.99 as opposed to the regular price of $3.99. Get them at the App Store.

Oh, and don't forget to leave a review in the store if you feel like it. Thanks!

Analyzing App Store sales data

I am currently selling two applications on the iTunes App Store. Hiragana and Katakana are educational applications aimed at the novice students of the Japanese language. Hiragana and Katakana are also the names of the two Japanese character alphabets my applications focus on.

Apple provides sales data for applications sold via the App Store, but the data is presented in the most unintuitive way possible, as plain data tables. This makes it extremely hard to get a view of sales performance, so I dropped the data files for my first three weeks of sales into my favorite data analysis application and ended up with the following insights. Click the images for higher resolution.

Sales Growth

Hiragana was first available for download from the App Store on 20th of September, with Katakana following on the 27th. In less than three weeks 266 units have been sold with Hiragana representing the majority of sales. The last week had the highest sales with a combined 126 units, 71 of which were Hiragana and 55 were Katakana.

Biggest Markets

Close to half of the sales were in the US market (122) with Germany, Canada, Japan and Australia being the other regions with more than ten sales each. The long tail of stores selling less than ten units represents 85 sold units, with 11 stores clocking in at one sold unit each. I doubt I'll ever see any profits from those markets as I need to sell approximately 100 units in a store to reach Apples minimum amount of $250 for royalty payout.

The information above is based on the weekly stats reported by Apple. Apple also provide daily statistics, but you have to grab them while they're fresh, only the last 7 days are available. I was out of town for a little over a week and forgot to download a few days worth of data. Going forward I'll try to store every day and return with a more detailed analysis. It should be interesting to se the daily trends. I would expect weekends to lead the sales since that's when people may have the extra time to play around with their iPods and iPhones. We'll see.

iTunes application icon in Ad Hoc distribution

A few weeks ago I started a beta program for my iPhone application using the official Ad Hoc distribution model, allowing my beta testers to install early versions of the application by simply dragging it into iTunes. It's all very convenient, but it bothered me that my application showed up under the Applications section of iTunes with a boring black generic icon.

Luckily there is a simple fix for this.

What you have to do is prepare a 512x512 pixel JPG image, rename it iTunesArtwork, without extension, and then copy it into your application bundle. You access the contents of your application bundle by right clicking the .app in Finder and selecting Show Package Contents, then just drop the image in there next to all the other stuff making up your application.

 

Running SDK apps on a jailbroken 2.0.1 iPhone [Updated]

Update: There is useful information in the comments about how to do this with later versions of the SDK as well. Thanks to everyone who has contributed. 

 

This summer I've spent some time working on my iPhone app, which I hope to release on the App Store later this fall.

Since I imported my iPhone from the USA, I have to use the iPhone Dev Team's Pwnage Tool to unlock and jailbreak it. I chose to stay on firmware 1.1.4 until 2.0.1 was available to avoid the performance issues that were widely reported. This means I have not had the opportunity to try my application on the phone itself, but last night I updated to 2.0.1 and tried installing the app.

It turns out my application works great, but I still need to add a few more features and spend some time generating nice visuals to replace the placeholder graphics I am using.

To get the application running on the iPhone I had to copy it using scp to the /Applications directory on the phone and bypass the iPhone Code Signature check. After some googling I found the ldid tool written by Jay Freeman, which takes care of the Code Signature.

Here are the steps I used to get my SDK developed app running on a jailbroken iPhone, all commands should be entered as one liners in the Terminal:

1. Make sure you set Xcode to compile for the device, not for the simulator.

2. Compile the project, then copy the resulting MyApp.app directory to the iPhone's /Applications directory.

mac# scp -r MyApp.app/ root@iphone_ip:/Applications/

3. Access the phone using SSH. The root password is alpine, at least on my phone.

mac# ssh root@iphone_ip 

4. Make sure the executable is marked as such, this step is probably unneccessary but it wont hurt anything.

iphone# chmod +x /Applications/MyApp.app/MyApp

5. Install the ldid tool, this step probably needs Cydia to be installed on your phone.

iphone# apt-get install ldid

6. Run ldid on the application executable on the phone.

iphone# ldid -S /Applications/MyApp.app/MyApp

7. Your application icon should now turn up once the phone is rebooted.

These steps will work even if you have not been accepted to the paid iPhone developer program.

Note that these instructions are experimental. I can't be held responsible for whatever happens if you try them.

iPhone App Store and the IRS - a study in frustration [Updated]

I decided to spend my friday afternoon setting up all the necessary information in preparation for selling my applications on the iPhone App Store. Since I am based in the EU, not in the US, I ran into a brick wall of trouble.

Once logged into the iTunesConnect system all seemed very straight forward. Since I watched the Publishing on the App Store video that Apple released on iTunes yesterday I knew I had to sign a contract, so I clicked the Contracts, Tax, & Banking Information link.

I then chose to add a new contract for Paid Applications to my account. There are three necessary steps, so I start by filling in my contact information. Not a problem.

Bank Info

I then need to supply Bank Info, like the name and address of my local bank. So far nothing troublesome at all. I also need to provide:
Account Name
Account Type
Branch/Branch ID
Account Number
Account IBAN
Bank Swift Code
Sort Code (UK) / SIC (SZ)

Here things were getting a little hairy, but I was able to figure everything out. My bank actually provided a convenient account number to IBAN converter and the Swift code (althought they call it a BIC code) on their website.

Tax Info

Finally I just have to add my tax info to the contract and I should be ready to go. But as it turns out, this step requires filling in something called Form W-8BEN and involves the IRS. I have to provide a US Taxpayer Identification Number, so I start exploring how to obtain one of these magic numbers.

As I am registered as an individual I need either a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). I don't think I qualify for a SSN, not being a US citizen and living in Europe and all, so I start reading up on getting an ITIN. As it turns out this will take six to eight weeks and involves filling out another form, form W-7.

As forms go it is actually pretty good, only one page long. But reading the instructions it seems I have to send it in with my passport, not a copy mind you, the original passport. They promise to return it to me in 60 days.

Now, I'm not about to put my passport in an envelope and send it off across the Atlantic any time soon. I need it for my vacation this summer! I'm actually a bit disappointed as I was hoping to be able to start selling applications on the App Store in July. I just feel this could have been handled easier.
Apple Inc. does have a presence in the EU, so how come I have to register for an american tax number anyway?!

Getting an ITAN is a PAIN

Peter Nixey also notes the trouble getting an ITIN in his article about moving his business to the US:

You can’t get an Social Security Number SSN without being a US resident which means instead getting either an EIN (Employer ID Number) or an ITIN (Individual Tax Payer Number) both of which are a PAIN.
To cut a long story short, despite our best bureaucratic wrangling we were unable to attain ITINs. As if from nowhere though, an EIN popped out of a random conversation we were having with an official who it seems we charmed / confused into co-operation. It seems out that EINs actually require almost no paperwork and that the main thing required is persistence.


Quoted from Coming to America: Getting visas to do business in Silicon Valley

For me getting an EIN is not an option as I don't have a company. Although those numbers seem to be only a phone call away.

UPDATE: This turns out not to be true. After reading up on the SS-4 form for applying for an EIN it turns out foreign (non US) individuals can apply for EIN to comply with IRS withholding regulations. So I called the number (+1-215-516-6999) and ended up with an EIN in just 5 minutes. Very convenient, I just wish Apple had made this more clear on their application site.

Lack of memory card slot is my favorite iPhone feature

In my view the lack of a memory card slot on the iPhone is actually a great feature.

Case in point: Here's what happened when Google's Andy Rubin was demonstrating an Android prototype phone to Wired reporter Daniel Roth.
Let's see, let's go to a music player. I can go to Artist here and get my list of — oops, it says the SD card is missing. He squints into the tiny card slot. "Hmm, it's there. Looks like I have a little bit of a bug." He shrugs, taps on an icon to go to the browser, and checks out CNN.com.

Quoted from Google's Open Source Android OS Will Free the Wireless Web

I can't even begin to recount the numerous occasions this very same thing happened on my previous Linux based Motorola smartphone. And it's not just that the memory wasn't available for reading. The applications that were set up to store data (photos, notes, audio recordings) on it would all default back to storing on the miniscule internal memory, which meant I had to spend a couple of minutes reconfiguring these applications after power cycling the phone to get the memory card back. That makes for a truly sucky user experience.

This is not to say that Andriod will suck. Quite the contrary, I have huge hopes and expectations of Google succeeding. Android seems like the one potential competitor to the iPhone platform, and I definitely look forward to trying it out. The point I'm trying to make is strictly hardware related. A memory card slot is never going to be as reliable as a soldered on internal memory.

Eliminating failure points is, in my humble opinion, the most effective way of reducing bugs and problems. The more bullet point features are included in the product specs, the worse the user experience of said product.

A sufficiently large internal memory beats a memory card slot any day of the week. It's just way more convenient for both developers and customers.

iPhone Developer Program == profit?

So I decided to apply for the iPhone Developer Program to add some preassure for quickly learning Cocoa. It took maybe three days from sending in the application until I received the activation code from Apple. All in all a very smooth procdure.
Now I have to start drafting up a few iPhone applications to launch this fall on the AppStore. I'm quite excited about the possibilities, maybe I can even earn some money?

Bought an iPhone, thinking about security

So I've been away for a week doing a presentation at a user conference in San Francisco. While there I dropped in at the Apple Store across the street from the hotel at least twice per day, attempting to purchase an iPhone. They were constantly sold out.
I even tried at the AT&T store, but they demanded I sign up for a contract in order to buy the unit.

On my third attempt on the day before leaving town lady luck gave me a break. The Apple Store had just gotten a small shipment of 16GB iPhones, and I managed to grab the second to last one in the pile! After running the spectacular Pwnage Tool from the iPhone Dev Team I was able to use the phone with my SIM card. Compared to my earlier cell phone, a Linux based Motorola A1200, it's like being transported five years into the future with the flick of a finger.

Now to my security concerns. I have installed the OpenSSH client and server package, and am somewhat worried about the root password of all iPhone's being public knowledge. (It is alpine by the way.) If someone is able to find my IP address they could easily ssh into the machine as root and totally wipe my phone!

I know I can change the password by logging in as root and running the passwd command, but I worry that changing it will screw up the functionality of the device in some unforeseen way, rendering it an iBrick. Maybe Apple have hardcoded the password into some of the functionality of the device.

I love my iPhone a little too much to risk trying to change the password at the moment, but once the first crush wears off maybe I'll build up the courage and give it a try.

(posted from my iPhone)